Saturday, March 7, 2009

"It's so cold in Alaska." -- with apologies to Lou Reed

6 March 2009

At The Armory Show

At first you wonder: is it as crowded? Is the audience as plentiful as in previous years? Then you consider – based upon the hour and flow of people in and out – yes, it is more or less. (Perhaps less, but not significantly so. Now whether the crowd holds as many willing buyers or collectors is another matter entirely.) What is immediately apparent is a certain deliberative air; not exactly focus – there’s far too much to distract or divert even the most focused eye for that. It’s a ruminative, thoughtful crowd. Collectors or not, people seem a bit more directly engaged with the art. The frenzy is gone – and that is all good. People are here to look, think, process the work, occasionally lubricated by a glass of champagne. The crowd could almost be said to be – and this is almost inconceivable in New York -- moving slowly.

Some of the galleries seem to underscore this newly judicious, deliberative attitude – e.g., a somewhat ironically placed white fluorescent piece by Joseph Kosuth from 1966 on the exterior wall of the Sean Kelly space, telegraphing this subdued mood: “Subject Described, Object Defined.” Others address the panic looming just outside (or presumably in reluctant collectors’ pocketbooks) more directly. The first thing you saw in the Galleria Massimo de Carlo (Milan) space was what looked like a broken marble cornerstone chiseled with the following dedication: “EVERYONE IS BROKE.” It’s by Elmgreen & Dragset, a pair of Irish and Swedish artists working out of London and Berlin, respectively. At Emmanuel Perrotin (Paris), the message was delivered by turns humorously, ironically, and perhaps a little desperately, too. Daniel Arsham showed a painting, predominantly in steel and charcoal grays – a bird’s-eye view of what resembled the shells of unfinished high-rise buildings or apartment blocks, protruding roofs of which spelled out the word, “W-A-N-T.” As you were thinking, ‘does it get any more desperate?’ you’d catch an eyeful of a neon piece by Paola Pivi – an Italian artist working in (get this) Anchorage, Alaska. (That would induce a certain irony and desperation. ) “Stop the complaint, we just bought it.” An artist by the name of Kolkoz had a slightly drier take on the theme with pieces that consisted of nothing but giltwood frames and mouldings – a more or less traditional giltwood frame (or frames) closing in on – more frames and finally simply filled with the frame mouldings. Michael Sailstorfer’s piece was almost a nullification of the spirit of Joseph Kosuth’s 1966 piece – a black polyurethane piece that looked like nothing so much as a set of black fluorescent tubes. I suddenly feel back in Berlin – that is to say, Lou Reed’s Berlin. “It’s so cold in Alaska.”


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