The first Armory Show took place in 1913 after a year of planning by the Association of American Painters and Sculptors (AAPS). As the first of its kind, the Armory show, officially called The International Exhibition of Modern Art, exposed the American public to the latest visual advances in European modern art. Four thousand guests witnessed the art of Cezanne, Picasso and other new cutting edge artists. The aesthetics of the show pushed the envelope and made people question the standards and values of art. The Armory Show of 1913, held in the 69th Regiment Armory building in New York City, housed works of art representing the different art movements to date such as Symbolism, Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, Neo-Impressionism, and Cubism. After the close of the show the American art world would never be the same. In recent years, 1999 to be exact, The Armory Show was revived, and in that same year it was held at the same place of the original; the 69th Regiment Armory. Since then it has become an annual event attracting galleries, dealers, collectors, artists and others from around the world.
Krinzinger Gallery, Vienna
A show of such magnitude is sure to overwhelm any visitor, including artists. And that's exactly the way I felt as soon as I walked right in. In front, to the left, and to the right were endless walkways flanked by hundreds of gallery booths. Where do you start? I'm not sure how I made that decision, but I needed to start somewhere and I just dove in. After looking through the endless selections of Post-Modernist art I came to this gorgeous painting. Nothing fancy, cute, or shocking about it. Just a beautifully, well painted piece of art. Bjarne Melgaard is a name I've never heard and I didn't care. His painting mesmerized me for a few minutes as I studied every brush struck. The space was well composed with thin and thick applications of paint that created a continuous flow through the canvas. Keeping art history in mind I knew this artist has been influenced by the New York School, or the Abstract Expressionist as they are commonly known. But the one artist Bjarne Melgaard seems to owe much of his style is to Philip Guston, at least in this painting. The use of pink in this work is accomplished in such a successful way that I, a pink hater, thought for a moment that maybe I should start to explore the possibilities of such color. After all, I was there to learn from other artists.
Natalie Frank, The Hang Man Has Gone to Wash, The Soldiers to Eat, We Are Left Alone With Our Feat, 2007, oil on canvas, 72 x 80 inches
Mitchell-Innes & Nash
Appropriation is not new to artists throughout history. The greatest artists that have ever lived "quoted" works by masters they admired, and Natalie Frank is no exception. This large powerful canvas, bursting with bold brush strokes and color was a crowd pleaser. A new take on the colorful two dimensional surfaces of Gauguin, this painting borrows and then kicks it up a notch with an almost three dimensional perspective. Full of energy and bravado this painting unleashes an array of pigment combinations, leaving the viewer to take it all in and feel some kind of an orgasmic sensation. The movement of strokes and juicy paint applications, along with the intensity of the colors represented, only add to the exoticness of the topless subject, reclining in her quarters enjoying a moment of peace and perhaps freedom.
Kerlin Gallery, Dublin
Unlike the first two artists mentioned above, painterly effects don't have to be obvious. Such is the case with Callum Innes. Presented to the viewer is a very minimalist painting, with not much going on. A naked canvas, if you will, that doesn't seem to say much about itself or the artist. This may be the take of some, but I on the other hand appreciated the subtlety and delicate effects of it. Maybe because I'm a painter I was able to respond to the exploitation of the painting support as a compositional element, a part of the color scheme. My admiration for the artist grew as I got closer to the canvas and realized that with such sensitivity he had applied a very transparent layer of orange paint on the right hand side of the piece. On the right hand side edges of the painting, the orange paint thinned out with a turpentine or mineral spirit of some sort, had collected in a bleeding formation and manifested itself as its chroma intensified.
Among the various styles of art, technology made its appearance in many different aesthetics. Video and lights set the modern feel of the show. Call it Avant-Gard Art, or anything else, these works usually tap into the "new" and "innovative" hunger of the contemporary art world. Some were very interesting and challenged the idea of what art is. Some video images played with the visual appeal and subject matter of paintings of the past. Some, like the image above, were all about cracking a joke. Forgive me for not taking note of the artist or tittle or the piece, but I could not help but to shake my head as I looked at people not knowing what to make of this female buttocks shaking and compressing as machine gun sounds came out of it. Some smiled, and yes I did too, mostly in disbelieve. I got the joke, but will I or any one else be able to connect to it in a deeper level at some other point in time. To me this was a good example of the watering down of art. A good example of "let's make money now and worry about the other more important issues later" attitude.
In most cases I'm either for the piece presented in front of me, or against it. In the case of Galaxy, a painting of a young man staring out at the viewer as he reaches orgasm by Taner Ceylan, I was left torn. When I first saw the painting from many feet away I thought it represented a dead boy either in his death bed or coffin. As I got close I realized that he was very well alive and as I searched the painting for reasons of depiction I came to realized that he was pleasuring himself. Sex and art are not a good mix in my book, but this painting did a good job in hiding its real intention to later reveal to the viewer that he/she is being a voyeur. Maybe this is why the painting kept me standing in front of it longer than I should've.
Comedy in the past few decades has had a strong presence in the art world. As I looked around the show I couldn't help to notice some artists dealing with comical characters in costume. Some of the sculptures could be easily mistaken, if taken out of their gallery context, for toys. Art has a funny bone, and I was not sure if to laugh with it or to just keep walking. In search for meaningful experiences I kept on walking, but knowing that seeing such work does not offend me
Michael Borremans, The Hole, 2006, Zeno X Gallery, Antwerp
On my way out of The Armory Show I was very happy to find this painting. My brain and eyes could not take any more of the crowds and art, and as I was walking out I looked back and saw this small painting hanging on a lonely wall next to a drawing by the same artist. It was evident this artist knows the physicality of paint. Thin and thick applications were there, and the very mute use of color was rich. Simple broad brush work building on itself created this gem of a painting. With this in mind, I was able to leave happy and tackle my own work.
For more images of The Armory Show click here.