Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Armory Show 2009

Overall, the show is as deliriously overwhelming as ever, with the usual small percentage of memorable work scattered throughout the vast shopping mall of unremarkable crap
John Del Signore
I don't think I could have put it any better. The long awaited Armory Show 2009 took place last week without a hitch. 243 exhibitors from around the world put up their "best" work/artists like peacocks showing off their plumage on a matting call. This year's show was clouded with the topic in every one's head, the bad economy, and to no surprise it seemed like there were less buyers shopping for the latest "it" piece of art. At least I didn't hear anyone ask for prices as I have in past years.
Deitch Projects, NY (Ryan McGuinness's painting in the background)
After seeing so much meaningless stuff here and there finally I arrive at Deitch's booth, a space displaying Ryan McGuinness and Elizabeth Neil.
Elizabeth Neil, Sideshow, 2008, oil on canvas, 76 x 85 inches
During the summer Deich mounted a solo show of Neil's work, large canvases full of gestural energy, such as Sideshow, that captured my attention and to this day I keep thinking about them. Finding this painting at the Armory was a great treat.
Michael Stevenson, Capetown, showing Deborah Poynton
There was a lot of crap on display, and finding good art became a difficult task. Not only was it hard to find good art, but it was also hard to find good "bad art." In past years some "bad art" got a response out of me, enough for me to photograph and take note of it. But this year not even that was on hand. What happened here? Walking around like a lab mouse trying to get through a maze, I came across this large painting by Deborah Poynton. This horizontal canvas had a very commanding presence, with two uneasy figures in a messy interior which was to some extent intimidating.
Susanne Vielmetter, untitled, 2009, oil on panel, 28 x 37
Susanne's Vielmetter abstract landscape was perhaps one of the very few beautiful pieces in the show. What can I say? This painting had it all; color, light, mood, intensity, and above all, respect and sensitivity to the act of painting.
Mitch Epstein, Amos Coal Power Plant, Raymond, West Virginia, (from American Power), 2004, C-print, 70 x 92 inches
Welcome to America the Great, or at least that's how Mitch Epstein want you to think with a little sarcasm. Photography has a history of reporting and exposing the truth, a perfect medium for Epstein's point of view.
Tommy Hilding, Shelter, 2009, oil on linen, 50 x 75 cm, Gallerie Magnus Karlson, Stockholm
Tommy Hilding became one of my favorite painters at the Armory. Gallerie Magnus was very proud to showcase about four pieces from the artist, and I don't blame them. His use of color and touch is very unique and the scenes he paints are approached with a sense of loss and nostalgia.
Painting by Stef Driesen at Harris Lieberman, NY
Certainly, it was great to find this large abstract painting at Harris Lieberman's space. Most of the Armory was full with the usual neon installations, weird sculptures, and paintings that can no longer be classified as "painting." And here it was, hanging on a wall, mostly by itself, Driesen's piece was a nice reminder that good ol' fashion painting is still being produced.
If you've had enough, you may sit for a while at one of the hang out areas of the Armory Show.
Aida Makoto, Mt. Fuji Girl, 2008, lambda print, 120 x 186 cm, Mizuman Art Gallery, Tokyo, Beijin
Asia was very well represented at both the Armory show and Pulse. What I noticed about the Asian artists in the Armory is that they were more preoccupied with the freedom of sexuality. Most times it was the female figure being explored, exposed, and exploited.
Naoto Kawaham at Taka Ishii Gallery, Tokyo and Kyoto

Joseph Kosuth, #36 On Color (Yellow), 1991, 5 x 111 inches, neon, Galleria Lia Rumma, Milan, Naples.
And here we are kids, the fun light hearted one punch lines we now call "art." Neon, neon and more neon...makes me wonder when is it going to end? Haven't we had enough of these cutesy "I'm a revel bad ass" crap?
Sylvie Fleury, High Heels on the Moon, 2005, neon and 3 transformers, 130 x 220 cm, Catriona Jeffries Gallery, Vancouver

Stefan Druggemann, Make Me See, 2009, neon, spray paint, Sies & Hoke, Dusseldorf
As you can see above, a real badass. So much that neon wasn't enough insult to the institution of art, but the artist needed to add more to his statement by vandalizing his own art with spray paint. Yeah man, go get them Mr. badass!
Gering & Lopez Gallery, NY

Pat Steir, Black and Gold, 2009, oil on canvas, 84 x 84 inches, Cheim & Read, NY
Now back to the real thing. Sometimes it makes me wonder what Pat Steir thinks of her work hanging right around the corner from neon and bling bling?
Tommy Hilding, The Day After, 2009, oil on linen, 23.6 x 31.5 inches, Angles Gallery, Santa Monica
As I rush out of Pier 94 with the intercom system politely announcing that all visitors need to leave the premises because the 2009 Armory Show has now come to a close, I run right into Tommy Hilding again. With a sigh of relief I stop and look, and tell myself that good painting is still out there, and that there are those with great talent pushing and demanding that the noble act of painting not to be forgotten.


Anonymous said...

Bravo! If only you were an arts editor at the Times! --Marc

Luis Colan said...

thank you Marc, a very nice compliment indeed.