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Armory doldrums rescued by a few gems

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March 9, 2009   ·   6 Comments

Martha Colburn, detail of one of her scrolls for the video at Diana Stigter booth.

First is not necessarily best. We went to the Armory and slogged around and saw some great stuff but mostly we were struck by the low energy of the displays and the conservatism of what was on view. It’s the economy stupid — a lot of small scale stuff, serious stuff (no humor) and a fair deal of secondary market work even in the contemporary zone. (Armory was divided into “contemporary” and “modern” piers, the “modern” specifically to deal with secondary market….but we saw secondary market everywhere. We missed much of the modern section so these comments are directed to what we saw in the contemporary.

Our vote for best of show at the Armory is…Martha Colburn at Diana Stigter. A piece about war and hunting where nobody wins in the end–not the ducks, not soldiers, not the hunters….Part of the magic in the stop-action animation was getting to see the scrolls and paper collages from which she made the work.

Martha Colburn, detail of one of her scrolls for the video at Diana Stigter booth.

Martha Colburn, detail of one of her scrolls for the video at Diana Stigter booth.

It’s hard to believe that something so lively as this animation can come from these beautiful collages. Also, we’d never seen floating jigsaw puzzle pieces in an animation before–they were great!

Painting

Baker Overstreet painting at Fredericks Freiser at the Armory

Baker Overstreet painting at Fredericks Freiser at the Armory

Out-Matisse-ing Matisse, Mickalene Thomas at Rhona Hoffman

Out-Matisse-ing Matisse, Mickalene Thomas at Rhona Hoffman

Raqib Shaw ...And his Tears of Blood Will Drown the Cities of

Raqib Shaw ...And his Tears of Blood Will Drown the Cities of Men II, 2008. acrylic, glitter, enamel, rhinestones and mixed on linen over aluminum, 60," White Cube Gallery

Painting didn’t make up a huge percentage of the works we saw but we liked a lot of what was there. The artists weren’t necessarily new to us but the most exciting paintings we saw were by Baker Overstreet, Mickalene Thomas and Raqib Shaw.  We want to say we like the competition between Mickalene and Raqib on the glitz factor–more sequins!! more glitter!  bring it on!

Charlie Roberts,gouache and watercolor on paper, Galerie Magnus Karlssen

Charlie Roberts,gouache and watercolor on paper, Galerie Magnus Karlssen

New to us, Charlie Roberts‘ grids of cartoonish little guys in vintage Americana (hats, cowboy and indians dress, etc) looked great and were selling.

Gordon Cheung, Living Machine, 2009.  stock listings, acrylic gel and spray on sail cloth.  59.5x85" Jack Shainman Gallery

Gordon Cheung, Living Machine, 2009. stock listings, acrylic gel and spray on sail cloth. 59.5x85" Jack Shainman Gallery

Gordon Cheung‘s dripping slimy “Living Machine” personified the melting economy perfectly. This and many other works in all the shows reflected the current financial malaise. Anxiety R us these days.

Mahomi Kunikata, I wish we had never met - cock festival edition, 2007, acrylic on canvas, 46x46".  Tilton Gallery

Mahomi Kunikata, I wish we had never met - cock festival edition, 2007, acrylic on canvas, 46x46". Tilton Gallery

Hey, facebook addicts, and you know who you are, Mahomi Kunikata‘s art wants to be your friend and tell you all about her breakup. “I wish we had never met” sounds like it could be a new facebook “relationship status” check off.

Photography

Mikhael Subotzky, Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg

Mikhael Subotzky, Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg

We loved Mikhael Subotzky’s photo series at Goodman Gallery from Johannesburg. Unlike Pieter Hugo‘s romaniticized portraits of tribal shamans with hyenas at Yossi Milo (cultural tourism for us white folks) Subotzky’s group photos immerse you in the world of convicts and hard lives–no pretty ribbons, monumentality or posturing in evidence.

Also at Goodman, a hot-off-the-press, whiz-bang book and animation from it by William Kentridge (it was almost like a flip book) that the gallery had published. It was to die for (sorry no picture). We are remembering when Kentridge spoke at the Philadelphia Museum of Art last year that he said he collects used books and draws on them…this must be a project from one of those books.

