Thursday, March 04, 2010

Armory Show

Everything I shot from Wednesday to Sunday is here

I registered as press in advance for this and showed up about ten minutes after the press conference to pick up my badge. I briefly glanced at Pier 92, where they only show dead artists, or at least which consists primarily of resale by historical, museum-level galleries. While there's much more interest in the first market of Pier 94, the historical gap is small.

Juan Genoves, Transcurso, 2006 detail. From the press balcony this looked like a photograph but it's really thick impasto.

As press, I have exchanged my attention and goodwill for privileged access, and operate as free publicity for the show. But as a cultural consumer advocate in the attention economy, I now consider anyone non-VIP who pays for access to be a Sucker. If you have a blog or anything I recommend you write yourself an assignment letter or just register on their site and get in free.

Maybe my research-fu is weak but I cannot find an image of how the pier is laid out. It's basically a T. I started on the right arm of the T and methodically went down the rows. Because there are an odd number of rows on the staff of the T you can end up redundantly walking along it this way (and thereby seeing the featured Berlin part twice), so it's best to do the arms by row and the pier over the water in a zig zag with a little overlap in the middle. It's easy to get distracted by something on the other side and overwalk. With the white lights and walls everywhere, my eyes got much tireder than my feet. One thing I found I ended up doing was lingering in a corner staring at a piece I found completely uninteresting, just to rest.

I felt I was coming into this one with preferences different from ones I would have other years or even other days. Some of my arbitrary rules, and why:
1. Galleries that are basically retail shops for pop art stars (Hirst, for example) aren't worth discussing.
2. I'm sick of contempt for the audience and easy cultural critique. True, just because the economy's down doesn't mean artists should make collector-friendly work, but conceptual laziness just means you have nothing intellectually complex to talk about. It looks like some idiot has scammed the gallery and that's just business.
3. I'm paying particular attention to class issues as well as ethnic politics. While the Armory is aggressively post- and inter-national, it began as an American exodus for the European avante-garde. Without contemporaneity entrenched in the Obama Era we're just looking at aesthetic balloons.
4. Things that are difficult to transport or install are interesting. Animatronics, performances, digital media.
5. But contrary to (4), things obviously marketed towards a particular part of the market - either museums or collectors - aren't as interesting as those that really work just for the Armory. It's like admiring mall displays. I'm looking for what is essentially intimate public art without the effects of public funding.
6. Every year I am less and less inclined to like something just because it resembles my own field, figurative painting. There's a lot of figurative painting that's done either photographically or non-representationally that is to be considered more as conceptual.
7. Things that would appeal to people with no art background and anything that disregards the whole modernist project hold a certain fascination, if only because I find myself so willing to dismiss them. This also goes for "bourgeouis" or "kitsch" work aimed at a theoretical market solely about interior decorating. Many critics overlook this work because it's boring, and it does take up the bulk of the show, but it's the sanctuary for the many many artists who just want to make beauty. Escapism is practical.
8. I like computers and science. And environmental issues. Grids, numbers, language: these are things I look at because they're not something I can do well. HOWEVER. I am, if not a dogmatic technophile, at least an anti-Luddite, and will dismiss anything that's simply critical of technology/modernity/"synthetic".
9. Unless it's something new by a favorite, I'm not looking at things I've seen before, either at Basel or at last year's Armory. There are actually repeat pieces, which looks like it would be embarrassing or at least appears lazy. It could be argued that the galleries are standing behind their investments but it's a waste of time to a spectator.
10. I am not looking at other art blogs and I am trying to see things other art blogs don't before I read them.

Ultimately it's just what caught my eye, which has an average sort of attention bandwidth, and VIKI's camera.

What struck me in particular yesterday was the sort of economy simplified by postcolonialist Ngugi as the rich stealing from the rich. Or rather, most galleries are investments by rich people who consider themselves smart enough to try to find the few stupid rich people, or to catch the rich in moments of irrationality. Hence the free flow of champagne for handpicked VIPs. I can barely speculate on what percentage of art sales are gallery to gallery. At the super blue chip level there's little to firmly connect particular artists to particular galleries besides geography, and even that's irrelevent when the fairs, especially in an art hub like NYC, consist of the fattest international ambassadors.

