Spring/Break Art Show - NYC 2016

Contemporary and Old Art Reviews

Spring/Break Art Show - NYC 2016

Postby NYC_Correspondent-tm » Wed Mar 02, 2016 4:38 pm

Each year, one reason I look forward to what’s now known as Armory Week in New York, is that it marks the approaching end of another bleak and shitty New York winter. And even though this winter was vastly improved over the last two prior editions, and the packed subways never quite felt like the ghoul trains of the past two years, it was still miserable. So with that in mind, I welcome the massive influx of collectors, dealers, gallerists, stumbly high heels, curators, sport jacket and jeans with chunky glasses wearers, the ever-present pop of champagne, and generally absurd amounts of consumerism, as the surest sign I can go to fucking beach again soon, and also, by the way, inevitably see some amazing artistic creations.

The kick-off show, which is now everybody’s darling, is Spring/Break Art Show, and I attended the packed opening. Located on the ghostly semi-abandoned upper floors of the Moynihan Station midtown Post Office, directly across from the Greatest Arena On Earth, Madison Square Garden (also home to the horrendous NY Knickerbockers), it is in the most esoteric and fun spaces set for an art show during the ridiculously expansive Armory Week set. The upper levels consist of endlessly long hallways flanked by mostly wood-paneled, linked rooms of varying shapes, sizes, and in varying states of decay and disintegration. The most extreme of these have limited ceiling panels, and consist mostly of crumbled, broken, massive chunks of plaster. Many of them are former offices, and in at least one instance, a former walk-in safe room. Most of the spaces are set-off with walls, are relatively moderate sized, with some spaces being much larger and more open where large installations are set. In all, an excellent setting for non-stifling inventiveness, even if at times the spaces felt overly stuffed with artwork, and disgorgements that were, I suppose, creative, but maybe only because they existed in that context and someone had enough confidence to define them as such.

This year’s show is themed “Copy/Paste” a reference to mixing media, technological mash-ups, and appropriation. The entrance work, after walking up the lumbering staircase inside is a video and mirror installation called Anima Mundi by Theo Eshetu. The piece is internal to a wall, but framed with a proper painting frame. Upon first glance one might think that they are about to see a two-dimensional work. But moving closer reveals a video screen set deeply into the wall, with the internal walls covered by mirrors, thereby creating a multi-dimensional, kaleidoscope effect. The video itself showed, at least in part, a series of dancers in full traditional Indian garb, while slow sultry sax blues played over it. This was a good cultural mash-up, and a sharply thoughtful, sole welcoming piece.


After a second staircase, the show begins in earnest. In the initial entrance lobby, one begins the process of being profoundly overwhelmed. The lobby is wrapped in psychedelic wallpaper, and has various video displayed hung on the walls. Curated by Elizabeth Keithline, the piece, by Anne Spalter consists of 3,000 square feet of algorithmically manipulated footage of New York City. The video displays actually show the process, in scenes like Coney Island, melting down in the abstracted state. The overall effect is immersive, and exciting. The production quality also appears higher than almost every piece from the prior year’s show, and most from this year’s show too. From there, the show splits into two larger installation rooms on one side, and the single corridor on the other. Up the stairs leads to the fourth floor and two endlessly long corridors, one terminating in larger multi-media installation rooms.

Spring/Break does not frame itself as a fair, but instead as a show that is curator, not gallery driven. Some of the spaces are, however, associated with galleries, while other spaces are projects organized by curators to execute a creative vision, without the financial driven agenda a gallery inevitably has. Predictably, the difference was evident both in curatorial vision, and the curatorial/gallery representative interaction with people as they engaged with the work. The tone at the curator-driven spaces tended to be more experimental and expansive. This does not mean that the non-gallery associated spaces succeeded, but were playing it less safe, and were less polished (and less well funded). Also, in particular walking into some of the gallery associated spaces, I, and others who engaged with the pieces more, were quickly approached, handed materials, and were provided explanations that marketed the artists being shown. At one space in particular, dedicated to special projects, I was quickly directed with packaged information on the artist and felt like I was trying to be sold on the works.

About a third of the way down the hall on the third floor is the bar and food area, with a good sized performance space on the other end. I didn’t eat the food but it looked ok although greasy - Thai street food I think, and some crepes. Throw in some free Perrier cans, a decent espresso machine on the side, and I approve. Fun times can be had free from the shackles of art fair formalities. Ongoing throughout the night in that room were various movement and music performances. The one I saw consisted of two younger women, choreographed tightly, but thrashing about, gyrating, flipping, and coming together in provocative sexual gestures, and displays of ownership of bodies - their own and at times each others - set to a soundscape that moved from electronic whooshes to club music.

