Even by itself, the Armory Show is overwhelming. With the Armory Show’s booths extending to the vanishing point in both directions of Pier 94, it can leave an unsettling impression of endlessness, where everything starts to look the same. And amidst the vastness of this week’s equally-momentous art events (a three-part Whitney Biennial, and the Armory’s satellites), this weekend could use a break of something more human in scale.
One gesture of respite can be found at the still crowded, but more personal SPRING/BREAK Art Show, a curator, rather than gallerist-driven fair, now in its third iteration. Launched by artists Ambre Kelly and Andrew Gori, Spring/Break once again takes over four floors of a recently-closed elementary school on Mott Street, which is still filled with wooden desks, chalkboards, and even a lingering sense of play. Forty curators were selected to respond to a theme identified as “PUBLICPRIVATE,” described on the website as surveying “the high visibility of the self in the 21st Century,” with the hundred-plus artists included often showing work that references selfies, surveillance, photobombs and the like, though the theme is applied loosely enough to not feel constrictive or overdetermined. Although the familiar sense of art fair vertigo can wash over as you make your way through room after room of work on display, Spring/Break is still a fair that succeeds in setting itself apart.
One particularly intimate response to the theme is a classroom grouping of works called “Home Studio,” curated by Kari Adelaide and Max Razdow, a co-habitating writer and artist who also operate the itinerant curatorial project, The Sphinx. The artworks included are all produced in living spaces, rather than work studios, and the resulting impression is of something personal, coming from the breakdown of divisions between life and work. This is clear in a small painting by Whitney Biennial participant Keith Mayerson, who’s worked from his Chelsea apartment for years; his “Iconoscape 1” (2012), from his “My American Dream” series, writhes (gently) between figuration and abstraction. It evokes a sort of primal and generative space, personal and unguarded, and it feels like an almost voyeuristic privilege that reveals more raw process than we typically have access to. Others from this series can be seen uptown at the Whitney Museum.
Also in “Home Studio,” Brooklyn-based Icelandic artist (and Bjork collaborator) Shoplifter, aka Hranhildur Arnardottir, has brought strange sculptures of wig-like forms, which she constructs from her Greenpoint home. Like hair flagpoles or abstracted mannequins, they evoke the home with soft, domestic materials in anthropomorphized forms, somewhere between a roommate and a household implement.
The home-as-subject, as well as context, appears likewise in Max Razdow’s own drawing, “Cat in Moonlight” (2014). One of two diptychs that lie like torn pages from an obscure and esoteric book, the illustrative and free-associational style yields more story the longer you spend. In morphing forms and gestural swashes, it narrates a mythic translation of home and hearth that speaks to art-making as a comfort and a quiet joy, rather than a display of goods.
In this week, packed with art at its last stage of life, it’s good to be reminded where it begins. Spring/Break offers a looseness that comes as a refreshingly welcome focus on the personal and individual experience of art, despite the crush of the crowd.
Spring/Break Art Show takes place March 6th-9th at 233 Mott St. in Soho.