Sculpture

Nick Cave Soundsuits at Jack Shainman at the Armory.

Nick Cave Soundsuits at Jack Shainman at the Armory.

Familiar names, Tara Donovan, Nick Cave, Cornelia Parker looked good.

mounir-fatmi-electric

And newcomer (for us) Mounir Fatmi made the best reuse of old technology in the fair…recyling VHS tapes into a claustrophobic torture chamber with what looked like an electric chair. It saluted to Andy Warhol and Yayoi Kusama, but this was actually a powerful indictment of surveillance and torture.

Hometown boys

Vincent Desiderio's flying butts from Marlborough

Vincent Desiderio's flying butts from Marlborough

Vincent Desiderio (PAFA grad and instructor) fired the opening volley of the fair. As you walked in to the modern section, his monumental flying butts stopped you dead in your tracks, Sumo-style.

Hank Willis Thomas and Ryan Alexiev, Breakfast of Champions,24x32", poster, ed. 1,000, $30 ea.

Hank Willis Thomas and Ryan Alexiev, Breakfast of Champions,24x32", poster, ed. 1,000, $30 ea.

And Larry Mangel of Cerealart had a great Fruit Loop moment with Hank Willis Thomas and Ryan Alexiev’s portrait of President Obama a la breakfast cereal. Are we the only ones who got the humor in Cerealart producing this cereal portrait? We read a complaint about this piece but we kind of like it and the Times featured a picture of it in their Armory article. No way these artists are saying Obama is a fruit loop.  He’s a hero here.

More on Volta, Fountain and Pulse coming up.

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6 Responses to “Armory doldrums rescued by a few gems”

  1. Mike says:

    Dear Libby and Roberta,

    While I read your blog often and admire its goals I have to say enough with the “nothing had any humor” criticism. It seems that unless something makes a concerted effort to make a quick one liner you count that as a strike against it. Sure, humor is nice in moderation but art has a variety of different agendas. Lord knows we have enough quick read one liner work here in Philadelphia to last us and the rest of the artworld much longer than it needs anyway.

  2. roberta says:

    Hi Mike, gee, thanks for your comment, but I don’t hear us saying we like one note humor. What we decry I guess is a mordent sense of self importance (which is usually mutually exclusive with humor. We totally agree with you that art is serious matter. Re humor. It’s my observation that there’s not enough of it in the art world in general. Not all art has to either spiritually uplift or hammer home a socio/political message. I think it you look back over the 6 years of posts by me and Libby that you will see our commitment to art of a serious nature–as well as our commitment to art that breathes a little humor into things. Komar and Melamid, two of our heroes, manage the right amount of humor mixed with gravitas in most of their works. That’s what we really admire. I’m sure Libby will weigh in here.

  3. I’m seeing some Maria Kallman (NY Times, et al) in that Charlie Roberts. Also, goes to show you that people are still attracted to pictures drawn on grids. Thanks again for coming by TSA on Friday night.

  4. roberta says:

    Hi Tim, Maira Kalman is a good call for Charlie Roberta….and grids will never die. Humans love grids! You had a great opening at TSA. Good luck with the gallery!

  5. libby says:

    I do want to weight in on the humor comment. I’m a little surprised to learn that all we want is humor. What we want is broad perspective, and stuff that people like (yes, that counts for something). Sometimes it takes a little humor to avoid navel gazing and solipsistic teenaged angst. We see a lot of that parading as fine art–boring.

    As for humor, it’s a staple of the art world since photography took away the function of art as the most credible visual record of what’s cooking, and since Duchamp poked his finger into the industrial revolution and other real places.

    I must say, I do love humor (and Duchamp, who is one of my heroes). But I love art–so long as it’s good, smart, interesting. A touch of humor does not make art less; just like a touch of self-deprecation doesn’t make a person less. In either case, humor adds charm, and what’s the harm in that????

  6. wes says:

    I encourage you to read this month’s issue of Juxtapoz wherein Hank Willis Thomas describes the meaning for himself of the Obama cereal collage. Though you may not like it…

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