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Stepping into Spring Before it Was Warm Outside

Louise Foo and Martha Skou. Image courtesy of The Nars Foundation

By DARYL KING, May 2018

Spring/Break is different from the other art fairs during New York City’s Armory Week. Not only does it precede the beginning of the warm season in New York, but it also lauds itself as a curator driven art fair. The general aura of the fair is refreshing and new, allowing the participating artists and curators to explore ideas and themes that would be slightly forsaken by more "Blue Chip" art dealers and galleries. On paper, Spring/Break reads like the art purist's dream of how art should be. It’s not just an art fair for art insiders, but an invitation to explore two abandoned floors of 4 Times Square as you wish. Not everyone could gain access to the space that the fair now occupies, nor the lifestyle that former occupant Condé Nast exemplified. The culture of the United States has become something intangible, whereas the artists and curators at Spring/Break describe and visualize other spheres and socioeconomic domains.

It was puzzling to see a neo-classical image surrounded by fluid shapes and forms, against the wall of a former office. It wasn’t clear whether artist Rachelle Dang did this on purpose or not. Dang certainly earned a position at Spring/Break both in current and future manifestations with her work's power. Her unique installation, Vessel (Les Sauvages de la mer Pacifique, 1806), repositioned depictions of Tahiti and Hawaii. The image in reference was behind ceramic figures and forms that contrasted the romanticism of the two-dimensional image. Dang emphasized the lack of harmony between the romanticized imagery of various global colonies and the lasting trauma of people of color in the wake of colonialism. Dang dared to challenge identification and the ways that current society has veiled the effect of these values and histories. Labyrinthine expectations were demanded of these social groups, and there were certainly expectations on how one should exhibit during Armory Week. The overall piece evoked a sense of metacognition that made it necessary for Dang to reject all liabilities through her sculptural techniques.

Anne Spalter at Spring/ Break 2018, photo courtesy of Rhonda Wall, via Instagram

One of the many things that stood out on Anne Spalter’s curriculum vitae was her establishment of RISD's and Brown's original digital fine arts programs. Yet, she still exhibited amongst a crowd of emerging artists, ignoring the ageism that plagues the art industry. The installation of Spalter’s art at Spring/Break worked with references from above and below, molding odd, opposite subjects into a “psychedelic meditative portalinstallation. Through this abstract browser, viewers could see the sun as the focal point that defined both the planetary order and everyone as human beings. The room installation featured a combination of imagery from Martinique, real data from space, and bodies of water. These elements melded into a new science-fiction environment where Spalter could question the human interpretation of biological structure. The majority of the world has progressed towards Spalter’s vision, but not everyone has made it there yet. 

Kumasi J. Barnett's oeuvre untied some assumptions about life in the USA and the lack of ability the country has to disguise the cultural and political climate here. The rhetoric of the great United States was wrangled in its own bad habits; Barnett’s simple process, starting with the application of paint on the cover of a comic book, became a complex dialogue in that sense. His tongue-in-cheek re-creation of the comic book genre hid intelligent references - such as his nod to Mark Twain on Barnett's own website. Through the art of caricature, Barnett made viewers aware of the duality of being privileged enough to see the success of a film like Black Panther, while at the same time encountering a daily resurgence of incidents centered on police brutality and violence. Barnett’s new comic depicts the general struggle of  being a superhero of color -  an ethnic descent that was non-European. Barnett’s technique circulated around the process of collecting comic books and dramatizing real biases in a serious but gracious way. 

“Double Life” by Jonathan Rosen at Spring/ Break, Image courtesy of Jonathan Rosen, via Instagram 

Jonathan Rosen provided his audience with an inviolable zone to be human and built a conceptual framework around unique pieces of work that never self-reference. Just as much as it was a moment of self-reflection for the viewer, it was also a personal confession of the artist. There was a degree of sensuality which Rosen was once afraid to own as a part of his personal being. He marched into the tech-noir future that society has made for itself and selected false identities as evidence. To summarize his installation at Spring/Break, viewers didn’t know upon first entrance that Rosen was inverting the lives that people live. The average person lives in an augmented reality through their smart phone. Everyone has recreated themselves as new personalities through social media applications and dating sites. The screens and iPads that were featured in Rosen's installation were not about an outcry against the consequences of abusing these applications and sites but Rosen made use of web coding to disguise these websites, such as Facebook, Growlr, Reddit and OkCupid in a different way. These were all platforms on the web where fictitious accounts secretly existed but after the 2016 US presidential election and the Cambridge Analytica scandal that rocked the social media world - but now things are different. Rosen's work points to our new perception of computers which makes it impossible to overlook a world made by the culture of consumption.

