My first stop at this year’s Armory Show (New York’s 4 day art fair extravaganza on Hudson River Piers 92 and 94) was the new WSJ Media Lounge – a spacious theater offering respite from the milling crowds and endless white cubicles. Inside, Danish artist group ‘Osloo’ offered up possibilities for what they call “public spiritualism” through music and lectures, as they did last summer for their national pavilion at the 2011 Venice Biennial aboard their floating platform. It wasn’t clear where the spiritualism lay, but the vibe was definitely not commercialism – a palpable contrast to what lay beyond the lounge.
Performance – both on and off the official program – was in evidence here and there, notably in Marina Abramovic’s ‘Bed for Human Use,’ in which a woman in a lab-coat lay prone on an uncomfortable looking bed face-to-face with a chunk of quartz crystal at Sao Paulo’s Luciana Brito Galeria.
Over in Armory Focus: The Nordic Countries, curious onlookers watched as a young woman sitting on a fur rug in front of a mini-teepee stapled canvas to a stretcher in the light of pentagram at Stockholm’s Fruit and Flower Deli. Meanwhile, front and center in Italy/China/France–based Galleria Continua was a vast mirror by Michelangelo Pistoletto which seemed like a tempting invitation for narcissistic visitors to put on a show of their own.
Armory Show Commissioned Artist Theaster Gates wasn’t manning his Pier 94 Café installation of school chairs and desks rescued from a Chicago school, designed to be a place for him to ‘hold court.’ But in nearby Chicago/Berlin gallery Kavi Gupta’s space, Gates’ white concrete rectangular columns, glass and wood cubes and section of framed chalkboard also evoked missing kids and teachers, leaving the history and future of the school where he sourced his materials an open and worrying question.
And speaking of missing, Michael Riedel’s installation at New York’s David Zwirner’s booth was easy to miss, but worth checking out. Wallpapering one end wall was an image that appeared to be a reflection of the rest of the booth – three simple, large silkscreens – making for a daringly ephemeral installation in one of the Show’s prime spots.