BWW Reviews: A Piered Armory Show Peers Back To The Past
A Piered Armory Show Peers Back To The Past
By Barry Kostrinsky
As if there is not enough confusion in the art world THE Armory show and many satellite fairs dropped through New York Cities stratosphere Wednesday night and orbits through March 9. What is the Armory? An Armory is a place for the militia; however defendable attacks employing full scale GI Joe green suited plastic men and woman have gone dormant over the last century. What to do with all that empty cavernous space? In 1913 an Armory was repurposed to house an art exhibit and so was born THE Armory show. Now, no longer in an Armory, it might be better called the Pier show as it is housed in Pier 92 and 94 near 55th street on the far west side.
People watching is always a highlight of an art fair and this smart couple was a big hit
Add to the confusion the multiplicity of Armories in NYC-I guess there were a lot attacking Indian attacks in the pre I-Phone era, and you have a maze of misunderstanding. Throw in a few art fairs at other armories dotted throughout the city like the Art Dealers Association of America art fair at the Armory on 67th street and Park avenue and the 69th regiment Armory where the Fountain Art Fair parks itself through Sunday -the sight of THE original Armory, and you are rightfully perplexed with the fact that The Armory show is not in an Armory and some of the non-Armory peripheral shows are in an Armory. This should make sense, for it is the art world.
The current show at THE Armory (but really at the Piers) is in a half-nelson from the long-armed stranglehold of the aesthetics expressed in the original show from 1913. What was so avant-garde back in the days of dollar meals quite unlike Mickee Dee's over 100 years ago, resurfaces over and over in the contemporary art world. Oddly enough the term avante-garde is a repurposing of another military concept- being ahead of the guard, at the front lines, and it makes me wonder if the flow goes both ways, is the Army calling military exercise performances pieces these days?
A unique map of NYC was an eye catcher at the fair
What was so avante-garde about THE Armory show of 1913?
It was the coming out party for so many artists and thoughts from Europe at the turn of the century and their introduction to the United States. Though there were many influential generals to be hanging in the original exhibit the one to take note of was The Champ. No, not Muhammad Ali, but Marcel DuChamp. Marcel was a brilliant thinker and broke through barriers in the art world much as Bertrand Russell did for mathematics. Both Bertrand and Marcel questioned basic assumptions and definitions and thus redefined their respective fields. Marcel blew open the doors for conceptual art and objects and artist have been gathering, playing and responding in the doorway ever since.
A corked classical figure complete with push pins- now that's a place for those random notes
But whereas The Champ was ahead of his day inventing new ideas and concepts of art, today's artist seem to be appropriating old ideas. Is this a bad thing? No, bad is too harsh a label, but contemporary artist constant homage, both knowingly and unwittingly to Marcel lacks a string, a bite and a sense of the new that we look to art to lead us lemmings towards a new paradigm.
Today, China is the focus of the special exhibits section at Pier 94. A Political volley? Simply put, I saw two themes shared by most of the Chinese galleries. One including minimal use of the space and objects loaded with high conceptual connotations hard to fathom. The other was the opposite, a sort of playful, whimsical free for all that spelled fun and excitement of the senses and was very much the polar vortex opposite and the antithesis of the other minimal forms. One country, a billion plus people, two ideas? Somehow DuChamp can seen to be the key primordial influence on both of these themes. He ain't the champ for nothin. It was unusual to see a lack of political statements from the Chinese artist , but maybe I was not looking and reading too closely. We often sleep walk through life and see without seeing as we coat our perceptions with our expected expectations of reality. Or maybe it was the fault of that late night left-over seafood pasta dish.
Six cones placed neatly on the floor- a minimal but touchingly simple story
Happily, Warhol's presence was less obvious at the fair. The Champ makes Warhol look like a chump, a supermarket shopper with nothing better to do with his soup cans and a superficial money grubbing whore of an artist with minimal brains from maximal drugs. Obviously I have let go of the too harsh thing. Andy is often heralded as a genius; however in the Jean-Michel Basquiat film by Schnabel at a dinner party at Max's KC, a disgruntled artist points out Andy has as much intellectual capacity as the menu.
The swarms of folks buzzing around in a daze as if they were bees caught in smoke can be bewildering but the fair is so full of challenging, pleasing and eye opening and thought provoking art that it is a must for any aficionado and a welcomed retreat into a new world for any novice artphile.
So many booths from so many countries were of interest. NY galleries looked strong but hey, you live in NY. Take the opportunity to see some of the far away galleries. In particular, Galerie Forsblom (pronounced:fa-what?), from Helsinki caught my eye. The mixed media collage by Tony Ousler was eye catching as were most of the works in the booth. I always enjoy seeing Kukje gallery-the premier Seoul Gallery and this time was no different. Max Wigman Gallery from London is worth a look though it is only a short hop across the pond.
Michel Rein gallery with shops set up in both Paris and Brussels was intriguing and it was a pleasure to see the Harlem based artist Abigail Deville represented in their booth and showing her creative and gold mixed detritus piece hinting at the illusory nature of wealth.
So F- the dishes, get outta bed, skip work and head west young men and woman. You will have a blast and be fine as long as you don't go to far west and get wet.
Ever wonder what happens to all the art bought at the fair? Some of the work from the original armory did not fair so well. A well to do schemata seller dropped by Macy's bought a few pieces in 1913. The works stayed in the basement for several years. When time came to figure out what to do with the great works by Picasso and his companions the owners discovered the work had been repurposed- one day it was used to clean up the water from a broken boiler. Now that's a fancy mop!
But J.S. Bach's got that beat. Some of Bach's compositions were written on cheese cloth. After his death some were repurposed back to their originally intended function to make cheese and the music was lost forever. The legacy of the cheese may have been some gas pains and pops not quite as musical.
How supreme is the champs rule: The Fountain art fair is named after a work by Duchamp in which a urinal was appropriated from the toilet to the art table.
Enjoy the Fairs!