24 February 2007

Review: Armory Show

Had a great time at the Armory Show; highly recommended for those on or near NYC before it closes Monday evening. People consider it an overwhelming amount of art to see but for me (who once did 18 museums on the 5-day Paris pass) it is just almost enough, acting overwhelmed is just silly; next year I want to get an earlier jump on things and see one of the other fairs the same day. After the first 100 galleries a brief visual fatigue sets in followed by a state of hypnosis which I find conducive to optimal reception. Plus the international fashion show of it all.. here what crowds there are, which seem to disperse somewhat during the dinner hour, are not such a detriment, and some of the cell conversations are downright hilarious in an unintentional way.

Perhaps the most powerful canvas was Daniel Richter’s The Owner’s Historic Lesson (Zwirner), which shows the back of a diabolical-seeming figure in shadow with a gallery of hooded death masks in the audience, bringing to mind works by Ensor, Picabia, and others. The coloration and composition pulls off this concept, the red and white background features the black figure in the center, as the viewer sees the scene from the perspective of the black figure.

Sean Kelly had wonderful new paintings by Ilya Kabakov – villages on mountaintops with upside-down villages meeting them from the top of the canvases - what seemed a Utopian Magritte vision. Another highlight from an old favorite was Marcel Broodthaers’ 1960s canvas replicating the page layout of Mallarmé’s Un coup de Dés (the first edition of which can be seen at the Rutgers New Brunswick, NJ’s Zimmerli) with straight lines (Crousel, Paris).

Audi was one of the corporate sponsors, and several jokes (cries) were made at the expense of Mercedes: Dongwook Lee’s new sculptures that portrayed the medallion with a plastic female nude as the interior three-pointed star, and elsewhere a 1974 Piero Golia that linked the medallions together to make a ritualistic necklace. Along with Dongwook Lee in Arario’s (Beijing) impressive lineup was Wang Guangyi’s ‘Great Criticism - Art Museum No’ which utilizes socialist realism for the broad strokes of a manifesto.

It’s not an Armory Show unless viewers are shocked, and though many tried, including a bloody, sensual Paul McCarthy photographic sequence, or a neon ‘Shit’ that greeted visitors through the turnstiles, I did see shocked people regarding Tracey Emin’s neon construction consisting solely of an oval containing the words ‘People like you need to fuck people like me.’ What I liked about it is its relation to the commercial tradition of neon - if you are not being shameless, why use neon? Another propagandist work I was sold on was Erwin Worm’s canvas (Krinzinger, Vienna) ‘Support Hegel,’ with minimal figurative illustration.

Also utilizing the commercial tradition was Ulrich Strothjohann’s lit signs that rearranged wordings from their retail beginnings. The Aachen gallery showing him also had wonderful Mexican photos chronicling archeology ancient and modern; doesn’t everyone grow up there wanting to be in the Anthropology Museum, the big show?

The progeny theme continued with Diego Fernandez’s ‘Vulgi Fabulae (Rise of the Giant Witch Craze)’ which stuck Marilyn Monroe’s partially obscured head with what looked like a piece of prefab insulation on top of it, above a vintage volume of ‘Catholic Viewpoint on Overpopulation’ by Anthony Zimmerman SOD with a base of cutouts of various Hollywood stars among which only Salma Hayek was recognizable to me.

I give the folks at Enrique Guerrero, Mexico DF credit for downing robust amounts of tequila during the proceedings, bringing back fond memories from my thirsty days down there when produce merchants would ply me with free shots while I was sorting through corn and avocados. Their offerings did not disappoint; Enrique Jozin’s ‘Practica (Fifty 12-oz. cartridges)' was wooden figurative constructions with bullet holes, and Pablo Helguera chipped in with thought-provoking photo diaries and collages that sorted out globalization.

Politics was present but tended to not focus itself directly on current goings on: one worthy attention-getter was Thomas Hirshhorn’s large, grotesque installation ‘Outgrowth - Family,’ which represented without subtlety the word out there. Martha Rosler’s mid-80s multimedia ‘If it's too bad to be true, it could be DISINFORMATION’ (pictured) focused on media distortions in reportage of the Contra War. Lara Almarcegui (Pepe Cobo, Madrid) centers her compositions amid the overdevelopment of São Paolo, in on canvas cataloging the building materials used, in photographs showing the vain battle of flora to remain glorious. Another vision of an urban future is the cartoon-like canvas Rickshawpolis from a gallery in India.