COMPANY's picks from The Armory Show

COMPANY's picks from The Armory Show

The giant, convention center art fair is dead. Morte. Kaput. Stick a fork in it ‘cause it’s done. There, I said it. But is it so? Am I being premature? A funny thing happened on the way to the morgue…someone breathed life into the old dog. Just a little.

I remember going to the precursor to the current Armory show when Colin and Pat put on a subversive shindig at the old Gramercy Park Hotel. I bought Cindy Sherman photographs off a semen-stained (probably) bedcover. But the art was electric and inspiring. These days nothing comes close except in fleeting moments.

Art fairs now occur because hundreds of art dealers have decided that these temporary confabs help them raise their profiles and make it easier to find one buyer each for a certain number of artworks. While the dealers seek those individual matches of art and buyer, the rest of us are free, in a sense, to watch: to absorb the art and learn from it, which is another kind of possession. Its one big Art Bazaar, think Istanbul but with an ascot and Adrien Brody.
Which brings us to this year’s bracing Armory Show, with booths outfitted by more than 270 galleries and private dealers spread between two piers jutting into the Hudson. It is a behemoth of a fair, the biggest by far of the past weekend’s offerings. It now has competition from the hip, new Independent art fair in Chelsea and the resurgent Art Show at the Park Avenue Armory uptown. And there’s also the increasingly impressive list of dealers here and abroad who simply abstain from all New York fairs. (Others include Volta, Scope, Pulse, Pool, Verge Art Brooklyn, Red Dot, Fountain and this year’s newbie, the Dependent.)  But the 18 galleries from Latin America in this year’s Focus section were as much of a wake-up as a Carmen Miranda alarm setting. For example, Lucia Laguna at Laura Marsiej Gallery from Rio De Janeiro is Brazil’s answer to Thomas Scheibitz. And there were a few new galleries that hitherto did not exhibit at the Armory that made the back breaking, no-free-booze (are they kidding??)  Vernissage worth it. And here they are:

 

erik_sandberg_armory_0.jpg Painting:  full disclosure, I collect his work and I love it!
Based in Washington DC, Erik Thor Sandberg’s subjects, primarily female nudes, pose in allegorical gesture amidst nature. These large figurative paintings are rich in detail, the physicality of folds in flesh and surrounding fabric. Flesh and futility run rampant as figures exercise dramatic, mindless acts of folly that, more often than not, result in pain or suffering. Resembling Breughel’s parables and Hieronymus Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights, the figures are caught in the moment before or after immeasurable torture or in the midst of acts of sin. There is a dark humor to Erik Sandberg’s archaic sense of mortality and symbolism as we look back at our evolving interpretation of the female figure, its corporal nature, and how we covet our displays of beauty, forever indebted to pleasure.
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Video:  Federico Solmi
A brilliant albeit high-strung Italian video artist, Federico Solmi (‘Fede’) targets Wall Street as his latest subject for a satirical haymaker. His vividly drawn sketches set to graphic animation with a complementary score by his wife are manipulated digitally as Fede tackles greed and violence. The exhibition, Douche Bag City, also includes collaborative animation with 3D artists Russel Lowe and Lee Gibson in a baroque black, handmade frame.

angel_otero_armory_show_0.jpg Mixed Media:  Angel Otero
Otero interweaves traditional Spanish Baroque imagery with personal subject matter, employing unconventional techniques to create large-scale, dynamic expressionistic abstractions.  In Memento Angel Otero presents a new body of work highlighting the process-based art for which he is known. Through his innovative process of oil paint scraping, Otero venerates historical oil painting while confronting it head on. After painting realistic imagery onto glass, Otero delicately peels off sheets of oil paint and grafts the layers to his object. With his creations Otero says he wishes to “give a sense of abundance, unbalance, ambition, courage, and persistence within form, color and texture in every painting.”

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Pictograms:  Alfonso Albano
This 47 year old lives and works in Sao Paulo. He studied at the FAAM and he creates installations and photographs, in which mixing photographic prints with images are projected into space. From a “design” generated by a set of lights and mirrors Alfonso creates a stripped photography: the photographic instant returns to its initial stage of idea.
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Photography:  Jordi Bernado
Bernadó is interested in photography as a way to conceive the city, the architecture and the urban layout and understands the photographic discipline as a way of knowledge. His ambition and rigueur when he is decoding the surroundings has transcended in a very personal and huge, but complex work. Contradiction, absurdity, hazard and often irony are the sources which Bernadó flirts with to point out what’s around him.
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Newcomers:  Ba Omar
An older artist not well known and working outside outside of the context of art, since the late 1980s.  Ademeit has embarked on an obsessive program of collecting evidence – through Polaroid photography and meticulous note-keeping – that would establish, in his mind, the existence of what he called “cold rays,” unseen forces that he believed severely impaired and impacted upon his life and surroundings.
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Newcomers:  Max Toth
This young (born 1980) Norwegian artist is part of a generation of artists who, in recent years, have contributed to the revitalisation of Oslo's art scene. The materials and found objects function as reminders of our time's mass produced and industrial abundance, which have been spared its fate to rot in a container and been merged into new entities. There is a liberating quickness and playfulness in Ida Ekblad, in which her artworks could be this very synthesising connection between society and art, the street and the white gallery walls.
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Favorite Gallery Booth (Tie)
Conner Contemporary, Washington DC & Kavi Gupta, Chicago

 

I was very surprised by the renewed vitality of the Armory Show

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