Marking a curator-first approach to the art fair format popping up around New York this week, the sixth installment of SPRING/BREAK Art Show opened Tuesday, February 28th at 4 Times Square, a departure from its usual space at the James A. Farley Post Office midtown. Drawing on a similar concept from last year, where rows of offices allow small-scale exhibitions spread throughout the fair, SPRING/BREAK continued the mission of its founders Andrew Gori and Ambre Kelly, a diverse, freewheeling look at the varied aspects of the city’s young arts community.
Dubbed “New York’s curator-driven art fair,” SPRING/BREAK continues on its mission to give both established and unknown curators a greater sense of freedom and recognition for their work. Participants exhibit free of charge—with the challenge of reinventing an atypical space and adhering to the show’s pre-determined theme. This year’s concept, Black Mirror, asks them to examine how today’s technological innovations complicate perceptions of the self in day-to-day life. The works presented engage with conflicting notions of obscurity and presence, public and private, intimacy and objectivity, with over 450 different artists on view.
The fair’s structure makes for a freely-flowing, immersive concept where artists embrace the transformative and environmental. “The Pursuit of It,” curated by Nicole Grammatico and Christina Papancolaou, for instance, resembles a Palm Springs living room with black-and-white checkered floors, a hot pink lounge chair, and giant cactus flower by artist Hein Koh, accompanying a sensual nude painting by Hiba Schahbaz and other works by Signe Pierce and Robin F. Williams. By contrast, “Personal Tesseract,” curated by Anne Spalter, features 3,60o light and video installations alongside a simulation room with virtual reality masks, while “Do You Feel Lucky, Punk,” curated by Maureen Sullivan, includes a fuchsia carpet and suspended mirror with phrases like “I am a magnet to men” and “Money flows to me like a river,” presenting a pro-feminist worldview that seems particularly pervasive across the fair.
In another room is “The Staging of Vulnerability,” with curator Allison Zuckerman showing sculptures of naked women by Shona McAndrews, whose compromising positions, prominent rolls of flesh and colossal breasts rebel against the male gaze. “Reflections” (curated by exhibiting artist Hein Koh) also features subversive female nudes by painter Julie Tuyet Curtiss, one of which casts Courbet’s “L’Origine du Monde” in all black with a texture resembling animal fur.
Of course, “pussy grabs back” is not the only political statement viewers encounter at SPRING/BREAK. Several curators embrace the prospect of contemporary art as resistance in Trump’s America. Katherine Mulherin, for example, titles her space “American/Woman” and shows a United States flag—scribbled on lined paper and rotated sideways—with the words “I question your patriotism” along the bottom. Another flag on the adjacent wall is embroidered with black letters spelling “Stand naked in front of your master.” The organizers even turned themselves into works of political art, wearing flag-printed bomber jackets stitched with lines from the constitution at the press preview.
These are notable actions, considering the notable lack of distinctly political work on view elsewhere in New York this week. Afforded a space for free expression removed from immediate economic imperatives, SPRING/BREAK underscores the importance for spaces like its own in the modern art landscape, a space where statements and situations can be rigorously dissected and analyzed.
The fair is on view through March 5th.
— L. LeBoyer
SPRING/BREAK Art Show [Exhibition Site]