Spring/Break 2017: The Above-Ground Underground?

March 6th, 2017

Covering the Spring/Break Art Show is our guest blogger, Emily Weiner, who is an SVACE faculty member, visual artist, writer, and founder, The Willows Apartment Show.

Daniel Horowitz, Civilization and its Discontents (Solo Booth), curated by Ella Marder. Windowsill view (above); Room View (Below):

Daniel Horowitz, “Civilization and its Discontents” (Solo Booth), curated by Ella Marder. Windowsill view.

Spring/Break Art Show, the art fair initiated in 2012 as an alternative to the high-polished Armory Show and its satellites (Volta, Pulse, Scope), was held this year on two vacant floors of a massive corporate building overlooking Times Square. Featuring 150 curators showcasing rooms of work by more than 400 artists, the show felt equal parts MFA Open Studio and Art Fair, drawing ample collectors, regulars like Jerry Saltz, and lines of artist crowds extending out the door.

Daniel Horowitz, "Civilization and its Discontents" (Solo Booth), curated by Ella Marder. Room View.

Daniel Horowitz, “Civilization and its Discontents” (Solo Booth), curated by Ella Marder. Room View.

The fair was also meant to give the impression of a thematic show—curators were asked respond to the idea of Black Mirror and identity. Given the number of works included, however, this was not so obvious to the uninitiated.

JONALDDUDD presents Show Mein, featuring work by seven artists contributing works that pay homage to New York City’s Chinese restaurants.

JONALDDUDD presents “Show Mein,” featuring work by seven artists contributing works that pay homage to New York City’s Chinese restaurants.

However, this fair had a very different feeling from that of its first iteration, presented six years ago in the dilapidated Old St. Patrick’s schoolhouse in the Lower East Side, where there were no numbered booths, free Perrier, or panoramas of giant screens and the NYC skyline.

A solo booth of stellar paintings by the French artist Juliette Curtis, curated by NYC artist Hein Koh.

A solo booth of stellar paintings by the French artist Julie Tuyet Curtiss, curated by NYC artist Hein Koh.

A solo booth of stellar paintings by the French artist Juliette Curtis, curated by NYC artist Hein Koh.

A painting by the French artist Julie Tuyet Curtiss, curated by NYC artist Hein Koh.

In art, the success of anything “alternative” creates a catch-22: It can’t stay on the fringe for long. The Independent, founded in 2010 by gallerist Elizabeth Dee, now depends on a smart reputation and the participation of more than 40 carefully selected art institutions from across the US and Europe. The New Art Dealers Alliance—launched in Miami as a scrappy alternative to Art Basel—is now a mainstay in New York, too, where new-to-established galleries show their best and most innovative emerging-to-mid-career artists in carpeted booths. There is no pretense of being avant-garde or fringe anymore in these fairs, as they have evolved to have a different function.

Soft sculpture by Hein Koh: "Eye of God," 2017; curated by Nicole Grammatico + Christina Papanicolaou

Soft sculpture by Hein Koh: “Eye of God,” 2017; curated by Nicole Grammatico + Christina Papanicolaou

Is the flow from success to mainstream inevitable—and if so, is that a bad thing? One argument for “no” is that good art should be seen. All over the country since the market crash of 2009, small groups of artists and curators have been exhibiting exceptional work outside of a conventional gallery context.

Installation view, Matthew Morrocco, Portrait of Elliott, 2015. Inkjet print.

Installation view, Matthew Morrocco, “Portrait of Elliott,” 2015. Inkjet print.

Installation view: Left, Matthew Morrocco, Portrait of Paul, 2015. Inkjet print. 30 x 24 inches. Right, Elliott Jerome Brown Jr., Vanessa and Diane, 2016. Digital c-print, 36 x 24 inches.

Installation view: Left, Matthew Morrocco, “Portrait of Paul,” 2015. Inkjet print. 30 x 24 inches. Right, Elliott Jerome Brown Jr., “Vanessa and Diane,” 2016. Digital c-print, 36 x 24 inches.