#SFOS Artist Brett Wallace, SF Open Studios Weekend 4, courtesy of ArtSpan SF, via Flickr 

Brett Wallace was another presenter who made viewers consider the line between art and non-art, technology and art and business and art. That aspect of his display made a strong case for professionalism within the arts, skimming the surface of the relationship between creativity and business. Wallace’s work hinted at the fine line where art and technology merge, a consistently recurring theme throughout the entire fair. A lot of the basic human motions of producing art, such as a brush stroke have been abbreviated through computer programs. In today’s technology driven world, Wallace made a 180 degree turn and employed the archetype of a tech company's branding style. He launched his mock company, Amazing Industries, a spoof of the giant company Amazon, to clarify that the contemporary world was still a place where the worker has been reduced. Digital material was a major cause for Wallace to scrutinize how society wants to achieve its proportionate future. Amazing Industries’s presentation at Spring/Break demonstrated that numerous positions and job tasks were in a state of abandonment. The development of Artificial Intelligence has exposed how some people were being forgotten. Wallace dismantled the present to reveal the dystopic underside of the current fascination with Amazon and other similar organizations.

Vered Contemporary's Director Damien Roman with exhibiting artist Elektra KB. Image via Hamptons Art Hub 

The name Elektra certainly made some people think of the New York Comic Con fair, but a real life super heroine existed outside of the Marvel comic in the form of Elektra KB. The artist was capable of recalling the waning revelations of the 1980s. At the fair, Elektra KB’s audience was informed that they were now in charge of their own personal body.  Elektra’s Cathara Autonomous Territory was the issuer of a new global citizenship, which granted the owner a separation from fascism, nationalism, machoism, gender identification, and similar limits. The more viewers were able to investigate Elektra KB’s work, the more they were exposed to the idea that they could learn more about themselves through autonomous action. The artist rebelled against any form of implication, using an interactive experience tightly defined by textiles, video, a border checkpoint, and the Freedom School, a reimagined office space for political action-education. It was a moment of utopia, limited to the floors of Spring/Break. 

 iHeartArtists Presents Artist Justin Wood, screenshot from Youtube

“March Towards Extinction” extolled the overall human willingness to walk into tragedy, whereas its creator didn’t want to let that happen to his viewers.  Justin Wood’s engagement with the public started with a dialogue regarding how the space for painting can become more three-dimensional than the surface of a canvas. The project would not have been completed, without Hurricane Irma creating a path destructive enough for Woods to salvage his materials. He placed various pieces of drift in an arrangement spotted with digital paintings and other screens.  It was impossible to understand the former without the latter. It was simple in theory, but Wood’s general method of working expanded from traditional painting. He took perspective out of painting to encompass the real space in a room.  His paintings also moved onto the digital level.  The Floridian native recalled chaos and memorialized the experience of many people. There could be no way of separating the horror, the turmoil of Hurricane Irma from Wood’s references to misused resources, technology and other causes of environmental damage.

 Michael Zelehoski, Image Courtesy of the Artist. 

“Dome; Knot; Black and Blue; and Dead Horse” were separate parts that were more closely related to each other, and the entire art fair, in which the works were housed. Michael Zelehoski’s comprehensive addition to Spring/Break demonstrated the artist’s ability to deconstruct and reconstruct. Using found materials, Zelehoski’s work shifted from his more typical vernacular towards more spatial expansion. He made a semisphere of scaffold pipe jut out of the wall in the elevator bank of the upper floor. This object was accompanied by a sound piece from designer Alex Oka. Oka derived it from the low decibel resonance of the earth itself. Zelehoski’s other works featured barricades, road signs, and phenolic plywood. He separated the two themes, but, altogether, the art echoed with the need for the art industry, as an entire community, to use their skill to uphold the artistic responsibility to verbalize something. Regardless of how someone chooses to respond to the current world, ideas can be made out of disarray, physically represented in Zelehoski’s decision to craft a police barricade into a tangle work of art. WM

 

Daryl King

Daryl King is an architecturally influenced artist, based in Brooklyn, New York. His passion for art and architecture is only matched by an equal interest in food. He is the founder and director of 国王roi, kokuo roi, an ever expanding firm that consumes everything around it and regurgitates it out in the form of something spectacular. With plans for future discussions, events, exhibitions, and some non-profit work, Daryl is inspired to make his immediate environment quintessential in some way; however, he is greatly distracted by listening to music, playing PS3, and streaming media online.

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