As the Armory Week begins to heat up, and turns towards the centerpiece of the week’s proceedings at Piers 92 and 94 tomorrow, the first night of SPRING/BREAK was underway at 4 Times Square. Holding its seventh edition this year, the fair has grown into one of the more enigmatic and exciting events of the week, with this year being no exception.
Taking over the empty offices and cubicles of the otherwise banal corporate environment, and turning it towards a series of curator-based exhibitions and one-off projects, a freewheeling and imaginative expanse of works posed the space as a series of adventures and escapes. The show, which drew on the thematic construct “A Stranger Comes to Town,” offered a nuanced reading of otherness, of time and narrative pulled out of sorts by strange encounters and foreign ideas, and twisted back along the routes of our own personal experience. “America’s symbolic territories have consistently mobilized against the Outsider—even, as if obeying vampiric protocol, after inviting them straight in the front door,” the show’s program text reads. “Yet more than any other country, we are an entire nation of Strangers.”
It was a fitting idea for 2018, amid a week of increasingly strange news and sudden departures inside the Trump administration, and increasingly fraught political battles between protectionist and globalist political ideologies. True to form, these concepts were not lost on the curators of the show, and attendees were greeted soon after arriving in the space with a mass of protest signs, each motorized by artist Fernando Orellana. Bouncing up and down in mechanical rhythm, the works were a comical twist on the idea of political discontent and the labor of protest (it was hard to miss the undertones of robotic automation quickly displacing so many workers in the U.S.). Close by, artist Macon Reed had erected a replica of the White House press lectern, allowing visitors a moment to consider issuing their own proclamations from a seat of power (even if simulated).
Other curators seemed particularly interested in the stranger as a site for escape and for new modes of seeing. In one cubicle, curator C. Finley had invited Zoe Schlacter to show a series of brightly colored textiles and lumpen, floor-based works, creating an otherworldly space that drew heavily on color and shape to create a sense of sudden removal from Times Square. In another centrally-located space, artist Eric Mistretta’s brightly colored compositions and playful spatial arrangements were an immediate hit among visitors. Mixing a taut minimalism with his bold color palette, the artist’s work was equally playful and otherworldly, inviting viewers to linger inside the space for extended periods.
In other spaces, a similar sense of otherworldliness, and even a sense of alienation, was achieved through a delicate balance of elements and artists. In artist/curator Brooke Nicholas’s booth, a series of works including small-scale sculptures of turtles and architectural structures by Mel Nguyen was paired with a glowing neon by the curator and a massive, stuffed devil in an adjacent room (courtesy artist Paula Martinez), emphasizing shifting notes of identity and perception that fit quite well with the exhibition concept. In another room, a series of strange, geometric arrangements of tile by artist Zac Hacmon were paired with artist Gal Cohen’s swirling cityscapes. Posed against the backdrop of Manhattan’s towering real estate thanks to its placement in a corner office, the works’ suggested a moment of escape through the materials of the city itself, acts of subjective rearrangement that allow us to see the world anew.
With a string of selling events focused primarily around sterile booth environments and minimal spaces set to open in the coming days, the SPRING/BREAK fair always seems to fit in as a welcome respite, both preparing the week’s heartiest visitors and offering a refreshing moment of aesthetic exploration when the near-endless aisles of work spreading out across the rest of Manhattan begin to get overwhelming. For even as the sheer depth of work on view this week can make a stranger of any of us, the sheer depth and energy of the SPRING/BREAK show always manages to feel like a momentary home away from home.
The show is open through March 12th.
— D. Creahan
SPRING/BREAK Art Show [Exhibition Site]