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Weekly Art #29 - The Armory Show (and other things) - Part Two
Submitted by Matt Jones on Tue, 3/8/2011, 12:40am
Last week I said "hey kids let's go to the fair," only I didn't just go to one, I went to three, and the best part of it all was a last minute visit to a painting exhibition I didn't think I'd have a chance to see that sparked a million thoughts in my head. Come with me on this journey and do please share your narratives of peril and triumph because ... it was ARMORY WEEK IN NYC!
My buddy Billy hooked me up with a ticket to the $1000 preview night. He didn't pay for it, don't worry. So I went and I took Jen because Jen and I go to things like this and I figured she'd class the joint up a bit.
We walked and walked and walked. We ran into my friend Noah Lyon and his lovely and pregnant wife. We ran into Peter Makebish and his awesome girlfriend Ying. We met Brendan Cass. I talked to a painting hero of mine Bill Saylor and he told me he read the entire Josh Smith IDP Weekly Art blog from two weeks ago and laughed at the battle between me and Jessica over the merit of Smith's exhibition. We ran into and talked at length with Stephen Truax, a man newly minted as an art journalist. He was stoked and amazed that English Kills had a booth at the Scope Art Fair (I later found out why: someone backed out last minute so Alex of Scope asked English Kills to set up shop and they did so free of charge). I never made it to the Scope Fair. After the one in Miami this past year I couldn't deal with that level of disappointment I anticipated.
Art Fairs are like other convention of nerds in many respects. They're Comic-Con. They're car shows. They're all that stuff. The 2011 Armory Show was like a sports memorabilia convention where the highlights of the whole expo were appearances of Warren Moon and Doug Drabek.
More rug-art. This time it's not by Anna Betbeze. If we see one rug/fabric based work with holes in it do we need to see more? What if instead of hundreds of years of oil painting history we had 100s of years of rug-art history? What if then someone painted in oils? And then someone ELSE painted in oils? Would we say "do we need to two oil painters"?
This Joe Bradley drawing is great. All of the Joe Bradley drawings in whichever booth this was were great.
So bummed out as I was about art and the garage sale-like atmosphere of the Armory, especially going there with pretty high hopes, I wasn't turned off to art in totality. After all I have a show coming up and I had work to do. I went beddy bye and woke up fresh, nearly forgetting what'd I'd experienced.
Friday I was convinced by sunlight and my good bud Kadar to ride bikes into the city to see the David Hammons show at L&M on its last day. I'd read about it. It sounded awesome. I rode from Williamsburg, picked Kadar up in Greenpoint at his girlfriend's house, and we rode over the Queensborough Bridge then up to 84th, doubling back down to 78th after Kadar realized he had the wrong address. Before I got yelled at by a gallery worker to stop taking photos (and informed that all the work is on their website as well as a panoramic quicktime of the installation) I took the following photos.
It was just after snapping this photo that I got yelled at. I apologized though I wasn't sorry. I wanted to take more photos.
These are Hammons' first paintings. He's known for other non-art art. Do some research on him, it's all very interesting. I asked the attendent if Hammons painted the canvases under the tarps and she said they did. Then I asked if he found the tarps or ripped the holes in them or what and she said the paintings came to the gallery as they are on the walls, wrapped for shipping like that, ready to go on the wall. I asked for a press release and she said the artist didn't want one.
The paintings are beautiful. They question all kinds of things I'm currently questioning in my own art practice. Most simply they question the nature of painting. What is painting? Why do we like it? Is this more rug-art? If so what does that question mean really? What am I really asking? As Kadar astutely put it, after seeing the Rauschenberg exhibition at Gagosian a few months back and witnessing all of the painting innovations he made and where he took painting, what else is there to do? Do we push painting further? Where IS further? Are we just jerking each other off while we're merely making decoration? Is Art really some trumped up version of baseball card collecting? Is there really any point to asking these kinds of questions? Is our job really to put our heads down and get to work, turn a blind eye to these issues, and hope for the best? Isn't hope just worry sprinkled with positivity (I liked saying that in some other blog comment so said it again here)?
On Saturday after I dropped some files off at Staples to have some large prints made, I rode my bike to the city again, this time to see the Independent Fair. The Independent Fair was three or four floors of the old Dia Building (Zach Feuer Gallery is recently relocated to the ground floor of the same building). Each floor was not-so-crammed with art. It reminded me of the Liste Fair I visited in Basel a few years ago when I had the amazing opportunity to go to the Art Basel fair (thanks to a very good friend of mine). I saw my friends Wayne Adams and Kris Chatterson here. They're very good painters.
The galleries seemed more with it, more focused, more willing to take risks. The fair had far greater energy than the Armory. It didn't feel like fall or winter, it felt like spring in there. I didn't love everything, there were some real flops, but it didn't really matter. The flops were out paced by the real energy. There weren't signs pointing in any coherent direction as to where art was going, what progressive was. It felt like one of those posts with the directions to different countries.
Art is going this way! And this way! AND THIS WAY!! All of it was very exciting. I left the Independent Fair and worked in my studio until 10pm (unusually late for me) and then played Marvel vs. Capcom 3 with Mark until almost 1am.
All of my photos from Armory Week are here: http://www.mattjonesrules.com/armory/ The two fairs I attended are separated by the Hammons exhibition.
I'll close by saying I'm definitely a fanboy. I love the fact that art is even MADE, but I have my taste and criticality. Any way I look at it my expectations for art in any context isn't that different from when I started writing this blog. Does the art enrich my life, does it fill me with energy and inspire me (does it make me want to make work)? Or does it suck the energy out of me leaving me in a kind of vacuous and lame state where I don't want to do much of anything? Art's responsibility is to be beautiful (as relative as this may be), timely (close to timeless but not alienating its own time), and inspirational (probably the most important).
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