Pound Sign

New York City, pop culture, art and nightlife. Because nobody else is blogging about those things.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Armory Show, post-game summary: neon is played out, Hannah Wilke is awesome.

A few days after the fact and I've finally recovered from the art fair madness...just about everybody who worked our booth caught the same cold. Hey, at Scope I hear they had rats, so it could have been worse.
After spending much of two days at the Armory Show, I have to say that despite the palpable feeling of being surrounded by transaction (like walking through a casino)the level of quality of work on display this year was generally really high-and with the smaller number of galleries than last year it never felt like the ridiculous crush of people and objects it had been previously. But one note to next year's dealers: neon is done. To death. It's cool the first several times you see artists repurpose the signage for the gallery wall, with an ironic or mysterious statement, or a single enigmatic word. But every three booths or so, it loses the impact. This was also true at last year's Fair. I'm just saying.
In the interest of your interest level, I'm limiting myself to 2 high points, one per pier. First off, Pier 90: Bill Viola's video work "Tempest (Study for the Raft)" at James Cohan Gallery. An audience stood quietly mesmerized by his silent yet operatic slow-motion vignette, in which a disparate group of commuters is crushed to a shocked and sopping mass by torrential walls of water crashing in, Red Sea-like, from the margins of the screen.
On Pier 92, an enormous color print of Marina Abramovic, standing statuesque during her recent week-long stand at the Guggenheim, greeted all entrants at the entrance to the Pier in the Sean Kelly Gallery's booth. Marina's image was for me the perfect welcome to the Ronald Feldman Gallery's mini-exhibition of Hannah Wilke inside. It was the highlight of the whole weekend for me, and I'm happy to echo Holland Cotter in Friday's Times by saying so. Her work felt profoundly anachronistic in the middle of the corporate commodity-driven circus. I ran into the writer Stephen Maine, and as he put it, it was like they "set off a handgrenade in there." Now don't get me wrong, the gallery wouldn't have spent $30,000+ on their booth to put up work that wouldn't sell, but her '70's era performance films and self-portraits are so genuinely socially and politically engaged, along with being terrific to look at and rough hewn in their pleasingly pre-digital age way. And, coupled with her challenging late color images documenting the ravages of cancer surgery, they stood out like a Guerrilla Girls action.


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