Although much of the art was fun and evocative, very little was memorable past immediate exposure. Lots of household, and industrial items such as mop buckets, were strewn together with various materials in extra bright colors bubbling with plaster, plastics, or other materials dribbled down, but without investigative or intriguing uses. In other areas, American cultural references and detritus were referenced and used as raw materials for the works, some were better than others, like a set of porn stills that were reworked in soft, large-scale knit wall-hangings.

That piece also reflected a much-use take on appropriation - that of laborious, manually created renderings that stemmed from, or reflected the digital. In a more abstract example, in a room curated by Rachel G. Barnard and called Making Strange, Tom Smith painstakingly created doubled-up acrylic paintings in highlighter colors by making taking two original paintings, cutting each one into clear, even strips, and then repositioning the strips on a wood panel to make the new work. The rendering was such that it looked as if the pieces were digital creations with their home in an online gallery, yet each retained an organic kineticism. In another group space, curated by Sarah G. Sharp and Parsley Steinweiss, Tenesh Webber’s four stark black and white photographic images, positioned in a square, were based on a similar approach. Two of the images looked like digitized renderings of overlapping endless white lines against a black background, while the other two were random-seeming scattering of digital spitballs. But each of these were actually images of strings placed on photographic paper that would defy mechanical reproduction.

Many of the best spaces also used contemporary and modern cultural references and completely transformed the area into something new - like an entire studio apartment, packed with lived-in items, including toothbrushes on a sink, by Genevieve Gaignard. Another space called Glory Hole, included pieces and installations by multiple artists - the best being a set of wall hangings filing an area, with complete sexual degradation and shame, by James Concannon. Hangings consisted items like a cross made of wood and clipboards with foil and pictures with the work “Nun Fucker” written on paper and pasted onto the cross with the words half torn-off. Disturbing, yet effective. Other, more sacred types of transformed spaces included Aaron Pexa’s - The Lucent Parlor, by Cade Tompkins Projects, that consisted of two rooms. One room being a bathroom with two stalls, silver reflective floors and doors with a digital chandelier while the second room was full of glass plates deformed in various shapes hanging from the wall, with candles lit in front of them, as well as glass works on a long table. The effect was as peaceful and meditative almost impossibly in the otherwise clamorous rancor right outside the room.

There were multiples of other installations and works that I could mention, and maybe will later, but the sheer volume of these shows/fairs, a blurring of the two, whatever they are, is over-inundated with work, and exhaustingly overwhelming. At least this show felt like there was some coherence with an theme, even if many of the rooms contained works that had little artistic or curatorial coherence. Overall, Spring/Break is a true break from the more confined spaces of gallery-driven fairs that steep themselves in the veneer of prestige and presenters of artistic innovation while offering another chance to sell commodified creations as investment vehicles and decor. While these are legit purposes, at least Spring/Break attempts to present something more substantive and in the moment.

As an aside, by certain accounts, the process for getting into the opening night was a disaster. There is a single, semi-hidden entrance on the south-east corner of the post office. There, lines of people wrapped around 31st St. at 8th Ave, while seemingly those in charge of ordering the lines into VIP, ticket-holders, and ticket-buyers ended up haphazardly sending everyone to the same table, in large groups. This made people who arrived at prime time, stand around noodling for over a half-hour in the wind. Yes, Spring/Break - you are a hit, people want to come, so get your logistics shit together.
Last edited by NYC_Correspondent-tm on Fri Mar 04, 2016 7:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Spring/Break Art Show - NYC 2016

Postby CAP » Fri Mar 04, 2016 12:57 am

Excellent comprehensive report NYC_C - I feel like I was there!

It's a shame it's so clumsy to add images to WWR posts - I'm sure you've a phone full . But for a few pictures of the show here's the Hyperallergic review, which does have illustrations. ;)

We cover too little of the installation and video worlds, despite good intentions. :D
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Re: Spring/Break Art Show - NYC 2016

Postby NYC_Correspondent-tm » Fri Mar 04, 2016 7:51 pm

Thanks CAP!! I do have loads of images, and agree about wishing there was an easier way to show as well as tell.
That Hyperallergic review is excellent - I wish I wrote it!

Armory review and hopefully Volta are forthcoming in the next day or two...
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