One of this weekend’s cheaper alternatives to the Armory Show, Spring/Break, let artists loose on the cavernous, underutilized spaces of an historic post office in Chelsea. Think of Spring/Break as PS1 to the Armory’s Met, or something. Exciting work was straggled throughout the western side of the building, where there were surprises, and surprisingly few yawns, at the top of every balustraded marble staircase and behind each shadowy doorway. What reigned at this fair was humor, pop culture, technology, and an outsider-ish dedication to transforming banal materials or even crafty processes into wows. See our favorite moments, in no particular order, below.
19. These opium smoking dogs were diggin’ the scene. I mean, really, this painting by artist John Gordon Gauld, Harem of the Pug, confirmed our suspicions regarding the origin of pugs’ dopey features like baggy eyes and a languid gait. Gauld’s work breathes new life into classical still-life forms by incorporating elements of bourgeois post-internet life: custom neon lights, bondage gear, butt plugs, astrology, dreams of resettlement on Mars.
18. Pop culture abounded at Spring/Break, and this installation by artist Alfred Steiner was maybe the best proof of that. Wandering into this cardboard-coated room, we could have been in any “far flung” country in the world thanks to globalization and our world’s lingua franca, capitalism. Steiner is all about calling a fig a fig and sucking the chic out of brands.
For LV DIY, the artist took symbols of oligarchic luxury (in this case, shoddily rendered Louis Vuitton insignia), transcribed them onto t-shirts and donation-bin finds using prole printing techniques (permanent marker, what looked like caulk, batik, and spray paint), then smushed the resulting bastards into less classy company. Like any store in Chinatown replete with knock-offs, everything was just slightly, well, off: like the “McChick’s” arches, and Colonel Sanders’s twisted smile.
17. Sure, the scene at Genevieve Gaignard‘s Apt. #3104 played on a sense of nostalgia for the ’70s that’s all the rage right now– in fashion, television (see: Vinyl), and even the art world (we can’t get enough of Meryl Meisler’s flashbacks to “disco-era” Bushwick, Long Island suburbia, and the days of downtown Dionysian decadence). But our mind was truly blown by Gaignard’s ability to transform a space so utterly– while incorporating her dream-hued, soft glowing self-portraits taken in that LA, the one we all swear we’ll run away to at some point. There was even a toilet! We kind of felt like we were on a movie set. As one visitor told the artist: “It’s really embarrassing because I’ve been here, like, five times. But I keep coming back to this room.”
In much of the pop culture references we’re inundated with, the good ol’ days are a white-washed view of the past, but Gaignard turned the idea on its head by making Apt. #3104 into a decidedly black household. The artist, who describes herself as a “mixed-race woman of color,” imagined an idealized African-American home, perhaps from her own upbringing (school portraits of Gaignard gave her away) complete with dolls with dark complexions, a portrait of Malcolm X, and Nina Simone spinning on the turntable.
16. We loved catching an unexpected glimpse of the one, the only Grace Jones alongside another inimitable icon, Maripol, in Selfie Portrait with Grace Jones 1979/2015. (Vogue has called Maripol “the original club-kid selfie queen.”) The famous stylist and fashion influencer took thousands of Polaroids with her famous friends and muses over the years, which have been shown all over the world and lionized for evz in at least two books.
15. Who knew textiles could be so exciting? Gaggles of children were positively romping all over the floor-pillow sculptures of artist David P. Smith, which was totally cute/annoying. We’re also deciding to blame the children for the very pungent food odor confined to the room.
14. We continued to be strung along by fantastic yarn creations in the adjacent room, where Caroline Wells Chandler‘s tripped-out crocheted wall hangings reminded us distinctly of those tedious, iron-on Perler bead projects that we were assigned to arrange as kids, but inevitably would end up eating before we could make the grid look anything like Super Mario’s face.
13. Smushed between Chelsea and Times Square, the chosen venue for Spring/Break, the James A. Farley Post Office, definitely deserves praise for its random cages, enormous windows, and sweeping views of Manhattan. And claps for the post office’s willingness to let the artists do all kinds of crazy stuff with the space and for the hilarious toilet situation.
12. Thanks to an abundance of joy incarnate (purple balloons!), getting rubbed on by strangers at Alanna Vanacore‘s tightly compacted Seven Minutes in Heaven really wasn’t so bad.
