AO On Site: More Bucks Than Bang at the Armory Show 2008

March 28th, 2008

The colorful hall near the Deitch Project’s Exhibit at the Armory 2008 via ArtObserved

Photos and Writing by Faith-Ann YoungEntering this year’s Armory Show felt like entering a Hollywood studio lot. Gone is any semblance to its roots in the fleabag suites of the Gramercy Park Hotel, when zealous artists displayed from suites’ sinks and bathtubs. This Wednesday’s VIP/Press Opening? Tons of Champagne, neon, kitsch, glitter, popped-collars, drugs, sex, but simply not enough BANG.

Opening of the Armory show [Bloomberg]
Armory show 2008 [New York Magazine]
Armory Show review [ New York Times]

Chris Johanson I Am Part Of It; Deitch Projects via ArtObserved

Sure it’s got 160 exhibitors from 21 countries, with $85 million estimated in sales and an estimated 52,000 visitors. But it lacks the ‘eye-popping’ special effects of last year- i.e. Mierle Laderman Ukeles’ 12-ton mirrored garbage truck. It can’t compete with London’s Frieze Art Fair where Richard Prince displayed a perked-up woman scrubbing a souped-up 1970 dodge. And compared to the spray-tan Disneyland that is Miami Basel, the Armory feels like a second-tier Chucky Cheese or -gasp- Euro-Disney.

Ryan McGuinness’ Master of Reality; Deitch Projects via ArtObserved

Tim Nobel and Sue Webster Dirty Fucking Rats; Deitch Projects via ArtObserved

But we know by now, the joke’s on us. When art is a big-titted girl rubbing a big-engine- it’s meant to mock the hyper-manicured, lacquered and souped-up viewers. One gallery that consistently winks and plays with ‘titty-bang-bang’ factor of today’s art is the Deitch Projects. They showed the glorious, witty Dirty Fucking Rats by Tim Nobel and Sue Webster- where a projector is shown over a pile of junk-(or the PC term “found things”) to reflect on the wall a thrilling portrayal of new yorkers’ best friends.

Jon Kessler Hanging Swan; Deitch Projects via ArtObserved

Also at Deitch, Jon Kessler’s Hanging Swan installation displayed videos of female’s faces cut and reformed in puzzle-pieces, next to graphic wonderkind Ryan McGinnuessMaster of Reality. On the outsides- a wall of psychedelic colors, neon lights and exotic glitter-glam, kitch-pop pieces by Assume Vivid Astro Focus (aka thirtysomething Eli Sudbrack) and Chris Johanson. If this fete were a costume-ball, Deitch Projects dressed for the theme “SENSORY OVERLOAD!!!” just right.

Pipilotti Rist’s Exhibit; Hauser & Wirth Gallery via ArtObserved

Zurich/London-based Hauser & Wirth displayed a whole bookshelf devoted to The Armory’s 2007 prize-commissioned artist Pipilotti Rist. The top hosted an open book, covered menagerie of little figurines, over which a video flickered- as though to reinforce a dream-world can exist within the day-to-day…at least if you’ve got cable. Inside, Paul McCarthy’s cute, whimsical pink silicone Mimi was propped onto a packing crate- looking significantly more innocent and innocuous than the his Pothead or Dickhead silicone casts. (Innocent indeed- Each Mimi sold for $450,000 a piece in Art Basel Miami last year).

Lee Bul Chandelier; Lehmann Maupin via ArtObserved

Other galleries that succeeded in catching our eye with similar glitz and kitsch? Lehmann Maupin had Mickalene Thomas- with black jewel-rocks pasted onto crème-colored slabs – forming portraits of African American women in a Las Vegas-like debazzled yearbook. Another favorite was Tony Oursler’s black and yellow plastic paint-splotched-shaped video installations (you’ve gotta see to understand). A subtle and demure piece was the ornate crystal-and-chain-mail chandelier and in-laid mother of pearl pieces, which showed the softer side to Korean artist Lee Bul- known for her sci-cyborg abstractions. If an ornate crystal chandelier can be subtle…

Skin Crime/Crushed Car;

Paintings In Back: Steven Shearer Poems XXII via ArtObserved

Eva Presenhuber Gallery

Zurich’s Eva Presenhuber set was chaos amongst order with Sylvie Fluerie’s “Skin Crime/Crushed Car”- the car covered in pink varnish hacked into two front center. Matthew Marks was very Vegas-meets-Stockholm quirky- starting with salacious big-breasted female photo pasted onto a gold desk ( The work of Inez Van Lamsveerde.) In the center of the room glowed Katherina Fritsch’s Herz Mit Geld (Money Heart), made of silver coins shaped as a heart. Inspired by a 1826 fable about a charcoal burner who trades his heart for money and a heart of stone, the work seemed to wink at each billionaire who walked by.

Matthew Marks Exhibit (Desk by Inez Van Lamsveerde).

In the center, Katherina Fritsch’s Herz Mit Geld (Money Heart) via ArtObserved

By the bar, people star-gazed at two bald female artists from Munich, Lapo Elkann and his crew of rock-star-emulating boys, and Kristen Scott Thomas, all the while sipping champagne. A chandelier lit with neon words by Jason Rhoades hung dangerously and precariously close by bar. I thought I’d hear snickers from most of these VIP ‘art devotees’ at the giant, illuminated words for which Rhoades is most famous. But the VIPs just sat back and sipped, as neon signs of foreign slang terms for a female ‘pussy’ glittered by their sides.

Jason Rhoades Untitled via ArtObserved

Spectators at the Wednesday Opening via ArtObserved

Lounging mid-way through the fair via ArtObserved

Munich Madames via ArtObserved