Spring/Break Art Show is typically an annual event, but the alternative art fair has returned for a second run this year during Frieze Week, not long after its takeover of former Condé Nast offices during Armory Week in March. This marks the first time organizers Ambre Kelly and Andrew Gori have taken their show to Brooklyn, setting up in City Point, a new, mega, multiuse development that’s home to the likes of Target, Century 21, and Alamo Drafthouse Cinema. It’s also the curator-driven show’s first time focusing solely on large-scale installations, which greatly reduces the number of presentations to just 12 (by comparison, the March installment had 155 curators and more than 400 artists). But the fair remains as sprawling as ever.
Titled Spring/Break Bklyn Immersive, the exhibition is a way for Kelly and Gori to feature proposals for the March show that wouldn’t have fit inside the tight, low-ceilinged Condé Nast offices. The large installations divide an open, colorless retail space into — as the fair’s name relays — a variety of immersive environments. All of them respond to the prior theme of “Black Mirror,” which invited artists and curators to consider “issues of identity, property, migration, and displacement.”
The responses range from an intricate underwater scene, complete with suspended deep sea divers, by Melissa Godoy-Nieto; to a zany explosion of light by Adela Andea, formed from wires, electrical accessories, and foam pieces; to a basketball court–like arena by MINT Collective, intended to deconstruct “the gestures of sports cultures and communities,” as per a press release. That last one invites you to sink into beanbags, surrounded by pennants — some printed with high fives and handshakes — and two basketball hoops, which are enigmatically labelled “Meat Sink” and Hand Sink.”
While Spring/Break’s Armory fair featured many artists thoughtfully reflecting on the country’s current state of affairs, a lot of the works here feel lackluster in delivering their intended messages. Filling the space seemed to be the chief priority in some cases, and while the resulting rooms have visual splendor (and Instagram opportunities aplenty), I found myself moving relatively quickly. I missed the complexity of the traditional Spring/Break Art Show, whose labyrinthine, seemingly endless rooms are typically filled with small objects that urge you to pause and explore.
Here, a sleek work by Jason Peters that pairs a towering, glowing diamond with a reflective pool is a fitting installation for the commercial space, but it’s an odd encounter in a fair known for its endearingly messy, DIY aesthetics. Peters’s “Sky Diamond” stands by the fair’s entrance, and I couldn’t help but think it served a cheap purpose of drawing shoppers into the space. Its grandeur may also, unfortunately, draw attention away from Anne Spalter‘s painstaking covering of the entrance’s outer wall with 160 charcoal drawings. Although they seem similar at first glance, each work is actually unique; collectively, they visualize the rhythms of ritual drumming. Spalter created an accompanying sound piece derived from a French Polynesian fire dance she witnessed. Its soft patterings enliven the sterile atrium and introduce unseen mystery into the room.
One installation that stands out despite its quiet nature is Azikiwe Mohammed‘s “Our Futures A Present #1,” which refashions a corner of a room into a dark sanctuary for African Americans. Makeshift altars adorned with fake flowers and electric candles are spread across the carpeted floor, while projectors cycle through snapshots from Mohammed’s own family archive as well as found photographs, largely of quotidian scenes. Visitors are invited to don headphones hooked up to Walkmen, which play recordings of African American spirituals. The music transports you fully to this otherworldly chapel of memories of everyday black life, from the joyous to the heartbreaking.
Next door stands another reverent site: a latex, full-scale replica of a house submerged by Hurricane Katrina, installed here by Takashi Horisaki. “Social Dress New Orleans – 730 days After 10 years After” includes portions of the building suspended from the ceiling to form an empty shell of a home, like wet laundry frozen in time. If you look closely, you can see evocative details from lost wallpaper, distorted wall outlets, and even outlines of fish bones. Standing within the structure — which give off a faint, earthy scent — reminded me of nature’s at times unforgiving force and our relatively flimsy lives. The piece also made me wonder if art about abandoned buildings is having a moment.
Even if Bkyln Immersive feels less eccentric than the typical Spring/Break Art Show, it’s refreshing to see Kelly and Gori experimenting with a new form, particularly one so accessible to people who may not typically attend art fairs. The migration to Downtown Brooklyn is a nice shuffle in that it situates artists in a heavily trafficked, public building, compared to previous locations that were specifically dedicated to the fair. Most people viewing the installations during my visit seemed to have wandered in, rather than making a deliberate trip as art enthusiasts. In this way, Spring/Break Bklyn Immersive goes beyond serving as a palate cleanser for Frieze Week; it offers passersby running errands or locals on their way to work an unexpected recess, and one that’s definitely unconventional.
Spring/Break Bklyn Immersive continues at City Point (445 Albee Square W, Downtown Brooklyn) through May 14.
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