[imagebrowser id=87] For 14 years, this March event is considered to be the pinnacle of art season in New York City. Artists, galleries, critics, collectors, curators and art aficionados from around the world gather at Piers 92 & 94 on the West Side Highway to see the most important 20th and 21st Century art on display. Arte Fuse had gone to earlier fairs and this is the big event itself – like reaching the gates of Emerald City and this close to seeing the Wizard of Oz.
Making this the last stop for the entire Armory Week was properly discerned and on Saturday March 10, 2012 – the road was paved with expectations of greatness and I took my reverent step into hallowed history.
Pier 92 which housed the Modern was convenient as it was the same place where I had to pick up my nifty press pass. Upon immediate entry Booth #404 – Hollis Taggart Galleries (NY) had a 2-D Roy Lichtenstein that captured my attention as it took center place in its well-planned section filled with other gems. A Carrara marble sculpture by Pablo Atchugarry was also prominently displayed. In my former stint at a museum, this gallery was one of the premiere sources to loan modern masters when we had special retrospectives or exhibits about Abstract Expressionism.
In a serendipitous discovery Booth #208 – Vivian Horan Fine Art (NY) had two artists with museum shows currently going on: Cindy Sherman with her photography retrospective at the MoMA and John Chamberlain, the pioneer who made crushed automobiles into art, at the Guggenheim (He recently passed away last December 2011). How can this be? A gallery representative explained that Cindy had been collecting John’s work for quite some time so it was not a big stretch to have both of them showcased by the gallery. I think it is quite a major coup to have both artists in museums while at the Armory.
When you think Modern Masters certain names come to mind then Booth #112 Simon Capstick – Dale Fine Art (NY) had the impressive roster with the likes of Andy Warhol’s Hearts with diamond dust and a great piece by Jean Dubuffet. There were also works by Antoine Tapies, Alexander Calder and a sketch by Pablo Picasso. This is the most illustrious selection with big names thus far.
Then I saw the haunting stark image of a bald woman immersed in a bathtub as another version of Ophelia (the character in Hamlet who drowned) that totally captivated me. Booth #454 – Babcock Galleries (NY) had quite a collection that goes into the realm of eerie beautiful. Gallery representative Sara Gilbert (not the actress) discussed the nuances of Margaret Bowland’s work in the Goddess Series. There were also sculptures with encircling wire by Varda Yatom called Wedding Figures. For modern art, it’s got an edge yet very beautifully crafted.
Making my way to Pier 94 for Contemporary, my reverence gave way to excitement, as this was familiar territory. For Arte Fuse articles I’ve done since the beginning of 2012, this felt second nature to me. This is not to diminish my great experience with Modern on 92 but there’s no place like home.
Booth #807 – Pilar Corrias Gallery (London) best encapsulated the head wagging reaction of most viewers when it comes to contemporary art. Tunga had three skulls encased in nets anchored to the wall. What does it mean? I don’t know but I appreciate the composition and craftsmanship of the installed piece. The more you try to decipher contemporary art, the more cross-eyed you’ll get. Just ride with it and don’t take it seriously. If you want a “straight” forward statement, then Tala Madani’s drawing called Cell Man Embrace – doesn’t get any clearer than that!
Further down Booth #813 – Galerie Laurent Godin (Paris) presented a multitude of male head busts with a turban that you can immediately assume as Bin Laden. The numerous heads took over the entire floor in a radiating pattern. This is the work of artist, Wang Du. Also on the wall was a black and white panel work with the word “BAD” and a cartoonish rendering of Michael Jackson. Well, nothing is sacred! But artists get fair game when it comes to commentary on modern cultural figures. Now, who’s bad?
Then it was the hunt for Booth #832 – Yossi Milo Gallery (NY) when #831 and #833 were next to each other and the only venue in between was the women’s restroom. It took one of the helpful security personnel and a map to figure it out but eventually I got to the photography gallery’s designated booth. I featured their last reception for Mark Ruwedel and they announced their exclusive representation of Tim Hetherington’s estate. Tim was a photojournalist who covered wars in Afghanistan and the Middle East. Last April 20, 2011 – Tim was killed while covering the Libyan conflict. His stark images of war from the individual perspective are astounding. Also on view is work by Matthew Brandt called Mary’s Lake, which is a chromogenic print soaked in water from Mary’s Lake. The distortion and washed out portions made the landscape shot idyllic.
Was I getting hungry when I saw a Polish delicacy on the sign? Booth #728 was Pierogi (Brooklyn) and this was one of the galleries to see from my last trip out to Williamsburg. Unfortunately, I got lost in hipster world and was so glad to see their outpost here in the Armory. Joe Amrhein told me to email him and he’ll give me precise directions to find the gallery. Pierogi has the selection of art that is downplaying the glitz and more on the contextual matter. I can’t wait to pay their Brooklyn space a visit after Armory Week and see more of their unique art. From what I’ve seen of the paintings and video in their booth – it will be gut-busting fun!
Another serendipitous stop was Booth #720 – Jack Shainman Gallery (NY) when two Thursdays ago, I stopped in and blogged about their current exhibition. Plus the kitschy branch bonanza of Nick Cave was too good to pass up. Along with a wood sculpture boy with hot dogs strapped around his waist by Gehard Demetz & golden Chinese take out containers in a stack by Jonathan Seliger, the whole collective is a delicious take on what can be fanciful about contemporary art.
Booth #613 – Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery (NY) got a recent AF write up for their current exhibition of Alan Rath’s “Skinetics”. Gallery Director Heather Dell and Gallery Associate Meredith Niemczyk were not surrounded by futuristic sculptures but by the vibrant photographic works of the Helsinki School. Dominant bright colors punctuated their space for Armory. It had the works of Jorma Puranen & Ola Kohlemainen, just to name a few. This illustrates how galleries can have two different visions of what to show in Armory and what is currently being featured in their establishment. This could be the fun factor that keeps every well-heeled “gallerina” on their toes.
Finally but not the least, I have visited this Lower East Side Gallery and it’s on my wish list to do a feature on them. Booth #521 OnStellarRays (NY) featured Clifford Owens and I love the dark monochromatic nature of the works. The jaw-dropping item on their milieu was a video of a man doing unseemly things to a chicken and to think I had Hill Country Chicken for dinner the night before. But that is the subversive edgy cool of this LES gallery that I gravitate to. Candice Madey seemed to be taking all the reactions in stride and pretty much business as usual goes on.
Here I am at the end of the rainbow, shoes worn from the yellow brick road and now let’s see what’s behind the curtain of Armory. One observation I have for both Piers is the upfront dealings that art is still a lucrative business. Most of the transactions were done discreetly and efficiently by each gallery, which justifies the Armory Show as the definitive standard bearer for all the New York City art fairs. This is the Valhalla of Art that matters be it for an art lover, art collector, artist, gallery, curator or even a writer who just observes this whole phenomenon every March. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain but keep those eyes fixed on the white stark walls. For next year, it will be another trip down the road paved with so much art.
The Armory Show
Piers 92 & 94, Twelfth Avenue on 55th Street. New York, NY
article by: Oscar A. Laluyan