Art and About in March
Arts & Entertainment
by James Gaddy
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Art overload: it's a peculiar sensation reserved for the month of March, when the City is bursting with art fairs, special events and some of the year's biggest exhibition openings. (Overload is a good thing—in New York City, it's the default operating position.) Beginning on March 6, the Art Dealers Association of America (ADAA) previews its Art Show fair; two days later, the massive Armory Show opens along with satellite fairs like Volta NY, Red Dot, Scope and Independent. And that doesn't even count Armory Arts Week's special programming and extended hours at numerous institutions and galleries across the five boroughs, which includes a late-evening gallery crawl in Williamsburg, numerous open studios and free film screenings at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria.
The first two weeks are especially packed. The sweeping Armory Show houses a grand total of 220 international and US-based galleries for three days on Piers 92 and 94. This year, the show debuts a new floor plan that offers more room for social interaction, bigger booths and, finally, a real sit-down restaurant and two coffee bars. Like the last two years, the fair is divided into two sections: the Modern wing will include 70 galleries that specialize in the higher-ticket, more historically significant works, while the Contemporary section holds nearly 150 booths showing new work.
For the second straight year, the Armory will devote a section for 20 Nordic galleries like Reykjavik-based i8, which carries works by Roni Horn and Olafur Eliasson, as well as small spaces like Oslo's NoPlace. And in the main fair, a couple of big names are back, including David Zwirner Gallery, who will be showing a new site-specific installation by Michael Riedel.
Uptown, Zwirner is showing more of Riedel's work along with Suzan Frecon's abstract paintings at The Art Show, the longest-running fair in the United States. Featuring 72 prominent galleries from across the country, the show includes New York staples like Cheim & Read, Tanya Bonakdar, Luhring Augustine and P•P•O•W, with a two-person exhibition of David Wojnarowicz and Hunter Reynolds. The Metro Pictures booth will show the seminal Murder Mystery collage series from 1976 by Cindy Sherman—whose own retrospective is running concurrently at The Museum of Modern Art (see below for more information).
The organizing conceit of art fair Volta NY, located across from the Empire State Building, focuses on solo exhibitions. The cross-pollination between the Armory and Volta extends the Nordic focus, featuring the Helsinki-based Gallery Kalhama & Piippo Contemporary and Stockholm-based Galleri Flach, along with 30 new participating institutions from San Francisco, Melbourne and all points in between.
One of the most intriguing Armory Arts Week events is a relative newcomer to the art fair game. Independent is a free fair that features approximately 40 up-and-coming galleries on the three floors of the old Dia Center for the Arts in Chelsea. Though the wall labels and directional information can be few and far between, the layout feels more like normal gallery browsing, with lots of natural light.
The Whitney Biennial opens its own retrospective, where film will play a strong role, on March 1. The show will screen works like Wildness from gender-bending artist Wu Tsang, whose work can also be viewed downtown at the New Museum Triennial The Ungovernables. Look for video projects by conceptual artist Lutz Bacher, who was honored with a retrospective at P.S.1 in 2009, and pieces by the recently deceased underground filmmaker George Kuchar. The film focus also plays an organizing factor in the Armory's program devoted to cinema, Armory Film. This year, a strong selection of video and experimental moving images will screen in the media lounge on Pier 94, in partnership with video-art fair Moving Image.
For those not attending the art fairs, there are, of course, large-scale exhibitions worth checking out. Starting on March 16, the Brooklyn Museum provides a rare look at the early work of Keith Haring, which catalogs his arrival in New York through the development of his visual style as he began to make art in the streets of the City. The show uses archival materials such as subway drawings and sketchbooks and includes his first video piece, Haring Paints Himself into a Corner. And, beginning on February 26, The Museum of Modern Art devotes its sixth floor to the work of Cindy Sherman, the artist who, since the mid-1970s, has photographed herself in a range of personas, disguising herself beneath layers of makeup, clothes and prosthetics, as in her early series Untitled Film Stills. With more than 170 of her images on view, it's a sensory overload—but that's the way we like it.
Yinka Shonibare, MBE: Addio del Passato
James Cohan Gallery
Through March 24
The British-born Nigerian artist continues to explore historical themes—specifically the colonial history of the British Empire—but this time through a highly stylized collection of photographs that reference classic scenes of death in art.
Molly Smith: Tidal
Kate Werble Gallery
Opens on March 3
Molly Smith's discreet sculptures, typically only about 12 inches tall, are nonetheless deliberate and thoughtful with an impressive internal consistency. It's an aspect that extends to the materials as well: they're mostly made using Hydrocal, an extremely tough form of plaster.
Greg Sholette: Fifteen Islands for Robert Moses
Queens Museum of Art
Through May 20
Dubbed an "art infiltration," artist and theorist Greg Sholette has built and installed new islands around the waterways of The Panorama of the City of New York (which Robert Moses built for the 1964 World's Fair) to explore what new man-made islands in the five boroughs could look like.
Breyer P-Orridge: I'm Mortality
Through March 25
The Throbbing Gristle band member, whose experiments in pandrogeny with his late wife have become legendary, exhibits new work along the lines of recent pieces that mix vials of Chanel No. 5 with blood.
Martin Bromirski, Rachel LaBine, and Elizabeth Riley
Through March 11
Three artists with interests in common exhibit together for the first time in Brooklyn. Rachel LaBine paints surfaces that are elaborate constructions around a missing object; all three subject their works to intense fracturing, incorporating materials as diverse as pillowcases and sand.
Opens on March 21
The Nashville-born, Brooklyn-based artist has become known for her light-tube sculptures that employ a translucent pattern made from her own hair, but her sculptures in general involve simple actions—a ladder turned sideways, three boards of Douglas fir wedged into a triangle, Sheetrock mud dripped over a chunk of wood—that somehow turn into highly charged moments.