Big, Dumb, and Beautiful

I always pay attention when I'm unusually hungry for a certain piece of music. It always reveals a little bit about where my head and heart are residing in a given moment. Crossing 9th Avenue on my way to the Armory I was overcome by the desire to listen to the biggest and dumbest song I could find on my iPod, Fish's live version of The Heart of Lothian. Turned out that having the barrel-chested Scotsman in my ears was a perfect way to prepare for the annual goofy-ass grandness of the Armory. Onward!

I love the Armory Show. It's a boatload of art, and plenty of it is quite good. And this year, as it is every other year, the Armory serves an ancillary purpose for me. It fills the gaping hole left in the wake of the Whitney Biennial. Don't misunderstand me. I liked the Biennial. It has a job to do, and it gets it done. It always leaves me wanting more in one way or another though. This time around, the dearth of painting in the show was shocking, and I was still recovering. It was telling that I took almost no photos of paintings at the Armory. I was too engaged with the work to be bothered with my camera. This is gonna be a scattershot walk through some of the highlights. You might want to duck.

Greg Bogin, unidentified painting.
Greg Bogin, unidentified painting.

Wendy White's painting in the back closet at Leo Koenig was a highlight even though it had been hanged upside down before the gallery assistant corrected it. Right side up was much better. I'm practically ashamed (OK. Not really.) to say how much I loved Greg Bogin's work that was hanging on the outside wall at Koenig. His metallic hot rod spaceship paintings boost my rockets every time. I can't help myself.

Stef Driesen had a nice dark abstract on display. Unfortunately the gallery that installed it placed it on a wall that wasn't conducive to varied vantage points. It was either up close or nothing. A shame, but I got over it as the painting just kept sinking into its own darkness.

I'm sorry to say that I didn't write down which gallery was showing the brain buzzing Ara Peterson. The work made me think of what might happen if I was staring at a Bridget Riley about 20 minutes after the Ambien kicked in. Trippy.

Nothing but hearts for Katharina Fritsch's floor sculpture at Mathew Marks. I don't think there was a person in that room that wasn't smiling. Looking closer though it was all coins, wheat, and snakes. Very Ten Commandments.

It's easy to get stuck on whatever media Tara Donovan happens to be using, but it's a mistake to ignore the deft hand she displays in the realm of composition. Also, It doesn't seem to matter what size she's working in, the silver wrapping paper sculpture was a small one but it packed a beautiful punch.

Ara Peterson, installation view of unidentified work.
Ara Peterson, installation view of unidentified work.

To get to the end I'll go back to the beginning. One of the first and best pieces I saw at the Armory was Stephen Vitiello's Whispering Corners (CGT mix) at The Project. I've never seen or heard anything by Vitiello that hasn't knocked me out. This piece is one of the best I've heard from the artist. Sampling the sounds at the Whispering Gallery at Grand Central Station he captures what was, for a moment, the holy arc of the now only to send it forward in time. And there it was, almost prayerfully frozen in its glorious repetition.

And this is why I love the Armory Show. For all the glitzy hubbub that surrounds it, the fair can provide moments like the one I had with the Vitiello piece. Ignore all the crap, the crowds, the "speedboat's glide", and you'll be fine. I was. Just look at the art. All else is, well, not art. Onward.

Katharina Fritsch, installation view of unidentified floor sculpture.
Katharina Fritsch, unidentified floor sculpture.
Stephen Vitiello, "Whispering Corners (CGT mix)," installation view.
Stephen Vitiello, Wispering Corners (CGT mix), installation view.