Friday, March 28, 2008

The Armory Show 2008

The 10th annual Armory Show opened its doors this past Thursday at Pier 94, on 55th street and 12th ave., on the west side of Manhattan. I hopped my way to see this yearly event, yes hopped, my foot was injured at work two days before but no big deal. Out of all the many art fairs opening on the same day on the very same city, the Armory was the most important. This is where all the big boys of galleries show. 160 international galleries were chosen this year to display new art by living artists. Early in the history of the Armory Show, this fair was known as a "local" event, with mostly New York galleries showing. This year eighty five of selected exhibitors were from Europe.
There was a more relaxed feel to this year's show, partly because I attended on a weekday and not a Saturday like last year. This year neon seems to be the lates rage in the art world, and it was no surprise that I was greeted by a neon installation as I walked into the show. Sean Kelly Gallery, New York, proudly presented artist Joseph Kosuth and his W.F.T. #1, 2007. This installation was a sort of family tree of the word "luna", which means moon. At the center of the installation one can see the word "Latin" and from there the many different languages that use the word luna as a root for many other worlds relating to light.
Callum Innes, Monologue Twenty One, 2007, oil on canvas, 95.5 x 91.5 inches, Sean Kelly Gallery, New York
One can't always know what to expect when attending art fairs like the Armory Show. It's a given that most of the art on display will deal with technology, due to the way our society is built and driven on and by it. Things will shock and raise questions about what is art. But sometimes one still sees the more traditional modes of art making shine their little light amongst the many neon installations. Somehow it was very comforting encountering Callum Innes's painting right after Joseph Kasuth. I was drawn to the dark and quiet feel of the painting. At first I thought I was looking at Pat Steir but I knew it wasn't her. This piece was more subtle and delicate. Later on I realized that I had enjoyed a painting of his at last year's show.

Luis Gispert, Untitled (Dinner Girls), 2002, cibachrone print, 36x 80 inches, Zack Feuer Gallery, New York
To a certain level hunting, this photograph by Luis Gispert caught my attention as I navigated my way through the maze of galleries. The scene is left open to interpretation by leaving the piece untitled. A ritual perhaps, as a viewer next to me whispered to her friend? There is a sense of magic happening. All three girls have their eyes closed and their hands up as if they are experiencing a religious moment.
More neon making a statement. This piece by Tracy Emin at Leahmann Maupin Gallery, New York, may not have been the best work out there but it is a very good example of the kind of art being made and exhibited at important shows like this one.
Christoph Schmidberger, Patrick Painter Inc., Los Angeles
A modern Caravaggio is what I thought when I stood in front of Schmidberger's painting of this topless youth. It's amazing how intimidating, even through painting, flesh can be. But was it his inviting stare that made me feel that way, or was it the way in which his torso rest on top of mess sheet while his jeans come undone?
Katie Grinnan, ACME, Los Angeles

Jenny Holzer, True Ribs, 2008, 7 curved double sided LED signs, Cheim & Read, New York

Stuart Shave Modern Art, London
One of my favorite paintings in the show was this large abstraction by an unknown artist. Many galleries were very diligent by not providing show goers with information on the art on the walls. Some tried by writing the artists' names with messy pencil handwriting. Sure one can ask the gallery attendants who are the artists they're displaying but when you have so many things go see and document asking some of these people for the information becomes too tedious.
Michael Borremans, The Glaze, 2007, oil on canvas, 83.5 x 71.5 cm, Zeno X Gallery, Antwerp

Michael Vasquez, This Is Ours (BG), (Ro), and (Tony), 2008, oil on canvas, 96 x 72 inches, Fredric Snitzer Gallery, Miami
Getting close to the end of the show I came across this series of three painting by Michael Vasquez. The size and technique of the paintings were impressive. Speechless I stood in front of each piece studying every fluid brush stroke. This was it, the highlight of my experience at The Armory Show 2008. Three modern portraits of contemporary people with a connection to old portrait painting like Velazquez, Van Dyck, and Rubens.
Michael Vasquez, This is Ours (Tony), detail, 2008
*More images from the Armory Show here.
*Photos from senior editor Phillip Torrone here.

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