With the annual return of The Armory Show to the Piers on the West Side of Manhattan, so too comes the annual opening of the SPRING/BREAK Art Show, the adventurous, curator-driven program that takes up space at a pop-up location for a week of compelling and unique exhibitions and projects. The fair’s playful reputation and emphasis on young artists and curators welcomed a striking intersection of styles and practices, yet one that seemed to frequently play on witty inversion or twists on the banal. Given the size and scale of the proceedings around it, SPRING/BREAK has edged out an impressive niche for itself among the bustle of Armory Week, a space where exploration and adventurousness seem to win out over the sales-focused proceedings of its bigger sister fairs around New York. One can only hope that this sense of the unexpected continues to sit at the core of its mission, offering a refreshing respite from the all too familiar fair fatigue of the week.
This year, the fair has once again changed locations, taking over a full floor of a building in UN Plaza, a particularly compelling choice that places it directly adjacent from Trump World Tower. The location makes for a particularly strong framing mechanism for the show, which this year takes the theme “FACT AND FICTION.” “The 2019 exhibition aims for works dealing with self-mythology, history, memory, cultural conspiracy, propaganda, appropriation, psychedelia, and/or a focus on subjects related to the utterly un-provable—the occult, religious, pseudoscientific, and pseudohistorical, pseudepigraphica to mythopoetica,” the show statement reads. “SPRING/BREAK Art Show 2019 will explore exhibitions that contend with this tug of war between real and unreal, symbolic and literal, fact and fiction, for-real and ideal.”
With that in mind, the show’s prompts took on an intriguing range of subject matters. There were experimentations with the otherworldly, like artist David B. Smith’s strange fabric characters, mounted in a grid-based booth design that seemed to mix a ghastly, paranormal world with a vaguely retro-futuristic aesthetic, while artist CJ Hendry’s massive pill bottle, filled with swirling clouds of fake money, made for a more direct investigation on the deception and greed of the pharmaceutical industry and its marketing of addictive painkillers. Also particularly resonant this year were issues of women’s rights and the politics of the art world in the months following the #MeToo movement. There was Rachel Lee Hovnanian’s Taped Shut, a booth filled with strands of tape across the walls and across the face of a cherubic model, while Shona McAndrew’s vulnerable bedroom installation depicting the artist and her boyfriend engaged in sexual congress was an immediate standout, bringing together a frank depiction of sexuality in conversation with concepts of body image and media framings of the human form.
All told, it’s no wonder that SPRING/BREAK has continued to build on its compelling offering as a fair over the past few years. Encouraging exploration and the unexpected as a welcome counterpoint to the Armory Show and its high-gloss counterparts, SPRING/BREAK is a colorful reminder of the power and joy art can have away from the sterile aisles of rote fair events.
The fair closes March 11th.
– D. Creahan