The first chills of September are in the air in New York, temperatures are cooling again, and, like clockwork, another art season is now underway, kicked off once again by the opening of the Armory Show and its satellite fairs in New York City. That means that, once again, the night before the fair is the domain of Spring/Break Art Show, the curator-first, project oriented fair that brings together a range of expressive and imaginative works under a broad curatorial banner. Leaving ample space for exploration and investigation, the fair is a perennial highlight, and, now in its 10th year, seems to have hit its stride.
The show, which poses a curatorial prompt each year and welcomes artists and curators to build on it, this year turns to William S. Burroughs for its initial points of entry. “In NAKED LUNCH,” it asks, “what can be preserved, reasserted, rediscovered from Greek philosophy, ancient teachings, myth? Beau ideals and nude idylls have their thesis and antithesis. What intimacies—dazzlingly frank—can we cull from our bodies/ourselves in the wake of external pressures from political unrest that seek our attention from inner to outer transformations?”
The question finds fertile ground here. Spread throughout the space, a range of projects and pieces drew on the prompt through a range of quite literal, and occasionally metaphorical approaches. There were genitalia aplenty spread throughout, from ceramic pieces to paintings, as well as more broad explorations of the body, natural processes and perception. Artist Macon Reed, for instance, had built a massive pharmacy installation, part of a collaborative project discussing and framing the experience of menopause. In another room, artist Colleen Comer’s paintings depicted flowing, lyrical bodies in conversation with an immense inflatable figure, legs strewn across the room. Artist Megan Bogonovich, by contrast, took a similarly embodied approach, yet turned her sculpture towards a more abstract bent, with a range of sculptures that seemed to hint at organic forms and sexual potencies while turning those energies and ideas towards new, unimagined vistas.
Other works took on a more imaginative and surreal approach to the concept. Artist Xayvier Houghton, for instance, installed a complex environment of straps, ropes and cloth in one corner, creating a gothic morass that felt equally immersive and ominous, while in another, artist Noah Kloster was exhibiting an obsessive homage to Bob’s Big Boy, the iconic diner with its towering childlike figurine. Kloster, clearly, was going heavy on the “Lunch,” side of the prompt, and seemed to turn its intriguing point of entry back on to the notion of the body, reproducibility, and capital. Another surreal booth came courtesy of curator and artist Lisa Levy, where artist Skye Cleary latex doll created a strange and confrontational note that emphasized and repositioned some of the more express imagery nearby.
All told, the fair has continued its mission of providing an artist-focused exhibition at the height of the New York art calendar, and serves as a colorful reminder of the power and joy art can have away from the sterile aisles of rote fair events. 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.
The fair closes September 12th.
– D. Creahan
SPRING/BREAK [Exhibition Site]