The Armory Show, Fuller Building, and ADAA Art Show

It’s art fair week in New York and I managed to hit four of them, plus some galleries and museums, over the past two days.

First up was The Armory Show at piers 92 and 94, which is divided up into “Modern” and “Contemporary” wings, though there’s not always a clear distinction as several artists I’ve seen in past Contemporary wings had migrated to the Modern side (e.g., Jason Martin, whose thick-wavy black monochromes have moved upstairs).  I moved through the Contemporary wing at a pretty brisk pace, deciding this year to look wide, see what catches my eye, and only then move in closer.  (I must have missed some good things, though, as I don’t remember seeing many of the pieces mentioned in Roberta Smith’s review or the Ten Best list from ArtInfo.)

This year I’m not going to detail too many of the pieces throughout the show that caught my eye, in part because my notes are too sketchy and I didn’t take many photographs (too many people *were* taking photographs and I didn’t want to be one of them), but also because it seems that very few galleries are providing images on their web sites about what they’re exhibiting.  It seems to me that in a world of social networking and blogging, it would be useful for galleries to have sharing-ready images of their artwork available at least for hot-linking.

One thing I noticed at all of the art fairs was that pure abstraction was a distinct minority.  Even pieces that were largely expressionistic, brushy, disfigured, or conceptual were in essence representational.  And there was a distinct whiff of Bacon, and I’m not referring to the surely pork-product smell wafting from the dining area at the Scope fair.  Rather, Francis Bacon seemed to be everywhere: a swirly, slashy, center-focused pseudo-portrait aesthetic in at least a dozen galleries.  Unfortunately, once you’ve seen real Bacon paintings in person (as opposed to reproductions), with their surprisingly beautiful paint application, these newer works don’t really hold up so well.

A few galleries exhibited some nice colorful abstractions, such as a classic Julian Stanczak at Danese, some buzzing stripes and colorful shapes at Jack Shainman (by Tim Bavington and Odili Donald Odita), a fantastic small Al Held piece tucked in the corner at Betty Cunningham, and a nice collection of bona fide op art at D. Wigmore, similar to work in their excellent “Structured Color”  show presently up at their Fifth Ave space (which I saw a couple of weeks ago but didn’t have a chance to blog about).

I loved a photograph entitled “Concert” by Julie Blackmon at Catherine Edelman gallery, depicting a young girl playing the violin in a large empty room at home with two (presumably) siblings in various states of paying attention.

A nifty sculptural piece by Aristarkh Chernyshev at XL Gallery uses a ribbon-like ticker of LED lights (à la Holzer) winding in an out of a wastebasket, displaying headline news, and entitled “Urgent!”.  To me, it mocked the perpetual “breaking news” graphic that’s ever-present on today’s pseudo-news channels.

Over at the Modern section of The Armory Show, Galleria d’arte Maggiore exhibited two Giorgios in their space: de Chirico and Moriandi.  Though a strange pairing aesthetically, it worked and I enjoyed browsing the large number of quality paintings by two famous Giorgios.  Nearby, a small jewel of a painting at Allan Stone’s gallery was a surprising Willem de Kooning that you could easily have mistaken for a Miro.

What made this visit to the Armory Show even more appealing was remembering that MoMA membership grants you access to both the Armory Show and Volta, saving you $40 worth of entrance fees.  It’s a fantastic benefit for becoming a member at MoMA, though not one that seems to be widely advertised!

After the Armory Show, I headed up towards the ADAA’s “The Art Show” which is actually at the 67th Street Armory.  But first I took a quick stop through the Fuller Building, which now has an increasing and surprising number of high end hair salons.  I did find a couple of shows that made the detour worthwhile, in particular the maximum chroma show of recent abstractions by Emily Mason at David Findlay Jr Fine Art.  My eyeballs were happy to follow the subtle and not-so-subtle color transitions in these warm-and-cool contrasting paintings.


Emily Mason lights up the floor at David Findlay Jr in The Fuller Building

Upon entering the ADAA show (sadly, no museum membership discounts apply, though since this show raises funds for the Henry Street Settlement, I suppose that makes sense), there’s the sudden seriousness of the place followed by the anticipation of seeing so much familiar, quality work for sale (albeit mostly way out of my price range).  The highlight for me was at Debra Force Fine Art, where she’s showing a handful of wonderful Oscar Bluemners in various sizes and media, including a $1.35M (yes, million) oil paintings and a $15K colored pencil drawing.  I wish more of the dealers would put prices on the labels, but instead many (most) make you ask if you want to know…

That was all the art I could fit in on Thursday.  In my next blog post, I’ll cover Friday’s trip to the Met, Volta, and Scope.


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