Mar 4, 2017
Best in Show: Brooklyn at NADA & SPRING/BREAK
Between $18 cocktails at The Armory Show and two floors of great art at SPRING/BREAK, there’s a lot to see this weekend, the tail-end of Armory Week. The highest concentration of Brooklyn galleries and artists is, unsurprisingly, at New Art Dealers Alliance (NADA) and at SPRING/BREAK—Hyperallergic called NADA “the perennial cool-kids fair” and New York Magazine’s Senior Art Critic Jerry Saltz said of SPRING/BREAK, “I really saw a lot of good stuff at this one last year.”
I smashed through the first few days of these two fairs and came up with some recommendations to guide your weekend exploration. Yes, all the galleries are based in Brooklyn, but they’re showing some of the best art anywhere.
NEW ART DEALER’S ASSOCIATION (NADA)
This year, NADA moved from Chinatown to the expansive Skylight Clarkson North, about ten blocks south of The Whitney and a brisk walk from The Independent Art Fair—the new location is big, bright, and sunny. People make such a fuss about what to wear and who/how to be at these things; I’m naive and inexperienced, of course, but I think the best advice is to wear jeans and be nice.
(Meriem Bennani at Signal Gallery)
(Hayden Dunham at Signal Gallery)
Also at Signal, Hayden Dunham’s exploded battery (above) covered the floor. Co-owner of Signal Alexander Johns joked to no one in particular: “try fitting that in a New York City apartment.” Dunham’s fiercely, tenderly gray painting, dyed by the sun and lavender oil, hangs on the back wall (it’s a more salable size), just above another work by Bennani, a dancing apple butt. Ivana Bašić, who you might remember from Dreamlands, shows her exquisite pink bubble work Breath seeps through her tightly closed mouth.
(Omari Douglin at Mrs. Gallery)
At Mrs. Gallery’s project space—”a discrete self-contained booth,” according to NADA, which is New York for tiny—Omari Douglin’s paintings are funny, short, warm gestures in a fair atmosphere that can often wax austere. He’s got a thing for butts (see above), and I do too (who doesn’t?). There’s weed here, and red-eyed creatures, but it’s also about that suspended, quiet moment—though an Instagram quip from Chelsea-based Field Projects calls it “Gateway art.” In the high-capitalist spirit of the fairs, one small painting reads “I hit a lick and I’m gonna buy some Versace.” I say, if I hit a damn lick and I’m gonna buy some Omari.
(Alex Eagleton at Safe Gallery)
Safe Gallery‘s big square booth looks (partially) like what might happen if a teenager is left for too long in a suburban basement. That’s mostly thanks to Alex Eagleton, whose gorgeous rainbow of bongs litters the floor (above), and who scratched out messages on the classic, suburban-length carpet that covers the walls.
(Alex Eagleton and Fabienne Lasserre at Safe Gallery)
In another context, Fabienne Lasserre’s stretched-out PVC fabric might not look like a spyglass; here, it’s like a better, happier way to see the world.
(AES+F Collective at Transfer Gallery + Mobius Gallery)
Do not miss this video. It’s the most wildly captivating thirty-eight minutes you could spend at NADA—or maybe anywhere this weekend—and it looks insanely crisp on the massive 4K projector. Titled Inverso Mundus, it was created by the four-person collective AES+F (all the members live in Moscow; their work is a fixture at major festivals internationally) and brought to NADA through a partnership between Transfer Gallery and the Bucharest-based Mobius Gallery.
The work was inspired by the “world upside down” (hence the title) genre of engravings, which have been around since the 16th century, and depict the world as we know it happening in reverse—a pig gutting a butcher, a rich man in rags. Inverso Mundus is uncanny in a thoroughly modern, AI kind of way. In one part, we follow thieves (above), and though the editing is fast-paced, the figures’s movements are jilted and come out at honey-pour speed. Footage of creeping thieves is intercut with glorified cops lounging on a red silk four-poster bed. Eventually, thieves and cops convene for an orgy. In another section, children defeat the elderly in boxing matches; in another, flying creatures with the head of one beast and the tail of another multiply, filling the screen. Completely mesmerizing.
(Detail, Amy Brener at 315 Gallery)
(Cecilia Salama at 315 Gallery)
When I noted the similarity between Ivana Bašić’s hanging femininity at Signal gallery, just one booth away, and the two works hanging at 315 Gallery, owner Jack Barrett agreed, but because he’s good at his job, he quickly explained what makes Amy Brener and Cecilia Salama’s work different—a new definition for “motherboard” and dolphins, respectively and briefly.
(Susumu Kamijo at Marvin Gardens)
The majestic poodle gets a deserving amount of space here, owning the frame and dominating the landscape. Each lion-like figure barely shares space with a sun or a moon—in this case, those celestial bodies are really more of a spotlight for pure, proud poodle attitude.
