I share the elevator up to Spring Break at 625 Madison Avenue with a dapper older gentleman, who looks like he works in the building. He sees me and others and asks, “Is there some sort of fashion event happening upstairs?”
I tell him it’s an art show, and the work is always top-notch at this one — he should see it.
“I don’t think I’ll have the time,” he says, elongating the word “time.” As he gets off the elevator he says airily, over his shoulder, “… unless Anish Kapoor is showing.”
It’s a more subdued Preview Day at Spring Break Art Show than in years past.
Maybe it’s the rain? It’s certainly not for want of good art. Alongside the day-glo colors of high-fashion visitors, there is color bursting in every corner of the artists’ booths, insistent and alive.
Well, mostly. When I visit Booth 1118, I ask if the flowers in the booth are the same ones used in painter Tracy Morgan’s energetic still lifes.
Booth 1120, nearby, is laden with Dasha Bazanova’s ceramic sculptures, which walk the tightrope between humor and devastation. Some figures live the high life in hot tubs, chugging rum; others gaze at you from their perches on a wooden installation Dasha built; and some, like her brilliant “Pietà Laptop” (2022), tumble out of a ceramic MacBook screen.
One of her figures, which can be seen in a video installation stuffing herself with Hot Cheetos and Takis before passing out and peeing her own tub, seems to have done just that.
I ask her if the hit 2012 child-rapper music video “Hot Cheetos and Takis,” by Da Rich Kidzz, inspired the use of these two particular snacks. She says she’s never seen it.
I ask artist Jess Bass how she created two large 2D pieces at the entrance of her booth, 1129.
“Did you know that there are a lot of people out there trying to get rid of used, old sails?” she says. “I find them on Ebay.”
While painting balloons for her sculptural work, she collects her excess dried paint. She adheres these paint splotches to the sails, painting faces onto the splotches when she sees a figure.
Artist Anne Spalter created her own floral, picnicky Bacchanalia through the use of AI combined with key words from the artists’ prompt, Naked Lunch. Spalter worked with artist and curator Coco Dolle on the booth, which feels like a poppy version of Manet’s “Luncheon on the Grass” — and features bouquets of artificial flowers to pose with.
Jeff Bliumus, a long-time participant in Spring Break, takes me around his “magic carpet” structures, all of which can spin on their base.
“I like sculptures that you can touch and feel, not [feel removed from],” he tells me.
There is also a collection of wall-hanging sculptures, oblong like pennies after going through a penny press machine. In these, Bliumis depicts public and political traumas, from the assassination of JFK, to 9/11, to the January 6 attack.
“We travel in our minds, through music, through art, through film, to escape these horrible realities but in the end, we always have to return to them.”
A few women, old friends of Jeff’s, visit him in the booth. They point out a sharp nose and glasses protruding from one of his sculptures.
“Jeff, that’s definitely your nose!” they say. “You put yourself into your own sculpture!” Then they crowd him for a photo with it.
As I’m wandering from booth to booth, I come across a cluster of cubicles. There’s a man intently at work on his laptop, and three devil-horned statues nearby.
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