In its 10th year, the Governors Island Art Fair (GIAF) continues to experiment with the disused spaces on Governors Island in the New York Harbor, adding the 1920s Liggett Hall barracks to the 2017 edition. The fair, organized by the nonprofit 4heads, features 100 artists from across media, from gourds molded into baby heads, to interactive videos.
Although part of the interior of Liggett Hall is accessible to the public, including a long sunlit corridor where Norman Mooney’s cast aluminum “Wall Flower” sculptures stand like starbursts, much of it is only visible through windows and doors. Visitors can peer through the glass to videos and installations, like Trevor King’s “The Well,” for which the artist installed a clay slip and “eight 2.5 gallon water jugs blended with increasing percentages of Gatorade” to create a contrast between the flooded earth and unnaturally colored liquid.
As in years past, some of the more successful art involves installations that engage with the decommissioned military structures, including a line of houses in Colonels Row. The peeling paint, grand staircases, and dormant kitchens offer a haunting setting for Andrew Harrison’s “A Tree for Andrew Williams,” where a bicycle transports a tree. Constructed with wood collected at the former site of Seneca Village — an African American community displaced by the development of Central Park — the sculpture is a tribute to one of the village’s 19th-century residents. Susan Camp’s delightfully creepy gourds, grown with constraining molds into disembodied doll faces, likewise harmonize with the creaky old houses. There are also stand-outs in photography and painting, such as Dáreece Walker’s series of “Black Is the Giant” canvases that portray a larger-than-life vision of himself towering above protests against police brutality, and Marie Koo’s oil paintings and animations, in which bunnies and goats dance beneath the moon, and a whale skeleton is greeted by a parade thrown by deep-sea animals that thrive on its nutrient-rich flesh.
Each year Governors Island, decommissioned in 1996, expands its public access. Last year saw the opening of the Hills, a cluster of mounds shaped from debris recycled from the demolition of deteriorated buildings. GIAF annually exposes visitors to even more of its hidden corners, reanimating the dormant spaces with art.
The 10th Annual Governors Island Art Fair continues on Governors Island (New York Harbor) through October 1.