Art

The Messy, DIY Aesthetic of the Spring/Break Art Show

Other fairs prune and primp their art for maximum market efficiency; Spring/Break allows curators and artists to let their freak flags fly.

From the Deferred Vision booth, curated by Fintan Boyle and Matt Freedman (all photos by the author for Hyperallergic)

One of my favorite art fairs is Spring/Break, since it gives curators and art lovers of all types the opportunity to present displays that celebrate the DIY and quirky energy of the city’s art scene. While other fairs appear to prune and primp their art for maximum market efficiency, Spring/Break takes a step back and allows curators and artists to let their freak flags fly.

This year the fair took over the former offices of Condé Nast in Times Square. The site is a strange setting because of the corporate trappings that displays have to negotiate, hide, or highlight. The theme is “Black Mirror,and as you’d expect, many artists and curators are preoccupied with the current state of affairs in the US. Katharine Mulherin’s incisive show American/Woman was particularly nice to see, since it riffs on so many symbols of American nationalism, fixating most notably on the US flag. Joe Nanashe’s contribution to the booth is especially satisfying, as the artist pulled out the white “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN” slogan from one of Trump’s signature red caps. There’s a conceptual satisfaction in imagining the artist confronting this symbol of hate on artistic terms and choosing to erase it.

Another distinctly American flag — that of the traitorous Confederacy — is the subject of Valery Jung Estabrook’s elaborate installation “Hometown Hero (Chink).” Grappling with her childhood growing up Asian American in southwestern Virginia, Estabrook’s display is affectionate but alienating, capturing the strange nostalgia she must feel towards something that has become a ubiquitous symbol of hate throughout large parts of this country.

Ben Sisto’s strange and thoroughly amazing “Museum of Who Let Who Let the Dogs Out Out?” is the other side of the coin, representing the fact that art marches on, removed from the current state of affairs and somewhat inward looking. Curated by Jac Lahav, the display features the results of the artist’s in-depth research into a well-known pop song — Baha Men’s 2000 hit “Who Let the Dogs Out?” — and its real origins. Has he figured it out? Kinda, but the quixotic nature of his journey is equally fascinating.

Also of particular note are Rachel Frank’s wondrous display that successfully walks the line between colonial nostalgia and commercial exoticism, and the eye-catching The Pursuit of “It” show curated by Nicole Grammatico and Christina Papanicolaou, which features work by artists Robin F. Williams, Signe Pierce, Hein Koh, and Hiba Schahbaz.

Here are some highlights from the fair, which feels like it goes on forever.

Greg Haberny’s prominent display on the 22nd floor
Curated by Katharine Mulherin, the American/Woman display explored American nationalism and includes a large flag piece on the back wall by Cali Dewitt.
From the American/Woman “gift shop,” the flag on the left is by J. Morrison and the one on the right is by Homocats
Joe Nanashe erases the “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN” slogan from one of Trump’s signature caps.
The entrance to Ben Sisto’s “Museum of Who Let Who Let the Dogs Out Out?” curated by Jac Lahav
Inside Ben Sisto’s “Museum of Who Let Who Let the Dogs Out Out?”
The disks that might reveal the secret that the “Museum of Who Let Who Let the Dogs Out Out?” is investigating.
Inside the Cate Giordano display, curated by Suzanne Kim
Detail of the Cate Giordano display, curated by Suzanne Kim
Works by Liz Collins, curated by fair organizers Ambre Kelly and Andrew Gori
Edgar Sarin’s “Encephalous Kingdom,” curated by Raphael Guilbert
An installation by Serra Victoria Bothwell Fels, curated by Catinca Tabacaru Gallery
Valery Jung Estabrook’s “Hometown Hero (Chink)”
Detail of Valery Jung Estabrook’s “Hometown Hero (Chink)”
From Valery Jung Estabrook’s “Hometown Hero (Chink)”
Rohitash Rao’s “These Are All the People Ignored Today” (2017), curated by Anna Kustera and Lucia Love
Tamara Santibañez’s “Thinking About Everything, But Then Again, I Was Thinking About Nothing,” curated by Justin De Demko
Works by Rachel Frank, curated by Jacob Rhodes
Jonathan Rosen’s “I’ll Be Happy When :-I”
The room curated by Cade Tompkins Projects, including works by Sophiya Khwaja on the back wall
The Pursuit of “It” display, curated by Nicole Grammatico and Christina Papanicolaou, featuring works by Robin F. Williams, Signe Fierce, Hein Koh, and Hiba Schahbaz
Another view of The Pursuit of “It” display, curated by Nicole Grammatico and Christina Papanicolaou
Leah Piepgras’s “Gateway”
One of Paul Gagner’s humorous paintings in a booth curated by Paul D’Agostino
The Two in a Room display, curated by Eric Sutphin and featuring paintings by Rosemarie Beck and Angela Dufresne
Angela Dufresne’s “Pyle” (2014)
Inside the My aunt always had a village people’s tape in her car exhibition, curated by Johann Wolfschoon
Inside the THEM room, curated by Lynn Sullivan and featuring work by Katherine Behar, Elle Krakow, Dominic Nurre, William Powhida, and Danielle Webb
End Papers for Newtown Creek by artist Sto Len, curated by Howard Hurst
Jon Key’s “Man in the Violet Suit No.3 (Red)” (2017) at the Standard Standard booth, curated by Codify Art
Sam Jaffe’s “HPV” (2012) in a booth curated by Anna Maria Cuevas and Caroline Tilleard
Peter Clough’s moving work in Black Mirror, Pink Reflections, curated by Rick Herron and Christopher Stout
Kenny Rivero’s “Humid” (2017), curated by Karin Bravin
The Jonald Dudd: Show Mein show curated by Chis Held and Lydia Cambron
Mirror Mirror, curated by Adam G. Mignanelli and Caroline Larsen
Jack and Leigh Ruby: Barbershop, curated by Eve Sussman and Simon Lee
Shona McAndrew’s “Charlotte” is prominently displayed in The Staging of Vulnerability, curated by Allison Zuckerman.
The extensive map to Spring/Break

Spring/Break Art Show continues until through 6pm today, March 6, at 4 Times Square (entrance on W 43rd Street, Manhattan).

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