Art

Art Amid Governors Island’s Architectural Decay

In its 10th edition, the Governors Island Art Fair in New York expands its installations into 1920s barracks.

Governors Island Art Fair 2017
Sculpture by Norman Mooney in Liggett Hall at the 2017 Governors Island Art Fair (all photos by the author for Hyperallergic)

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.

Concrete and plastic sculpture by Taki Fey
Concrete and plastic sculpture by Taki Fey
Installation view of work by Eliot Greenwald's "Visitor," with self-portraits made with powdered graphite based on security badges the artist received while working as an art handler in NYC
Installation view of work by Eliot Greenwald’s “Visitor,” with self-portraits made with powdered graphite based on security badges the artist received while working as an art handler in NYC
Susan Camp, "Dyad (the other side)" (2015), constrained gourds (grown in moulds), repurposed globe stand
Susan Camp, “Dyad (the other side)” (2015), constrained gourds (grown in moulds), repurposed globe stand
Installation view of acrylic paint and gesso canvases by Dáreece Walker
Installation view of acrylic paint and gesso canvases by Dáreece Walker
Andrew Harrison, "A Tree for Andrew Williams" (2017), sculpture
Andrew Harrison, “A Tree for Andrew Williams” (2017), sculpture
Trevor King, "The Well" (2017), 8 2.5 gallon water jugs blended with increasing percentages of Gatorade, approximately 1000lbs of clay slip, sand, wood, and 12 clip lamps with flood lights
Trevor King, “The Well” (2017), 8 2.5 gallon water jugs blended with increasing percentages of Gatorade, approximately 1000lbs of clay slip, sand, wood, and 12 clip lamps with flood lights
Biwei Niu, "Evolution of Rhythm" (2017), interactive, motion-capture installation with projection
Biwei Niu, “Evolution of Rhythm” (2017), interactive, motion-capture installation with projection
Installation view of ink drawings by Eeva Honkanen, illuminated by iPhone flashlight
Installation view of ink drawings by Eeva Honkanen, illuminated by iPhone flashlight
HYSTM (Keith Pine and Rich Zitterman), "El Presidente," acrylic on panel
HYSTM (Keith Pine and Rich Zitterman), “El Presidente,” acrylic on panel
Installation view of Tadao Cern's "Black Balloons"
Installation view of Tadao Cern’s “Black Balloons”
Sui Park, "Sprout Island" (2017), cable ties, steel pegs
Sui Park, “Sprout Island” (2017), cable ties, steel pegs
Installation view of photography by Anna Cone
Installation view of photography by Anna Cone
Installation by Ben Quesnel
Installation by Ben Quesnel
Sculpture by Pablo Garcia Lopez
Sculpture by Pablo Garcia Lopez
Inhye Lee & Hyomin Kim (Space Physicist), "Spatial Magnetic Field Visualization" (2016), interactive installation
Inhye Lee & Hyomin Kim (Space Physicist), “Spatial Magnetic Field Visualization” (2016), interactive installation, driven by magnetic field data
Installation view of work by Marie Koo
Installation view of work by Marie Koo
Sculpture by Hisayasu Takashio
Sculpture by Hisayasu Takashio
Installation view of art by Ethan Cornell
Installation view of art by Ethan Cornell
Governors Island Art Fair 2017
Photographs by Jimmy Fountain, shot on a subway platform near Rockaway Beach, with nighttime exposures of the planes flying from nearby JFK airport
Alice Pixley Young, "Transmissions" (2016), wood, glass, mixed media
Alice Pixley Young, “Transmissions” (2016), wood, glass, mixed media
Heinrich Spillmann, "Celestial Heroes’ Totem Marker Group," various wood species, wood sealer, latex paint
Heinrich Spillmann, “Celestial Heroes’ Totem Marker Group,” various wood species, wood sealer, latex paint
David Grainger, "The Endurance Awaits Release from the Pack Ice" (2013), MDF, wood, foam, wood veneer, string, resin, silk
David Grainger, “The Endurance Awaits Release from the Pack Ice” (2013), MDF, wood, foam, wood veneer, string, resin, silk

The 10th Annual Governors Island Art Fair continues on Governors Island (New York Harbor) through October 1.

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