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.
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.
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.
I thoroughly enjoyed the LA Art Fair last year, and I had a feeling that it would be a good place to begin my entry into the art fair fray on Saturday. I was right. I found some really wonderful work there.
Just like last year the first gallery I came upon was the always rewarding Daniel Weinberg. Also on board were some instructive Chris Martin paintings. I say instructive because I'm still in the process of getting his work. I'm happy to say that his insistent rhythms are starting to work their way in though. And what's not to like about a gallery that shows the twin sons of different mothers, James Sienna and Daniel Zeller. I've never seen a bad piece by either of them and yesterday was no exception. The only disappointment this year was that Weinberg didn't have any works by Luke Whitlatch. I was counting on the gallery for my fix. His paintings were a highlight last year. (Somebody give this guy a show in NYC!) All, of course, was forgiven because the people at Weinberg are so nice and their artists are, oh, so very very good.
Roberts and Tilton made another strong showing this year with artists Kehinde Wiley, Barry McGee, Adam Pendleton, Becca Mann, and well, pretty much every artist they had on the wall. The gallery's Julie Roberts wins the "We Encourage Photography" award for the day. I fell in love with the Jimmy Baker installation, Potential Unlawful Combant, and inquired as to whether I might take a photo of it. Not only did Roberts say, "Yes.", but she actually asked me to help her move the table and chairs out of the way so I could get a clearer shot. Hmmm. Intense respect for the viewer and the work. A fine thing. All I can say is "Thank you." Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. This, kids, is what it's all about.
At Mary Goldman, Alejandro Diaz had me laughing out loud with the juxtaposition of his bright neon Naked Artist Inside and the lo-fi approach of the cardboard sign format. There were also some nice Robert Pruitt pieces in the back corner. Unfortunately, my liking them is all that I remember about them. The art fair memory daze had apparently started to set in and I was only at the end of my first fair.
Downstairs at Western Project was a knockout color-burst of a sculpture by Jason Adkins that I couldn't quite stop looking at it. Plus, I'm a total sucker for art that involves pallets. The main cube resting on it's pallet seemed to be saying "We're ready for transport." It worked from just about any angle, covering everything from the mercenary to the political. Awesome. When I spoke with the gallerist he mentioned that Adkin's paintings (not on display) stand in sharp contrast to the shouting colors of his sculptures. He was right. When I checked the gallery's website I found evocative gray-centered abstracts. I think that if I saw his sculptures and paintings in the same room my body might just implode. A good sign. More, please.
Actually, I'd say that about the LA Art Fair in general: More please. They were in a smaller space this year, so there were fewer dealers. No matter, what I found there packed quite the punch, certainly enough of one to catapult me into the rest of my day.