Lets look at pretty pictures now.

Okay, Ian Davis does these awesome wide-angle landscapes full of identical figures, commentaries on industrial science, but I can't find the new ones he had up and the picture didn't come through. Look out for "hubris" and "skeptics".

I ran into Jack Tilton, and had a look at Roberts & Tilton, his L.A. branch, which had some Kehinde Wiley (who may have stepped on me) and Titus Kaphar, who deconstructs canvases to comment on race history:

"Nip tuck" (or "Lillian Dandridge"?), 2009, Crumpled canvas oil painting.

Markus Schinwald, Carola, 2009. 22x18cm oil on canvas. 19th century style portraits of cyborgs are a good direction (and many were made in the 19th century already)

Also at Yvon Lambert was one of those "difficult to reproduce" near-conceptual museum pieces by Zilvinas Kempinas, Serpentine, consisting of magnetic tape blown in a corner by a fan.

This is interesting because apart from context it's illustration or at least kind of gross pedophiliac erotic art. It reminds me of Gravity's Rainbow a bit. I apparently didn't photo the attribution - if you know it, say it.

Muntean/Rosenblum: another of these paintings entrenched in photography, but there's something about the children/escalator imagery and the discouragement of connection between photo and caption that has a poetic kick for me.

You know what? Because I've been just taking photos of labels (when they were there, because they weren't always) to attribute, I may as well use those. Let's try that.

It is a photo of a moon landing with the astronauts made black.
No, that method doesn't really work.

The galleries that featured shows of individual artists seemed to be very proud of doing this - it was something they could afford to do, selflessly. It definitely paid off in attention to have an immersive, consistent space. A prime example is Adam McEwan's "I Am Curious Yellow" installation at Nicole Klagsburn, which consisted of a series in only white and yellow, including blowups of Soviet German buttons, swastikas, and large prints of an article about an Olympic runner's alleged gender fraud.

Peter Liversidge got a bright little room with two installations ("Come On In" of handpainted dice, and "little by little" neon) including the proposals for those installations.

The preponderance of high-hung neon was nicely deflated by a Japanese artist's smashed neon sign near the ground.

I always like what Mizuma has, but if there's a message to take from this show it's that Orientalism doesn't even work any more.
my bandwidth was shutting down in protest and I started favoring one-liners. I chatted with the Andrew Kreps assistant working under this for a few minutes. Kreps also featured a pro-choice piece by Andrea Bowers, consisting of a pre-Roe v. Wade letter from a shudderingly oppressed woman who had no idea where to get an abortion to a sympathetic (or maybe not) organization.

English mega-gallery White Cube featured this life-size bronze of a trans man by Marc Quinn.

What I find interesting about Benjamin Edwards ("Solo", 2010 and already sold) is that 3-d is already, especially if done right, far beyond the glitchy emptiness he foregrounds.

Limning the differences between him and Justin Faunce is a quick exercise.


I love David Schnell very much.

I wonder if the title "world map of genreal hazards" is intentional. I rather like "genreal" better than "general". I don't know who did the Scrooge McDuck but it's excellently posed for this photo op.

South African galleries felt especially strong this year. This taxidermied farcegory had a live band playing incidental music that I saw VIPs covering their ears for.

Mathias Faldbakken, I think. It's bare canvas, pencil, kinda sloppy. What I'm seeing is a conceptual artist without assistants.

I took a picture of one of my favorite artists and completely just assumed I'd remember her name.

RM Fischer is an example of why I like sculpture more than anything these days. It's eclectic and interesting and playful and doesn't care quite as much about The Market.

I think that's about all I can salvage. I don't want to declare a judgment on the show overall, because it's a lot of different galleries trying a lot of different tactics, and sometimes the good parts are just good and the bad parts are really interesting. I'll do further posts on the many other venues that have sprouted up this week. There are qualitative comparisons to be made, and I'd rather not debate context or content.

Oh yeah. I nearly forgot the Forget perfume booth. They had spray, for forgetting. It didn't work.

No comments: