Armory Show Highlights

The Armory Show is an annual international art fair held in New York during the early spring, this year spanning from March 3rd through 6th. The fair is essentially a maze of various galleries showcasing modern and contemporary artworks, or perhaps more appropriately, art-wares. At the fair, you’ll find, or more tellingly, be inundated with, low-profile works by high-profile artists (e.g. Alex Katz paintings of the lesser caliber abound) and, particularly in the Contemporary section, irrelevant riffs on pieces by now-famous artists whose creations were avant-garde, but only for their time. Examples include installations mimicking Dan Flavin’s work at DiA Beacon, poorly executed strip paintings in the style of Gerhard Richter, fluffier pieces by Yayoi Kusama, and several Tracey Emin neon text ‘sculptures’ of the emptier breed. (more…)

The Affordable Art Fair: Exploring the Pros and Cons of Kitsch

I think the title of this post accurately describes my experience at the Affordable Art Fair on W. 18th street a few Sundays ago, but since I’d actually like to give you a more comprehensive picture, I’ll expand on the title a little. Let’s start with the self-explanatory name of the fair, designed to sell affordable (think in the hundreds and thousands, not millions) but semi-okay works such as prints, paintings, photographs, and sculptures to the general population. And the wonderful thing is, people were actually buying. I walked in with my friend around 4 o’clock, and the fair, which closed at five, was not only packed but overflowing with patrons on long lines to pay for their purchases.

Wondering what could ever be the cons I alluded to? Well I suppose it was what people were buying, not the fact that they were. The fair played host to a slew of galleries, most of them especially well-known, and most of whom had these eye-catching, tacky pieces on display that to me seemed hollow and vapid. It was art of the new social order, the digital media world, works to snap pics with because they match your outfit or snap up because you think it will go with your hipster furniture. But in the heat of the moment, I got swept up in the fun too, laughing at emoji busts and cheery skull and flowers posters derivative of Murakami. Everything at the fair was indubitably derivative of something, so although affordable can mean groundbreaking, here that proved not to be the case. While the time I spent wandering from gallery space to gallery space was enjoyable, in retrospect it was utterly meaningless. Do I actually remember any of what I saw because I considered it valuable?

I’m not sure yet if this lack of depth points to an issue with the art at the show or a general absence of substance in mainstream art when anything can be called art. This is obviously a very bold claim to be making, so I’d like to call it a guess for now, and another guess I’m going to take is that maybe there’s some kind of beauty in the futility of the show; maybe it’s simply there to be a distraction from real life. Having an authentic connection to a piece of artwork before buying it? Now totally optional.

Want to weigh in? Comment your thoughts.

The Magic of the Frieze Art Fair

Above photograph by the author. Depicts the Frieze tent from the inside out.

Today I attended the 3rd annual Frieze Art Fair on Randall’s Island. The fair is held in a large, white tent filled with maze-like open cubicles where artworks from galleries around the world are displayed. When you enter, it’s hard to navigate according to an agenda. Even though I am not the serious collector the show is geared to, I had come with the purpose of seeing the revival of “Al’s Grand Hotel,” a famous conceptual art hotel that was a short-lived landmark of the LA cultural scene during the 60’s. This revival has long been requested of artist and the institution’s namesake, Al Ruppersberg, and so when I heard that he was working with the design/curatorial firm Public Fiction to recreate the venue at Frieze, I was looking forward to see the result.

Alas, although I didn’t make it to Al’s Hotel, I definitely wasn’t disappointed by the fair’s other offerings. Frieze is the kind of place where there is little guide and no continuity between genres or forms of artwork, so the average fair-goer, the non-hardcore groupie is left wandering spontaneously to pick and choose (among hundreds of ill-spaced establishments) things that appeal to their subjective aesthetic. To what end, however, is unclear. Nonetheless, the latter description is a good assessment of my presence there, and essentially gets at the show’s almost magnetic allure– there are infinite possibilities in terms of how to approach attending it. While some audience members might consider it impractical to explore without boundaries or an understanding of where one is– historically, contextually, logistically, whatever– I enjoyed Frieze, as it left me with the freedom to hone my taste rather than to decide if I like something just because it was written up in the latest catalogue, or a curator dubbed it prolific.Young and old individuals alike can benefit enormously from such an exercise in visual independence, though it becomes wearing after some time. A balance between the two systems– weighing more heavily towards the side of proper third-party direction– is necessitated.

Miscellaneous Findings

Ed Ruscha bleach paintings at the Gagosian Gallery book (see this example). I must confess, when I first saw them prominently displayed in the Frieze newspaper given to us on our way to the show (my father and I got there by bus from the Guggenheim), I was excited. I thought that they were really interesting because the wash that the works are doused with is so light and airy that it seems almost photoshopped (though in fact stemming from a technique of Ruscha’s own making). Up close, however, they are depressingly bland, and I like minimalism.

A series of works where the word ‘diptych’ was painted in the same font repeatedly, with each version of the word in a different color family and the letters in varying shades within said family.

A painting that painted itself– a machine of boiling water shook black ink onto a canvas. Speaks to the question of what an artist’s role is outside of his work. Editor’s Note: upon reviewing this post in July 2016, I suggest that if you are interested in investigating the latter issue that you read this article about the Whitney’s conservation department. Feature here, as well.

A lovely, yellow Yayoi Kusama oil at David Zwirner. Included her trademark dots (teal-colored) painted in ripples for a cloud-like effect. Quite gestural.

An interesting, non-art-to-match-with-the-living-room-decor (“art over sofa”) abstract photograph where a large, red square was layered over a quiet image of the American desert. Serene.

An Anish Kapoor bright red sphere thinly cut-out to appear hollow, as though you could stick your head in it. Kind of looked like one of those dryers they have at traditional hair salons (very 50’s vintage). This piece, as my father pointed out, was the epitome of perfection melded with simplicity as per its shiny veneer.

A wall composed entirely of plastic CD disks hanging in a grid.

Mini-mirror paintings inspired by Michelangelo Pistoletto.

Joana Vasconcelos-style mixed media sculptural installation by another female Brazilian artist, whose dealer claims is far more talented than Vasconcelos herself. I disagree.

Thank you for reading my first article for MolaPola! I appreciate your patience in staying on with me as I continue my journey forward.