Exhibition Review: The Armory Show 2018
THE ARMOMY SHOW PIERS 92 AND 94, NEW YORK CITY
By: Belle McIntyre
This year’s Armory Show looks different from past years. The first thing one notices is that the art starts outside the Piers with a huge installation on a scaffold of a work by the French photographer, JR. He has blown up archival photos of Ellis Island immigrants waiting in line to epic proportions and replaced their faces with appropriate corresponding faces of actual Syrians whom he photographed at the Zaatari refugee camp. It is a very powerful and moving image and brings the current reality into a dialogue with history and foreshadows some of the recurring themes inside the show. Migration, dispossession, displacement, and deprivation are conditions which are increasingly engaging artists who have either lived through the experience themselves or are having a response to a first hand encounter. The other noticeable difference is the expanded booth space due to the number of exhibitors being reduced. This also allows for the inclusion of more large-scale installation pieces.
Representation of the work of women and artists of color shown here is pretty much the antithesis of what we see in Hollywood. A welcome balance. Given that demographic, it is not surprising that slavery and racial themes are frequent. One of the more dramatic examples from Gallery Momo is by the South African artist Mary Sibande in the Platform section and consists of life-sized black female figures dressed in voluminous dresses in various dynamic poses engaged in diverse activities. They are women in conditions of either servitude or rebellion. It addresses racism, female oppression, colonialism and slavery. She favors intensely colored fabrics like Yves Klein blue and deep royal purple. They have the monumentality of Baroque bronze heroic statuary. The installation is arresting and indelible.
The solo presentation by the South African Galerie Ron Mandos of Mohau Modisakeng’s new series Zion addresses the global climate of mass migration and universal anxiety. They are prints of young female figures in white dresses carrying miscellaneous personal items as if they have suddenly been forced to move without any warning or time to prepare. The images are beautiful but overlaid with a sense of uncertainty. The series called Passages involves images of two women and a man on a small skiff and invokes the desperate refugees who have been fleeing in unfit crafts across treacherous waters to totally uncertain futures in unfamiliar places.
Emma Amos’ photo transfer works involve collage, appropriation and painting to create multi-layered images of historical figures with complex references to artistic styles and stereotypes to challenge representations of the black body by white male artists. Her large work, Valued, of four shirtless men with raised fists references the black Olympic athletes who used the black power salute in 1968 as a protest.
Rashid Rana, a Pakistani artist, represented by Leila Heller Gallery shows large beautiful C Prints depicting historical scenes from art history. He builds them out of thousands of tiny images, which act as pixels and often unrelated to the final image giving the illusion of a fractured mosaic. Maria Evelia Marmolejo, a Colombian, at Prometeo addresses issues of harm to the female body as well as the environment, political oppression and colonialism. Her radical work necessitated her self-exile from her country. Perrotin shows Leslie Hewitt’s Riffs on Real Time, which incorporate non-photography elements to create memory pieces. Edwin Houk can be depended upon to show top notch work by established photographers. Here he is showing Vik Muniz Creation of Adam, which is part of his Pictures of Junk series. The image is actuallymade by the painstaking process of placing hundreds of objects arranged in such a way to create the illusion of the image, which is then photographed. Upon close inspection, you can make out the details.
Valérie Belin’s Lady Blur, is a black and white portrait of lady whose face has been painted on with brush strokes before the photograph was taken and then, using photoshop tools, has been painted again, thereby abstracting the reality of the face. This is a response to ideas of enhanced feminine beauty. He is also showing works by Abelardo Morell from the series Flowers for Lisa, which explores the way that flowers have been depicted in painting and photography throughout history. He also addresses is the transience of flowers by depicting them after their moment of perfection in the perfect vase in the perfect setting. There is also a beautiful but rather mournful image by Robert Polidori entitled Salle la cour a la fin du regne, which shows a view of a hallway in Versailles, through several doors and it all looks very sad and abandoned with an empty picture frame hanging on the wall on the right. It represents a sign of the times.