Monday, March 16, 2015

Armory Week in Also Snowy New York

Although I've lived in Boston almost twice as long, I think New York will always be home to me.  Mainly in town to attend the Armory Week art fairs, I managed to visit with friends and family, catch a couple of Broadway shows, and take in one blockbuster museum exhibit - see recommendations below.

Named for the 1913 International Exhibition of Modern Art, originally held in various US National Guard armories, the main New York art fairs are centered around Piers 92 (Modern) and 94 (Contemporary) on the Hudson River.  A loose explanation of the difference between the two is Contemporary generally refers to living artists; Modern, older deceased masters.  These lines blur sometimes depending on the exhibiting galleries.

Fairs are now held all over the world - Hong Kong's is finishing up tomorrow - but New York's takes place during the first weekend in March.  Adding to the excitement, ancillary shows have sprouted up all over town.  In addition to the two main Armory shows, this year I was able to attend several others: Pulse, Scope, Art on Paper and Un(scene).  I was lucky to be joined by a few of our exhibiting artists - it's always fun to see what catches their eye.

Taking a breath with 13FOREST exhibiting artists Resa Blatman and Andrew Fish at the Armory.

One of our artists, Resa Blatman, had a piece at the Un(scene) show on West 52nd Street.  We attended the opening night party which included performance artists and free ice cream.  An interesting collection of work, it was exciting to see Resa's painting at right, Trouble in Paradise 3 (oil and latex on mylar and PVC, silk and plastic) displayed next to a 17th-century oil by François Marot, Bacchus and Ariadne on the Island of Naxus.

Next up was Armory Modern.  I missed this section last time but I was glad to catch it now.  Right when I walked in, I was rewarded by seeing one of my favorite modernists, Fernand Léger - here's his oil on canvas, Nature morte (Profil orange), from 1928: 

There were also some gorgeous paintings by Jacob Lawrence, an artist I didn't know very much about.  Here's his tempera on paper, The Butcher Shop, from 1938: 

And having gone to see Christo's The Gates hanging in Central Park back in 2005, it was great to run across these studies for that project:

Also, these drawings by CJ Pyle:

At the contemporary section of the Armory, I met Monique Meloche who has a gallery in Chicago.  Here she is with a painting I particularly liked: Ben Murray's 2015 oil on canvas, Beds.

Some of the best work we saw was at Pulse, downtown on East 18th Street.  We were all taken by the paintings of Spanish artist Paco Pomet (top) as well as this 2015 oil on canvas by Marcelyn McNeil, Compact Fiction.

With an obvious debt to Hieronymous Bosch, here's a detail from Carla Gannis' The Garden of Emoji Delights from 2014 (archival c-print mounted on plexi with semi-gloss front lamination)

Nearby, Resa and I found ourselves in the lobby of an apartment building called The Vermeer, so of course we had to stop for a shot underneath these "masterpieces."

Because we show so much work on paper at the gallery, I was glad to make Sunday's first stop the Art on Paper show near the Lower East Side.

This was a new show and had all kinds of work from photography to traditional printmaking to drawings and even installations made out of old books.  This cut paper piece by Eric Standley was breathtaking in its detail.  (I kept thinking the tag should say "cut freaking paper"!)

I also made a friend, Lauren Kuester, who was representing the New York gallery The Hole - here she is with an array of Rose Eken's glazed paper clay pieces.

Another standout was Sandow Birk whose project, American Qur'an - a series of ink and gouache paintings on paper - were stunning.

Another body of work by Birk were his ink drawings of re-imagined monuments shown below:

The shows are a great way to see what is happening in the contemporary art world.  So it was especially thrilling to see the work of 38-year-old Kehinde Wiley represented not only by galleries at the Armory but also at his first retrospective, on view through May 24 at the Brooklyn Museum.

 Femme Piquée par un Serpent, Kehinde Wiley, oil on canvas, 2008

I had first seen Wiley's colorful portraits of historical figures replaced by contemporary black men at the Armory several years ago.  The 14-year retrospective has a number of monumental paintings, stained glass, altarpieces, bronzes and explanatory videos.  Much has been written about Wiley's use of assistants to create his paintings and this show has received controversial reviews - check out Hyperallergic's take here: - but I was mesmerized by the beauty and cultural significance of the exhibit.  If you can get down to Brooklyn before it closes, I would urge you to do so:

Detail and full image of Alios Itzhak from the series The World Stage Series: Israel, oil and gold enamel on canvas, 2011

Final notes: Martin Short was terrific in Terrence McNally's new comedy, It's Only a Play - also featuring Matthew Broderick and Stockard Channing.  And I was elated to catch John Cameron Mitchell, the creator of Hedwig and the Angry Inch performing the role at the Belasco - even with a knee brace and a cane, Mitchell was fantastic.  You may remember him from the 2001 film of the same name but to see him perform it live on a freezing, snowy night was truly exciting.

Special shoutout to my brother Steve for turning me on to the following:
Great Mediterannean food near Gramercy Park at
Super spicy and amazing Thai food in Elmhurst, Queens: - papaya salad with crab and chive dumplings
An old family favorite: in Chinatown - roast duck with flowering chives!

And I'm not sorry that I chiseled 70 cents out of my young cousin playing cards...we start early in our family...


  1. Fantastic blog entry, Marc! It feels like I was there. So much rich information and fantastic art.

  2. Thanks, Kathryn! Well worth the trip!