Spring/Break has capitalized on this wave of curatorial independence, bringing artist- and curator-driven exhibitions into the spotlight (or in this case, Times Square’s neon).

Immersive, panoramic photos (online photos don’t do justice!) by Phil Buehler in American Trilogy: Ferguson, Washington, Arlington curated by Larry Walczak of Eyewash Projects.

Immersive, panoramic photos (online photos don’t do justice!) by Phil Buehler in American Trilogy: Ferguson, Washington, Arlington curated by Larry Walczak of Eyewash Projects.

Radiating exhilaration bordering on exhaustion, this year’s Spring/Break art fair seemed on the precipice of being too big for its own good. Only time will tell if next year’s iteration can keep the fair’s original exuberance going, while increasing in size and visibility. As for this year, there were many moments of inspiration, including these selections (pictured above and below).

Matthew McConnell, Untitled (from More Possibilities for Distance and Mass), 2016. Earthenware with Bone Charcoal and Graphite.

Matthew McConnell, “Untitled (from More Possibilities for Distance and Mass),” 2016. Earthenware with Bone Charcoal and Graphite.

Masterful cast-ceramic sculptures of low-fi materials by sculptor Matthew McConnell were a highlight of Infinity Pool, a selection of work curated by artists Rebecca Morgan and Stephen Eakin.

Paul Gagner, "The Artist as Receptacle," 2016. Oil on canvas, 32 x 40 inches.

In a similar trompe l’oeil spirit: Paul Gagner, “The Artist as Receptacle,” 2016. Oil on canvas, 32 x 40 inches.

By Proxy, a room curated by gallerists Caroline Tilleard and Anna Maria Cuevas, was a quiet respite from the busy hallways, with some perfectly balanced wall works.

Left: Tracy Thomason, A Well and a Wealth or a Spine and its Center, 2016. Oil, Marble dust, and activated charcoal on linen. 20 x 16 inches Right: Alex Ebstein, Long Division, 2017. Hand Cut PVC yoga mats and enamel on wood panel, 20 x 16 inches

Left: Tracy Thomason, “A Well and a Wealth or a Spine and its Center,” 2016. Oil, Marble dust, and activated charcoal on linen. 20 x 16 inches. Right: Alex Ebstein, “Long Division,” 2017. Hand Cut PVC yoga mats and enamel on wood panel, 20 x 16 inches

Featured in the booth Psychic Dream Girls, curated by Rachel Phillips, was a video by Katie Cercone, alum of SVA MFA Fine Arts, 2011)

Katie Cercone, "$wagophilia’s Song of Fleshy Wind," performative video, 2014.

Katie Cercone, “$wagophilia’s Song of Fleshy Wind,” performative video, 2014.

And in the colorful presentation, Mirror Mirror, artists Adam Mignanelli and Caroline Larsen curate the work of one another on different sides of the booth, complete with houseplants.

Oil painting by Caroline Larson (with artists pictured behind)

Oil painting by Caroline Larson (with artists pictured behind)

Paintings by Adam Mignanelli

Paintings by Adam Mignanelli

Cosmos-conjuring work filled a room curated by artists Mark Joshua Epstein and Will Hutnick, To see the Moon Fall From the Sky.

Dan Perkins, "Midnight," 2017. Oil on panel, 12 x 9 inches.

Dan Perkins, “Midnight,” 2017. Oil on panel, 12 x 9 inches.

Ian James, "Stimulates Cell Regeneration and Repair," 2016. Collagen Neck Mask, slate, stainless steel, 39 x 19 x 15 inches.

Ian James, “Stimulates Cell Regeneration and Repair,” 2016. Collagen Neck Mask, slate, stainless steel, 39 x 19 x 15 inches.

Editor’s Note: don’t miss paintings by Angela Dufresne and Rosemarie Beck in room 2215, curated by our very own Eric Sutphin! For students interested in curating, check out the upcoming courses “Digital Feminism” and “Spring Exposures: Photo Developments in the Chelsea Gallery Scene.” 

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