The Armory Show I

This is what I knew:

1. Most of the artists I love best were “discovered” in America at the Armory Show in 1913.

2. It cost $40.  Damn.

3. It’s on the piers on the west side.  I have been to Chelsea Piers now, with my kids, to take them ice skating.  On these huge things that go out into the water, they’ve put other stuff, now.  Like lots of convention centers that have great views.

Here were my pressing questions:

1. Will I be able to get a cup of coffee?

2. Will I be able to get food, or a glass of wine?

3. How can I possibly see it all?

So I find something to wear that makes me feel I am adding to the careful and arresting visual environment.  When I get to the proper pier, guy tells me they can’t find my ticket with an ID or credit card.  I am too new to smartphone to realize when he asks if I have my ticket, I do.

I go down to the next pier.  That first pier was Modern, the other pier is Contemporary.  I think we should have stuck with calling our current art modern, but then, I love modern, either way.   I figured Contemporary was the place to be, anyway.  Once I got down to Contemporary, past a tented area selling food and offering stools and tables, I realized I did have my ticket, and successfully navigated several confusing checkpoints to get my wristband and get in.


Like most things in New York City, the Armory show is too big for anyone to figure out or manage, even the people who are running it.   That is both what I love about New York, and what is frustrating.

Indeed it was an art fair where I definitely could not afford any of the art, not even a little print in a bin.  There were no little prints in bins.

What I didn’t expect was that, in addition to all the booths of art, there were periodically areas of couches and stools, and several areas to get food and drink.  Like an art opening, like a Dolphin opening, for KC folks, the atmosphere was very relaxed.  People sat around and people napped, between art looks.  I realized I could have gone early and taken a very slow approach.  Unlike at a museum, where I feel I have to pace myself and force myself to be aware of when the cafe is open and make myself take breaks there and get fed, the Armory Show has all the time in the world to let you snuggle down, chat with friends, come and go.

Most of the hundred booths had stuff I found interesting enough to glance at, plenty of them were interesting enough to want a closer look.  At a few places, I thought, what is this doing here?  But there’s no accounting for taste.j

It was fun that there were people there from all over the world.  The bored people sitting at the tables in the booths chatted with each other in German, Chinese.

But enough: what was there to see?


Bjorn Dahlem, Probability Tree.  I love trees.  Dahlem’s trees grow out of perfume bottles, and the little P in the middle is P for perfect.  See how the way things go can spread out and where things can go?


IMG_0669A photo of a  library I didn’t think could look so gorgeous, at least not a nondescript library like this, but it’s about color, right?  Blue, blue, blue, and like all the pieces here, it looked much better in person than my poor iPhone skills would suggest.  (Hrair Sarkissian.)


Third: because I am a bad person, I forgot to photograph the name of this artist, but it was a set of nine photographs, seven of them the beautiful backs of black women’s heads, showing off their complex hairstyles, and one in profile, and one from the front.  So many of them as objects, as what people might ask them about, or wonder about, instead of themselves, troubling, maybe.  They were lovely, though, all of them, and this one rather tree-like, speaking of trees.  Dr. Seuss trees.



Why does this rabbit trust all these cats?  I have no idea, but look at him go.  This booth had a whole collage of pieces like that hanging, including one with the rabbit making a sculpture of the cats to go with his painting.  One thing that makes me sad is that people are often so serious when they look at art.  This was the first silly piece I saw.  (That one by Atsushi Kaga.)


Last in this post, one of the most popular pieces: a view.  Patrick Jacobs makes portholes that you look into and see a whole world.  People gathered around them and grinned and oohed.  There were three.  One reason you go look at art is to see magic, and these were magic.  There was a world in there, sure as the world you imagined of fairies living in tree roots or Borrowers or Pee Wee’s ants or whatever.IMG_0674

Armory Show II

IMG_0676IMG_0678IMG_0680IMG_0681More from the Contemporary side of things.  The first piece came from origami, and I loved the colors.  All of them were squares and played with ideas of folding without using any actual folding (Alyson Shotz).

Next were some African masks by Romuald Hazourme, made out of containers for liquid– gasoline, we would think of first, but I figured in Africa they would more likely be water containers.  New and people using what’s around, right?  And what do containers contain?  Something about who you are, or who you are going to be?

The buckets somehow had screens inside them, with views looking up, so that you would be looking down but looking up.  Clever and fun.

The last one in this entry is a branch rotating slowly, in front of a screen showing a similar branch.  The branch behind has its needles and the one in front of you does not.  Simple as this was, it was also a crowd-pleaser, showing how things are alive or not alive, or might be alive inside, a nice idea for the early March of a hard winter.

Armory III

Starting here with a typewriter typing a long white bed sheet.  Well: a glossy, waterfalling scroll of paper.  Lovely, and I forgot to get the artist’s name again.

A color photo with color I was mad for.  Whether that was real or induced color, environment, I don’t know.   Or care.  (Robert Polidori.)

Two human studies: another one I loved for color, that made color new.  I think it was the denim color that made it.  (Meleko Mokgosi.)

I am accused of only liking paintings because of their use of yellow, and I am always guilty, but also, the shadows on this made Alex Katz’s piece a better composition than I expect from a face and a back.

Finally, here: people are interested in circuits right now, in making little lights part of things, in books and pictures, in a primitive, fifth-grade-scienc type of way.  I was unsuccessful in making the light bulb light up, even in my fifth grade science kit, so I don’t know that I can join up with this, but the last piece here by Haroon Mirza has solar panels to light up the lights in it, so it is a living sort of Mondrian.  (A piece I didn’t photograph was a Mondrian with drawer pulls glued on it.  I swear.)IMG_0682IMG_0683IMG_0687IMG_0689IMG_0691

Armory Show IV

Last of the Contemporary: a cycle of water glasses.  Iron hoop, three spots for water glasses.  It reminded me of a piece I saw at the New Museum the week before, a water glass with a  sign that says, “At night this water turns black.”  Ha. See how you are water, and how delicate it is that glasses of water keep us going?   (By Athanasios Argianas.)

Next to yellow, I love little drawings that are very neat and come in a series, little shape studies, and this was my favorite from the show, by Hordur Agustsson.

Color work again, where did it come from, where did it go?  (David Renngli.)

David Maisel’s photo of a horse x-ray (I assume that’s what it was) stopped a lot of people in the walkway between booths.  Everyone loved it.  Ghost horse, perfect space around it, the thickness and toughness of horse plus the delicacy of knowing everything has bones.

The blue one is great composition, and I don’t understand why that top corner is kind of unfinished, but that’s why I’m not a painter, right?  Not a hard-practicing painter, anyway, like David Scheibitz.

The last two are the fun, which was hidden back on the left side of Contemporary.  A group of Chinese artists made this punch-wall that people had apparently punched to get prizes.  I was there toward the end.  The other part of their exhibit, which I inexplicably forgot to photograph, was a lot of plastic-bagged objects laid out on the floor.  You could pay $20 and get three rings to play ring toss.  Ring a toy, get a toy.  I watched a white guy ring two toys, and choose what appeared to be a red rose made of fabric.

I’m feeling like a real chump for not playing.  I really am.

Finally: someone built some obnoxious blue sort of playground equipment, and we could climb on it and use it.  The piece I photographed was the fun one, the stand and spin.  I stood with two others and we all squealed as the spinner was much faster, oilier, than expected.  Whee!

(I forgot artists’ names for the last two.  Next time I’ll do better.  I swear.)