Photo Essays

Making Sense of the 2011 Armory Show Cacophony

by Kyle Chayka on March 2, 2011

New York Art Fair Week 2011 kicks off with the Armory Show! Over the course of a pre-show press conference we were treated to Mayor Bloomberg explaining his taste for Picasso, but that was just an appetizer for the exhibition ahead. The 2011 Armory presented a chaotic and inconsistent mixture, but there were still plenty of pieces that stood out of the general cacophony. Check out our first photo essay of the art fair below.

Some themes that I picked out in the course of my wanderings: neon is as popular as always, exemplified by Ivan Navarro’s space-delineating fence installation. Figurative painting and drawing is on an upswing with more galleries embracing artists who feel out the more human side of art. There’s a general interest in exploring the emotional side of materials, appropriating media forms that have their own inherent symbolism and cache. Conceptualism is down and sensualism is up. Can’t say I think that’s a bad thing. But see for yourself!

MoMA Director Glenn Lowry speaking while Mayor Bloomberg looks on. Lowry Some other guy (like we care) praised Bloomberg for embracing cultural opportunities in the city and supporting projects like the Armory Show.

/ kc

The first booth I was really impressed with was Rachel Uffner Gallery’s small space. The minimal, quiet wooden works by Sam Moyer complement her ink pieces on canvas, more sculpture than drawing.

/ kc

I enjoyed the visual collision of James Casebere’s “Landscape with Houses (Dutchess County, NY) #4 (2010) and Joel Shapiro’s untitled 2006 sculpture.

/ kc

An El Anatsui tapestry at Jack Shainman Gallery made a big impression from far away. See a close-up at bottom right. Anatsui’s woven metal schtick gets old, but it’s still super visually appealing.

/ kc

An He’s “What Makes Me Understand What I know ? No. 1” (2009) makes use of vernacular Chinese restaurant and store signs common on the streets of Beijing to spell out his decesased father’s name, as well as that of a Japanese porn actress. Deep. (Corrected, see comment below)

/ kc

Kara Kristolova’s “Hunden/The Dog” (2010) ceramic piece reminded me of Buddhist sculpture while retaining a rough, hand-made, punk aesthetic that has something in common with Yoshitomo Nara. Ceramic still seems like an underrated, underused medium to me.

/ kc

Matthew Day Jackson’s “Lifeline” (2010) at Hauser & Wirth gallery was a good reminder that should the art fair experience become too much to bear, a phone call is all that one needs. Awesome custom sign that looks 100% like something you’d see on the highway.

/ kc

Leandro Erlich’s “Subway” (2010), a video installed inside a real subway door, was totally entrancing. It stopped more than a few visitors dead in their tracks. What makes the work so hypnotizing is how the subway car moves and shifts while the viewers don’t.

/ kc

This series of paintings on display at Untitled gallery were totally hilarious, but I didn’t catch the artist. They are lo-fi, DIY and punk rock, and ooze style, plus a certain anti-art world/art world satire posture. Watch pejorative adjectives! On the floor is Ry Rocklen’s “Penny Tiles”.

/ kc

Parra & Romero wins the award for gallery space that looked most like a Eurotrash club, between the rotating mirror sculpture at right and Stefan Bruggenmann “Obliterated Neon” (2011) and “MAKE ME #2” (2010) spray-paint on canvas.

/ kc

Probably my favorite piece in the Armory Show was Anna Galtarossa’s “Skyscraper Nursery” installation (2011), which was somewhere funny soft sculpture and the set of a children’s TV show. The tower at right gently twists back and forth, almost dancing, the one at left slowly inflates and deflates, while the middle blows air through its center and flutters the glittery ribbons that festoon its sides. These were presented by Studio la Citta.

/ kc

At London’s Rokeby gallery, Michael Samuels showed sculptures that recycle our fetish for modern furniture, turning classic 50s house fixtures into remixed wall hangings and large sculptures. Something about these works felt very timely, an attempt to revive an old material that we all have an emotional attachment to. Nostalgia?

/ kc

I’m a sucker for works like Isabelle Fein’s at Parisa Kind gallery. The wispy, wistful drawings were formal, almost Victorian, while remaining dreamy and sensual. Works ranged from outdoor scenes to figure drawings and mental landscapes. Really beautiful.

/ kc

Paul Kasmin gallery turned its Armory Show real estate into a giant fenced-off space. The twist? The fence was made of neon. Created by neon maestro Ivan Navarro, the work was repellent in its electric potential, but also oddly attractive, it was definitely a statement. Not the most original thing, but cool.

/ kc

LA’s Honor Fraser gallery showed a whole space full of works by KAWS. The giant vinyl toy was super cool, and the unity of the space was a welcome punch in the visual chaos of the fair.

/ kc

This is not relational aesthetics. The Armory’s “Artforum Lobby” was carpeted in brilliant purple and provided a space for attractive art world denizens to lounge properly. The magazines that festooned the space didn’t look free, but you could totally get away with stealing them. Visitors take note.

/ kc

The perfect combination: a highly minimal Alex Katz, “Brown Night” (1991), and Susan Hiller’s “The Paragon Case: Homage to Joseph Beuys” (1969-2010), a collection of tiny bottles holding water collected from holy springs and wells around the world. Hiller’s work amazed me in a very silent, unassuming way. Each bottle is labeled with its spring. There’s something incredibly magical and heartfelt about it.

/ kc

A super dramatic booth: Katharina Grosse at Galerie nachst St. Stephan Rosemarie Schwarzwalder. The slight curve of the first massive painting really gives it presence in the space, making it more sculpture than flat surface.

/ kc

The Latin America section of the Armory Show played host to a well-curated selection of Latin American galleries. Highlights included Revolver Galeria’s “Untitled – Monumento series” by Miguel Andrade Valdez, a snapshot video that buzzes through Lima, Peru’s vernacular urban monuments. YouTube friendly, exciting and very engaging, plus conceptually cool. Good stuff. Details of individual monuments at right.

/ kc

Another highlight from the Latin America section was Caja Blanca gallery from Mexico City, who showed a series of paintings explaining the medical and health dangers of pure pigment by artist Gustavo Artigas. The gallery was also stocked with brightly-colored candy from Mexico, so be sure to grab some.

/ kc


Note: I didn’t cover the modern section of the 2011 Armory Show, but stay tuned for Hyperallergic editor Hrag Vartanian’s coverage, plus extensive posting on the rest of the city’s art fairs. We’ll have much more in the coming days!

  • Subscribe to the Hyperallergic newsletter!

Hyperallergic welcomes comments and a lively discussion, but comments are moderated after being posted. For more details please read our comment policy.
  • http://www.zacharyadamcohen.com/ Zachary Adam Cohen

    great wrapup, very useful

    • http://twitter.com/chaykak Kyle Chayka

      Thanks! Glad you appreciate it.

  • http://twitter.com/rpeckham Robin Peckham

    I do really like the pairing of Sam Moyer and Gianna Commito. The Katz/Hiller also works nicely on a different level.

    For the record, in He An’s piece the first three characters spell out the name of his deceased father, while the latter four belong to a Japanese [pornographic] film actress. I suppose a statement about as philosophical as any.

    • http://twitter.com/chaykak Kyle Chayka

      haha, thanks for the correction. I was wondering why none of the characters made sense but I guess I just rushed through that one too fast.

      [Edit: Corrected in post]

  • http://twitter.com/art_news Mark Philip Venema

    Thanks for posting this Kyle. I enjoyed your selection.

Previous post:

Next post: