Armory Arts Week - Part 1 // The Armory Show

The Armory Show celebrated its 100th year this month. The first show was held in NYC at the 69th Regiment Armory on Lexington Ave. It has grown into a week-long, city-wide arts event, Armory Arts Week, with a multitude of events throughout the city. The city hosts exhibitors, galleries, art dealers and buyers from around the world.

Each Manhattan-based event has a different focus. The Park Avenue Armory exhibits "blue-chip" art, the high end of the art spectrum from exclusive dealers worldwide. Additional venues in the city host international fairs like SCOPE and VOLTA. The Armory holds the Fountain Fair, museums host events through the week, as well as neighborhood fairs, the Independent Art Fair in Chelsea and others in Brooklyn and Soho that showcase the local arts scene.

The "Armory Show" itself moved to the Piers in 2001 and the focus is on Contemporary Art by living artists and Modern Art by historically significant artists. There was a mix of genres, countries and artists of all ages.The initial show 100 years ago caused an outrage, President Teddy Roosevelt said, "That's not art!"  in response to the exhibit of works by the new Modern artists, Duchamp, Cezanne, Matisse and more.

We hear the same thing  today as we walk through museums and art fairs -  especially when looking at today's newer genre, Conceptual Art. Here, one of Ai Weiwei's Bicycle sculptures.  The controversial Chinese artist's work is a commentary on the country's ubiquitous form a transportation.

Many contemporary artists are working with technology creating digital installations and video art as they explore , comment and reflect on the use and effects of technology in today's world.

NYC's Bryce Wolkowitz gallery showed South Korean artist Airan Kang’s Luminous Words. I have seen full exhibits of her terrific works, which are a continuing exploration of books as a source of knowledge in the digital age. You can select a few books to your existing bookshelf,

or choose to install a full digital library!

In "Dinner for Two", NY-based artist Rachel Lee Hovnanian is exploring “the blurring of reality and the narcissistic side of digital life”, at Leila Heller Gallery's booth. She comments on communication, and how it's changing, using video screens as a replacement for real-life interactions and communications.

There was art reflecting an interest in text and the written word. Mel Bochner  has been using text in his work since the 70’s. His well  known Blah Blah, Blah


and a grouping of smaller pieces

Another approach to the use of words as imagery is from Rob Wynne, who uses poured glass, creating wall sculptures, either graphic

or using words, often of iconic sayings

The Morgan Lehman booth was transformed by Kysa Johnson's installation. She recreated a Bank of America waiting room with blackboard paint covered in chalk drawings. At first glance the work is decorative, yet the imagery depicts the decay of Roman ruins based on an artist’s 18th century work. Johnson's work usually has either historical or scientific reference. Interior designer Bryant Keller was at the booth and told us about the smaller home installations he commissioned Johnson to do for his clients. I'm looking forward to seeing photos of the projects.

a detail of the intricate drawing

It's a busy, dizzying scene walking through the Piers - taking in the art, people watching and listening to assorted languages.

Enjoying Modern favorites, like Irving Penn's iconic fashion photographs

to seeing new artists, like South Korean artist Jung Lee , who places neon phrases within her deserted landscapes

The art fairs were well attended this year and the reviews were favorable. Each year there are more events through the city, which can be overwhelming as you try to tactically plan to take in as much as possible. I managed to visit several fairs and spent a day walking through Chelsea galleries, (more in my next post, Part 2).  A century later, as the Armory Fair is celebrating 100 years, seeing the new best thing in art is still a much-discussed, love-it or hate-it spectacle!