(Tom Forkin and Daniel Terna at 321 Gallery)
Tom Forkin and Daniel Terna run 321 Gallery. They’re both artists. Tom’s work is up at Motel Gallery until March 5; Daniel is a photographer who has shown at MoMA PS1. They selected two layerers—one a sort of collagist, Paul McMahon, and one a photographer, Evan Whale—to grace their baby-sized project space. Whale’s photographs are scraped, altered, and exposed so the layers show through. They’re luxurious, shimmery, and grab-able, like a gold lamé dress. One, on the outside of the booth, is intensely delicate and beautiful: small gold fleck marks climb the ridges of mountain passes; they almost flicker like lines of flame.
Everyone loves this scrappy little fair! In part because the element of scrap allows for an element of surprise (aka daring). But it’s really not a little fair—with two floors featuring over 400 artists and 155 curators—and it’s not as scrappy as it used to be. Co-founder Ambre Kelly exclaimed during opening remarks, “we even have bathrooms this year! Lots of them!”
SPRING/BREAK moved from the big, beautiful Moynihan Station/James Farley Post Office and into the old Condé Nast high rise in Times Square. It feels great—office spaces provide a perfect backdrop for some of the work (not so for others), and views of Times Square from the 22nd and 23rd floors of this building are breathtaking (in some cases, better than the work.)
It’s practically impossible to honor all the Brooklyn-related work here, because it’s a curator-based show and not a gallery-based one, but I’ve selected a few things worth your time.
(Artist Cate Giordano inside TV Guide, curated by Suzanne Kim, Room 2206)
This messy, storybook-style installation is a great balance to the other TV-and-comfy-chair installation, Hometown Hero (Chink), by Valery Jung Estabrook, which was both cleaner and more direct in its messaging. Giordano’s is more intense and crazier in a way only havoc can be. This installation, curated by Suzanne Kim (who seems to enjoy the challenge of curating large-scale works), is also great because it’s the kind of thing you will only see at SPRING/BREAK—an off-style, almost thoroughly off-brand, experimental installation. It shows a living room, with a man watching TV, holding the ever-present beer, with a pink-tiled kitchen on the outside, eggplant and other vegetables in the sink. Cate’s work, through the use of drag, often points to this division between masculine/feminine. Her open, slightly off-kilter smile matches the set perfectly. She told me, “I usually perform in the sets that I build, but that seemed crazy this time.”
(Headlight, curated by Rachel Rossin and Toniann Fernandez, Room 2370)
Watch the video! This show, only visible through the movement a roving pre-programmed spotlight (one solution to a dark office space), is called Headlight. It’s curated by Rachel Rossin and Toniann Fernandez, featuring work by Joey Frank and Daniel Kent. The theme of SPRING/BREAK, Dark Mirror—in part a reference to the old color-flattening ‘Claude’ mirror landscape painters used, in part a reference to understanding of self—was followed more closely by some artists and curators than others. In this case, it seemed to directly influence: “we look at the present through a rear-view mirror,” explains the accompanying writing. The timing of the spotlight gave a sort of stage-y arcade feel. When I laughed, one of the artists silently (for some reason the action of the spotlight encouraged silence?) circled this passage on the same chunk of writing: “as the machine and the motorcar released the horse and projected it onto the plane of entertainment, so does automation with men.”
(Debra Zechowski in Apartment 2L, curated by Joyce Chan, Room 2216)
For me, there is abundant satisfaction (almost disgusting, self-loathing satisfaction) in seeing something so small painted so large. That’s partly about voyeurism, partly about the luxury of spending so much on something so little. In this case, it’s topically little, not physically: it’s a fat cat on the stove. Technically, it’s Princess On the Stove. (Also, this photograph!)
(Artist Amie Cunat and curator Nicholas Cueva in C+C, Room 2351)
They turned this small office around. Amy painted the walls, a mood-altering scape for her space altering objects (above). She appears with a more muted Kat Chamberlin, whose intricate drawings of layered pathways, dead-ends and connections start—according to Cueva—with memories of growing up in Turkey in a family of Christian missionaries.
(The ‘cast’ of Barbershop, curated by Eve Sussman and Simon Lee, Room 2225)
About William Eggleston, Eve Sussman said: “It’s the things that defy history and defy technology that I think are the most powerful.” That happens in these two rooms, somehow—Sussman and partner Simon Lee organized this exciting, unsettling experience, a combination barbershop ‘front’ and back room packed with surveillance gear pointed down at Times Square. It feels noir, like those old movies—but tongue-in-cheek-noir, like The Conversation (1974), the title of which Lee supplied when I told him the whole thing felt like a funny old surveillance movie. A bank of TVs line one wall, and a man fiddles with dials that control picture and sound while Lee focuses one of the many telescoping lenses. The man at the controls was dressed as a priest; when I asked if he really was, he said “of course. Aren’t you?”
Jack and Leigh Ruby built the barbershop, and real haircuts—for $30—are actually happening. You know it’s a good swindle when even the front is making cash.
All photos: Maggie Shannon, except where noted.
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