Recession-year Armory and Volta – ok, not fantabulous

Pre-recession art fairs were imbued with a circus-y vibe that kept you walking down the long aisles looking for the next bright shiny new (or outrageous) thing. But the halcyon days of big budgets and splashy installations at the fairs are over and that irrational exuberance may never be back.

scandinavian pain
We loved the Scandinavian Pain sign in the lobby of the Armory. Very airline terminal correct with a great connotation

This year we went to Volta and the Armory (contemporary pier) and while the art mostly was nice enough we missed the hunt for nuggets of gold. And at the Armory, on a Saturday afternoon, with a big crowd around us, it felt a little like prime time at the shopping mall: families with young kids in double-wide strollers; hipsters sitting on the floor in the public common areas; a food court in the rear without enough seating; and low-risk commercial enterprise everywhere.

Occupy the Armory? Not really. But the doors installation looks like a tent doesn't it?

One refreshing exception was the Nordic Countries’ section of the Armory, which felt like an encampment of youth and anarchy in the midst of the capitalist slickness. It reminded us a little of ICA’s Locally Localized Gravity — posters and other things in endless stacks as giveaways; and an ad hoc feeling that was charming.

Amidst the crazy crowds, Zoe Strauss' work held the wall and then some at Silverstein's Armory booth.

There’s another round of art fairs in New York this May when Frieze (the London fair) comes to New York for the first time. We’ll be there to check it out in hopes the galleries have been waiting to expose their wildest and bravest then. We embrace Emerson here, A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds…

Trend spotting: Ivan Navarro’s neon infinity chambers; peepholes and lenses; linoleum floor tiles (and prints made from the tiles); earnestness without Post-Modern snark.

Ivan Navarro, at the Armory--again
Linoleum art floor tiles, the Armory
Linoleum art floor tiles,Jens Schubert at Kleindienst (Dusseldorf) , at Volta; while in this booth, an artist and teacher named David, from NJ, recognized our voices from artblog radio and said hello!


Familiar faces: Zoe Strauss at Silverstein, dominating the crowd; Barkley Hendricks and Odili Donald Odita at Jack Shainman; Mark Khaisman at Pentimenti; Stephan Balkenhol; Luis Gispert at Rhona Hoffman; Charlie Roberts; Julian Opie (the video above)

Odili Donald Odita, detail of his painting at Jack Shainman Gallery booth at the Armory
Barkley Hendricks, Double Portrait: Granite Street Gothic, 2012, oil and acrylic, 51 1/2 x 49 1/2 inches at Jack Shainman Gallery
Charlie Roberts, Choppy Mall, 2011, gouache and graphite on paper. the mix of shopping and art mirrors the feel of the Armory.
Stephan Balkenhol (sculpture) at the Armory. Love this guy!


Luis Gispert, Sprouse Gouse, 2011, detail C-print #3 from an edition of 6 + 2AP 48 x 86 inches Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Chicago



New work we’re happy we found: Julie Roberts paintings about refugee children; peepholes into romantic landscapes undercut by notes of contemporary cynicism  from Patrick Jacobs at both fairs;

Julie Roberts, portrait of a displaced child, the Armory, Edna (British Evacuee), 2010, oil on linen, 23 5/8 x l6 1/8 in. incl. frame, British artist at Andrehn-Schiptjenko, Stockholm, Sweden

This wasn’t the only traditional work with a new wrinkle that caught our eye. Here are a couple more:

Jeff Olsson's drawings, like this one, Humble Surroundings, 2011, graphite, charcoal and ink on paper, at Magnus Karlsson, captured menace in the countryside.
Claudie Wieser, Untitled, 2011, detail a wall-sized mural made of photocopied pages based on old bookplate image Sies + Hoke, Dusseldorf


We were happy to stumble on Christine Pfister at Pentimenti selling a Mark Khaisman:

Display of Mark Khaisman's packing-tape-on-lightbox film noir moments. We saw a similar layering technique with tulle at the Armory. We'll stick with Khaisman!

The biggest surprise entry was at Volta–traditional portrait painting from the Cook Islands of Captain Cook, himself. But underneath that traditional exterior, a political concept of the captain going native, a reimagining of who won the culture wars. In Michael Tuffery’s work, which also included a display of elaborate laser-cut hair combs and a video, Polynesian culture rules. Take that Britannia!!!

Michael Tuffery, BCA Gallery in Rarotonga, Cook Islands, at Volta