Sarah McCrory reviews the Armory Show and Independent Art Fair in New York

The artists and artworks to be found in and around The Armory Show and Independent Art Fair
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Theaster Gates, In the Event of Race Riot V (2011)
Reclaimed wood, metal, fire hoses
, 30” x 23” x 9”

Theaster Gates, In the Event of Race Riot V (2011)
Reclaimed wood, metal, fire hoses
, 30” x 23” x 9”


It seems the Armory, New York's long-established art fair, is going through something of a crisis. Overcrowded booths by the great and the not-so-good in a particularly depressing space only served to highlight the success of its Chelsea-based rival fair, Independent.

Regardless of the generally mixed standards, there were still some interesting finds. Giti Nourbakhsch's booth was exceptionally well curated, with strong sculptures by Ida Ekblad, from her series made in Oslo, and face masks in the form of a pipe and a wine bottle.

Stuart Shave’s presentation of Ansel Krut stood out, proving that solo stands at art fairs are a great idea. Other hits were Henrik Olesen at Franco Noero (also at MoMA in a solo room in the permanent contemporary collection), and a number of sculptures by Theaster Gates, an African-American artist with a diverse background in urban planning, ceramics, art and religious studies. The source of the objects, which were cast or framed, belies their elegance, as they originate from the interiors of ghetto buildings in South Chicago. One standout piece featured a firehouse dating from the 1960s, probably used during Chicago’s race riots, reclaiming and repositioning the object.

Last year, Darren Flook and Elizabeth Dee initiated Independent, a fair that proposed an alternative model to the existing archetypal art fair. Thankfully, this year, some of the pretensions towards Independent as a new art fair model have disappeared, and descriptive terms such as 'consortium', 'collective' and 'hybrid have been discarded, and they have embraced their position as a good quality contemporary art fair. Despite this shift, they continued to identify and support the importance of not for profit organisations in the art world – including presence at the fair by White Columns, Studio Volatire, Artists Space and ICI, with both editions and unique works available. To add a disclaimer, I moonlighted for a day on Studio Voltaire’s stand, as a member of their Board of Trustees, giving me an insight into the effectiveness of this fair and a valuable way of increasing ones visibility internationally.

Independent had managed to entice bigger galleries to its site in the old Dia building, including galleries such as Gavin Brown, Klosterfelde and Anton Kern to the fair – though perhaps at the expense of some younger spaces. Highlights included painter Ella Kruglyanskaya at White Columns, John Smith’s superb Hotel Diaries at Tanya Leighton, Blake Rayne’s soft letter ‘a’ canvases at Sutton Lane, a clay Katinka Bock sculpture at Jocelyn Wollf, and the launch of a beautiful new book by Nick Relph; The Vestiarium Scoticum at both Herald Street and Gavin Brown.

Outside of the fairs, there were great exhibitions around town – Judith Hopf at Alex Zachary’s peculiar tiled space in the Upper East Side, art-world favourite David Hammons’ paintings covered with ripped and torn plastic sheeting at L&M, a shouldn’t-work-but-it-does combination of Lynda Benglis and George Condo at the New Museum, an excellent performance by Malcolm Mooney, original singer with Krautrock band CAN, at White Columns, and a superb installation of the beautiful works of Mark Morrisroe at Artists Space – an absolute must-see.

 

Sarah McCrory is Curator of Frieze Foundation


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