Make Me See: The Armory Show
"Make Me See" by Stefan Bruggeman, 2009, from Sies+Hoke Galerie
I’m usually at ease attending design and art shows, familiar with much of the material, as well as the dealers, and inclined to admire and covet the wares. An exception to this is The Armory Show, a.k.a. the International Fair of New Art, which concluded this past weekend, and which I attend annually. Here, I’m often anxious and vaguely scared.
It’s not that the art is dangerous per se, although some of it clearly is, but there is so much of it aggressively competing for one’s attention that I wind up dazed and confused. Truth be told, I fear that my inner philistine is on display, and so I avoid eye contact with other visitors, and rarely speak to dealers.
"Everyone is Broke" by Elmgreen Dragset from Galeria Massimo de Carlo; "Scarf" by Michael Stumpf, from Sorcha Dallas Gallery
I was reluctant, anyway, to ask dealers how the art market is doing—we pretty much know. I was surprised, nonetheless, that I didn’t notice more artwork commenting on the recession. Maybe artists so inclined are having trouble affording materials? Or maybe everyone is trying to be optimistic. Given what may have been an attitude of denial, I was glad to see Elmgreen Dragset’s “Everyone is Broke” sign, etched into a broken slab of marble that doubles as a tombstone. In a similar vein, Jonathan Seliger’s oversized bronze Jason Wu bag is a fitting requiem to a period of super-sized spending. Tom Moller’s installation of several hundred dollar bills cum paper airplanes may or may not have something to do with throwing away money. In this context, the sculpture “Please Take One,” pictured here, makes a refreshingly generous gesture to cash-strapped shoppers.
"Please Take One"
The first work I photographed is the one shown at the top: Stefan Bruggeman’s “Make Me See,” offered by the Sies + Hoke Galerie. The threatening-looking German gallerist is not, I don’t think, part of the installation, but his stern visage reinforces the message, which does not read “help me see.” Kudos, though, for addressing my visual obtuseness, albeit in a confrontational and supercilious way. Speaking of Germans, the VIP lounge and snack bar, sponsored by Lufthansa, featured an installation of 180 naked polyurethane bodies by the American artist Richard Dupont that looked uncomfortably like a pile of dead babies. There was probably no holocaust reference intended, but I passed on the brioche.
"The Inner Circle" (Chair Chair Chair) by Thomas Broome, 2009, from Gallery Magnus Karlsson
More comfortable, and comforting, were the themes of furniture and clothing, which turned up throughout the show. Chairs, tables, and sofas were used or referenced in sculptures, paintings, and installations, creating an art/design counterpart to the design/art phenomenon at design shows. Cindy Allen of Interior Design, with whom we walked through the show, noted that Thomas Broome’s painting “The Inner Circle,” in which the brush strokes consist of repeated descriptive words (table table table, etc) represents a mega-trend in the field. Clothing, too, was referenced, often in ready-made ensembles.
"Bunny’s sofa" by Gimhongsok, from Kukje Gallery
I was drawn to a scarf hanging from an aluminum branch by Michael Stumpf, shown by the Glasgow gallery Sorcha Dallas. I was also drawn to a slideshow installation by Susan Hiller, which I watched for several minutes. I can’t pretend to explain it, but it seemed to me a fair depiction of an artist’s brain—inscrutable, solipsistic, and continuously looping. I can’t explain the rabbit either, but he made the cut. I do know I’ll be back next year for more.
All imagery by Larry Weinberg.