The Spring Break art show is a barometer of New York’s grassroots art scene and the creativity bubbling below the surface of the overall commercial art world. This year’s theme, HEARSAY:HERESY, pokes at the recent concern over truth, fact, and conspiracies. The topic pushed a whole series of participants to explore various medieval-inspired themes, which was hinted at in the fair’s original call for submissions. The mood overall seems to capture the fragmented nature of reality nowadays and the dark ominous undertones that it all suggests.
Some use design and architecture to frame their presentations — one booth curated by David Behringer, and featuring art by Chambliss Globbi, has a real 15th-century table at the center, while Cade Tompkins Projects, featuring artists Bob Dilworth and Nafis M. While, even recreates an arcade of pointed arches that evokes stripped Tuscan churches. Others fully embrace embroidery, tapestries, and other woven works, including Steve Locke’s Jacquard works at Rivalry, Anne Spalter’s AI-generated plague tapestries, Michael Sylvan Robinson’s “To Ward Off Late Stage Capitalism” sculptural garment, and Macauley Norman’s spider-like works at The Castle of the Spider’s Web — and these are only a sampling of the dozens of works in this vein. A few even use decorative bread, combining the romance of medieval bread making with a more recent pandemic one (Bianca Abdi-Boragi’s excellent chair and table made of bread is a showstopper at the Spelling Afterlife presentation by curator Taylor Hansen Hughes, and Adriana Gallo’s bread sculptures at Blessed Bodies, curated by Abby Cheney and Hanna Washburn, are a delight).
I kept asking artists and curators why they thought there was a great deal of fabric and woven works. Macauley Norman had the most convincing explanation as he talked about spiders, which he uses extensively in his current body of work presented by Deep Space Gallery, and how the arachnid fixes its web when it is damaged (echoing the feelings of pain and stress we have all felt in the last year and a half) and how the repetitive nature of such work can be meditative.
In the last few decades, woven and knitted works are becoming part of the growing mainstream vocabulary of contemporary art that continues to reexamine hierarchies of art and authorship. Historically, woven works were not seen as authored, unlike paintings, sculptures, even metal work, perhaps in part because they were often made by women. Rugs are a good example of these types of objects whose authors were not recorded, and here rug-like works appear prominently in Chiara No’s impressive Unbellowed installation at Field Projects, curated by Kris Racaniello, and in presentations by Emily Oliviera, who exhibits hook rugs in Spantzo Gallery’s Mimzie and a larger quilt-like work in Chris Bors & Fred Fleisher’s Nothing Shocking. Is this reconsideration of authorship one of the things to makes textiles so alluring to artists today?
I can imagine working with textiles and other soft materials were also attractive to those of us who spent much of the pandemic in cramped spaces, since they are odorless, don’t often involve toxic materials (unless you’re dyeing them), and are easy to store, a constant issue for artists through the ages. While the motivations to make this type of work are certainly diverse, I can also imagine that being robbed of hugs and physical contact during the pandemic also drove the desire for such tactile works, as if to overcompensate for the continuing prohibition to touch those around you.
There is a wide range of painting on display, including Kyle Hittmeier‘s funny and strangely alluring works about freeports that use images of post-it notes and the Cayman Islands, Daniel Morowitz’s vibrant drawings and bold use of color in what appears to be mythology inspired images, and Bruno Leydet’s beautifully queer canvases that feel quite intimate and quirky. And since it is 2021, M. Charlene Stevens’s Chapel exhibition includes a few NFTs for sale, though it’s worth noting that the whole digitally inspired show is beautifully coherent.
Overall, it feels like one of the strongest years for Spring Break, and a celebration of the community they’ve gathered under one roof and nurtured for roughly a decade.
The 2021 Spring Break art show continue at 625 Madison Avenue (Midtown, Manhattan) until September 13, 2021.
Our favorite US shows of 2021, brought to you by the writers and editors of Hyperallergic.
Naito’s Op-inspired abstractions might have been an oblique way of dealing with feelings of displacement after moving to the United States.
BIENALSUR, the International Biennial of Contemporary Art of the South, has returned to Saudi Arabia for an exhibition presenting more than 20 international artists, including Filwa Nazer, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, and Tony Oursler.
Braque’s paintings speak of self-containment, of a quietly impassioned, ongoing dedication to the task at hand.
In Amber Robles-Gordon’s artwork, the borders between states matter less than the overlapping territories of self, the never-ending negotiation of identity.
Schulte seems at once focused and restless, determined and open.
The archive kicks off an initiative by the Met Museum and the Studio Museum to conserve and digitize his works, and research the context of his photographs, his singular photographic techniques, and his life.
On view in Abu Dhabi until February 5, 2022, the paintings and sculptures in Modernisms shed new light on artists like Parviz Tanavoli, Fahrelnissa Zeid, and M.F. Husain.
In 1996, Nez Perce Tribe members had to fundraise hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay the Ohio History Connection to secure artifacts that were rightfully theirs.
Andrew McCarthy used a modified telescope to take over 150,000 images of the sun, combining them to create the stunningly crisp photo.
The city brought shows to life that will be talked about for years to come.