The Armory Show, held on Piers 90 and 94 in New York City from March 5 through 8, was incredible.
The lack of the usual crowds allowed up close looks at the work and talks with artists. Although the most talked about work was a car (Ed and Nancy Kienholz, “The Caddy Court,” 1986-87, presented by L.A. Louver, Venice, California), Armory showed a significant amount of art focused on social justice and art by, and portraying people from, ethnic groups not seen before. The takeaway is that work at Armory was more specifically ethnic rather than global, but all groups were represented. It was like a world tour with stops everywhere. Has art become the new world tour, all in one place, since it is difficult to physically travel? It seems so. That car was stationary but promised travel. The show delivered on that promise.
Directly behind that very popular car was a much more significant vocabulary code, “The Muscle of Thought is the Brain: Etimografia” by David Reimondo at Massoleni Gallery, London and Torino, compiling pictograms, ideograms and glyphs for everything from human beings, to naked, to hug, to know, loneliness, the other, hybrid, to disappear and more. But you get the picture — literally. Reimondo claims that these sculptures represent printer’s letters, and asks the audience to think differently — and that his utopia “is the development of a new language that overcomes predefined barriers.”
CASE Art Fund, represented by Catherine Edelman and Anette Skuggedal, showed photographs of refugees from all over the world, begging empathy and funding for their future projects. Exhibiting in public spaces, Case gives exposure to photographers who focus on humanitarian issues. The photographer chooses the social justice organization that receives 50 percent of the price sold, and the photographer 25 percent.
Leszley Saar, whose mother, Betty Saar, has a current show at MoMA, created the beautiful and haunting figural sculptures, “A Conjuring of Conjurors,” 2019, Walter Macial Gallery, Los Angeles, each representing a specific female folk or religious figure. The placard near the work tells the story of the Conjuror depicted. Malaysian artist Anne Samat, at Mark Strauss Gallery, New York, is similarly concerned with invented deities representing her personal relationships. Using threads of wool to imitate hair, tines of yard rake to stand for fingers and various household and kitchen objects to represent parts of bodies, she combines industrial objects with folk weaving techniques. Held together by the South East Asian Pua Kumbu weaving technique, the sculptures are, according to the artist about “love, individuality and liberation.”
Similar in its treatment of threats to and from modern devastation of urban sites is Victor Papopovic’s exhibition of paintings, covered in layers of colored acetate, “Untitled (Archive: Zencisce), 2019, at C24 Gallery, New York’s booth. Exploring 1970s Croatian architecture that focuses on the children’s resort and rehabilitation center on the island of Hvar, Croatia, the architectural masterpiece, built as a healing refuge for children, later housed the Croatian army, and then refugees. It is now completely gutted, accounting for the artist’s belief in the paradox between utopian ideas and dystopian results, as times change.
Galerie Les filles du calvaire of Paris presents perhaps the most beautiful installation, taking up most of a wall, “Sasse/Sluice,” 2008, a mixed media work made entirely of pigeon feathers. London artist Kate MccGwire loves birds, using feathers to explore and present dualities, posing the feathered sculptures in coils, turning back upon themselves, and in pairs, one reflecting but divided from the other. The wavelike forms, seeming snakelike in their markings, are fascinating.
If there is a prize for most beautiful gallery at the Armory Show, it would go to Victoria Miro, London, for her show of multiple sculptures by Conrad Shawcross. “Paradigm Exploded,” 2015, of mirrored steel; and “Bicameral Study,” 2019, an orange-brown tree devoid of leaves, with spiked branches, threw eerie shadows on the white wall behind them, while making a confluence of alternately bold and delicate sculptures. “Fracture,” a tornado-like cascade of bronze assumed the shape of a kite, or perhaps the curvature of a woman. Whatever the viewer assumed inspired the form, Shawcross used his flag-like metal rectangles to assume a sensual, nature-like form.
I left the Armory Show sure that the art world is in good, art-making hands, looking forward to where this work and these artists will go next.