Spring/Break Art Show Strikes Back: Memorable Trends and Artists from 2016

Spring/Break Art Show has come and gone again, its lingering scent of artistic innovation hovering over the garden path of the art world at large. A week and some change has passed, and looking back, now is the right time to finally point to what worked and what, well, didn’t.

Eschewing the trade-show quality of other art fairs like ADAA’s The Art Show and the Armory Show, Spring/Break continues to provide respite for art lovers seeking to evade canonized art world tropes. However, despite the rich feast that the show offered guests at this year’s iteration, the jarring contrast between provocative and thought-provoking exhibits against the carelessly cavalier scene found at some of the show’s sites made the experience as a whole a bit hard to digest. Feeling fatigued after a 3 hour tour of the show’s many interlocking nooks and crannies, I did feel relieved to have felt trade winds bringing fresh air in through the fantastically uneven mix of artworks that comprised Spring/Break Art Show 2016.

Recapping Spring/Break, the focus is on three recurring trends and six eye-catching artists whose work sparked consideration and conversation: keep an eye out for these emerging styles and this brave new world of tastemakers.

Graham Caldwell, Watching Machine, curated by Kelly Schroer. Image courtesy the author.
Graham Caldwell, Watching Machine, curated by Kelly Schroer. Image courtesy the author.
Ben Pederson, 1990 Movie with Mom. Image courtesy the artist.
Ben Pederson, 1990 Movie with Mom. Image courtesy the artist.

Three On-point Trends:

There were three distinct trends that popped up across the art playground that was Spring/Break. One particular standout was a wide array of lo-fi installation works: veritable archives of manually-assembled kitsch that splayed along the floors, walls, and centers of booths the whole length of the fair. Two such examples include Knife Hits curated by Rachel Phillips and Cannibals, curated by Shane Jo and Maripol. Both the notion of the archive and installation work in general have had a prolonged moment in the sun in the art world psyche, so this tendency toward garage-band effortless chic in installation art signals an emboldened, casual attitude toward these particular themes. Next the theme of mirrors and reflectivity, a direct tie to the show’s theme of “Copy Paste”, was evident throughout. Perhaps the most potent example of this came in the form of artist Graham Caldwell’s crept fish-eye mirror installation, entitled “Watching Machine,” curated by Kelly Schroer which was both instagram-ready and disconcerting. Finally, neon abstract sculpture such as created by one of our to-watch artists, Ben Pederson, were found a-plenty throughout the show’s chambers, breathing fresh life into an art form often derided as outmoded and stale.

Anne Vieux, installation at Spring/Break 2016. Image courtesy the artist.
Anne Vieux, installation at Spring/Break 2016. Image courtesy the artist.
LoVid, Video Taxidermy. Image courtesy the artists.
LoVid, Video Taxidermy. Image courtesy the artists.

Six Artists to Watch:

As usual Spring/Break art fair had an overwhelming array of artists peering out at guests from every available orifice. Distilling it down to six artists who made an impact, we can start with Anne Vieux, who showed with Cuevas Tilleard projects. Vieux has rendered her distorted reflective abstract visionary artworks open to quixotic symbols designed to create, as the artist notes, “a functioning closed system.” At once familiar and exotic, Vieux’s works create a pleasing yet distorted aesthetic that transports the viewer to art world nirvana. Ben Pederson is one artist who appeared everywhere there was air in this year’s Spring/Break: his daring neon sculptures plunging into heretofore unknown depths of hybrid forms and LSD abstraction madness. Hints of recognition are borne between the sighs of abstract squiggles present in his hanging and floor bound sculptures, eerie stalactites and stalagmites of kaleidoscope forms. Another master of the jarring play of forms is Ketta Ioannidou, whose careful patterns demonstrating an absence of color in a densely polychromatic space both captivated and inspired. Iaonnidou shared space with fellow artist Fanny Allié, whose grasp of the delicate power of the hand-rendered miniature was evident through her miniscule collages on found cardboard. Allié’s work speaks to the need for human-scale art to remain within an art world ever obsessed with the abstract and immersive. In Sarah G. Sharp and Parsley Steinweiss’ exhibit Original Copy, artist duo LoVid managed to render abstract terms in human language, with hand-crafted soft sculptures printed with stills from videos created using analog processes. The mix of processes was both witty and wonderful, the artists’ hand manipulating analog video that was then hand sewn and stuffed. More overtly digital were works by Kat JK Lee, whose “Navelgazers” piece featured found web imagery with a tongue-in-cheek look at their significance when printed as a flat “installation”: the artist’s own curation, complete with access to a code giving viewers a glimpse at a related .gif file. This 1-2 combo of digital and real, combined with careful revelations of our collective fantasies regarding pop culture, reveals Lee as a keen observer of contemporary social constructs.

Daniel Kent and Joey Frank, artworks from “Light Show” curated by Jonah Freeman. Image courtesy Spring/Break Art Show 2016-all rights reserved by Spring/Break.
Daniel Kent and Joey Frank, artworks from “Light Show” curated by Jonah Freeman. Image courtesy Spring/Break Art Show 2016-all rights reserved by Spring/Break.

BONUS: There was a lot to see and so as an added bonus, not one artist but two artists and a curator who made an impact:

  1. Joey Frank and Daniel Kent (curated by artist Jonah Freeman) – no one captures the mechanical trompe l’oeil of seeing/not seeing, knowing/not being sure quite like these troublemakers. Their Light Show managed to defy Debord’s notion of the “Spectacle” by revealing to conceal: implanting a palpable critique within their smoke and mirrors illusion, between red and blue police lighting which alternately revealed and hid messages, the installation acted as a literal shadow on the walls of the cave. This exhibit, and its continuation further down the hall, made one of the biggest impacts in this year’s fair–keep an eye on them in 2017!

 

Writing by Audra Lambert

Fanny Allié, The Recluse. Image courtesy the artist.
Fanny Allié, The Recluse. Image courtesy the artist.
Ketta Ioannidou, River IV, image courtesy of Spring/Break Art Show 2016- all rights reserved by Spring/Break.
Ketta Ioannidou, River IV, image courtesy of Spring/Break Art Show 2016- all rights reserved by Spring/Break.
Kat JK Lee, Navelgazers, image courtesy of Artsy.com - all rights reserved by Artsy.
Kat JK Lee, Navelgazers, image courtesy of Artsy.com – all rights reserved by Artsy.

Photos below by Olya Turcihin.

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Audra Lambert

Audra Lambert

Audra Lambert is an arts writer and independent curator who has worked on interdisciplinary projects involving painting, performance, new media and installation art. Her recent curatorial projects have included The Subtle Image group figurative exhibit at Dejavu Gallery, Reflecting Our City for the White Roof Project at the Center for Social Innovation, and participating in the Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts’ A Wicked Problem. In addition to these projects she has served as Project Coordinator for More Art, a socially engaged nonprofit based in NYC, and she has contributed to Art Nerd, Examiner, AXS, and WhiteHot Magazine, among others. With an anticipated 2016 M.A. in Art History, Modern & Contemporary Art from CCNY, her primary focus is on installation art and contemporary art in the public sphere.

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