11. This hand-bound book by Brooklyn-based artist Kat JK Lee, Da Great Gatsby, gives one of the whitest stories ever told a colorful update.
10. John Richey tapped into the idea of the alt uniform, something you’d be very familiar with if you, like the artist, were raised in Arizona or any other place with little opportunity for exposure to actual cool stuff. Uniform is an “amassed textile collection,” aka Richey’s assortment of flannels and band t-shirts (Dead Kennedys, Misfits, and Rancid, among others).
9. I don’t know if I’ve ever had such a visceral reaction to a single work of art– perhaps foreshadowing North Korea’s announcement today of their plan to unleash a nuclear attack on the U.S. (LOL? or let’s GTFO? who can tell?). But I literally threw up in the mouth when I saw Jon Bole‘s portrait of Kim Jong Un (North Korea’s benevolent dictator, who is popularly known in China as the “Third Fatty”), the baby son and heir of Kim Jong Il, with perhaps what we should say is the Fourth Fatty shamelessly flopped out on his lap. Bole’s depiction of Un, cradling a skull bong while a white fluffy cat lurks in the bathroom, titled Kim Jong Un With a Little Pussy, offers a horrendous vision of the North Korean dictator as a Reddit trolling, first-person shooter-playing overgrown baby. Let’s just hope he’s not as trigger happy with that nuclear button as he is with Domino’s pizza delivery.
8. TBH pretty much that entire room was dedicated to little dangler jokes. Catherine Jones‘s Only Sailors Get Blown Offshore was another standout. Personally, we found the painting quite lovely, but another visitor commented, rather smugly we might add: “Well, if you’re going to have bad taste, I guess you should go all the way.” All the way indeed.
7. The explosively colorful surrealist still lifes of Matthew F. Fisher were maybe the most beautiful, if not a little Lisa Frank-esque, expressions of occult symbology and magical thinking we saw at Spring/Break (his work definitely brought us back to Language of the Birds: Occult and Art).
But instead of focusing on esoterica and secret societies, Fisher seems to be retelling dark histories through arrangements that include both man-made objects and nature, particularly in The Noble West.
6. Miniatures! Everybody loves bitty things. Yeeeee! But the Canadian-Trinidadian visual and performance artist Talwst is hardly concerned with cutesy things. Instead, he’s into confronting matters of injustice and racism by using jewel-box sized sculptures to display “minimized histories,” including the murder of unarmed black men at the hands of the police, and even rape.
For Frida’s Entry into Iguala, Talwst reconstructed a protest scene inside a tiny Gruen watch case, centering around the tragic disappearance of 43 Mexican students in 2014 from Iguala. The students were likely kidnapped and murdered but their disappearance has been at the center of an ongoing, “deeply flawed investigation.”
5. An absurd imagining of Grossmalerman’s Studio by the “serious” MoMA-shown artist Guy Richards Smit. Aside from his own performance art and painting, this guy (er,Guy) pokes fun at the art world (along with his collaborator Joshua White) through The Grossmalerman Show, a cringe-worthy sitcom satire depicting the life of narcissistic, cheap-vodka-chugging artist, Jonathan Grossmalerman.
4. As for Grossmalermans’s Portrait of Assad, we couldn’t even. Not even if we tried, even.
3. Cate Giordano installation, Heavy Food, could have functioned perfectly as the backdrop for a scene from a post-apocalyptic film, after a nuclear bomb has failed to wipe everyone out completely. Instead of turning these people and the humble roadside diner they occupy into dust, they’ve managed to survive (in some form, anyway) like so many cockroaches. Their bodies sit statuesque, ghostly distorted and preserved much like the petrified victims of Pompeii. How have they managed to remain human forms even after said nuclear holocaust? Well, my guess is that it has something to do with all that screwed-up, preservative-laced food they’re eating.
2. Ok, seriously though, those sketchy looking doughnuts alone deserve a mention.
1. For Light Show, an installation by Joey Frank and Daniel Kent (curated by Ulys O. Hanson) the two artists managed to construct a seizure-inspiring atmosphere that, with the flicker of alternating lights, transformed the room back and forth between stark opposites: a wash of ice-cold blue and a fever-like, hellish red glow. Hoooey, we were reeling from that one when we left. But can’t say we didn’t expect to be a little nauseous after leaving Sprang Brayke.