The Perfect Amount of Excess: SPRING/BREAK Art Show 2020
Mar 10, 2020
Anyone that knows me (or anyone that is within earshot of my voice) knows that for me, SPRING/BREAK Art Show is my favorite art fair, and honestly the fair that anyone that loves art needs to go to. Why?
Because it's about the curators, it's about the artists. While sales are important and since its founding, the fair has been a part of over $1 million in sales, it is the content, the theory the PURPOSE that is the most important, most valued, at this fair.
And isn’t that such a breath of fresh air? When attending most art fairs, no matter how hard they try, there is a stale vapid emptiness in the air, the aftertaste of catering to the elite, stripping a work of meaning to be saleable, becomes the most valued currency. A work, an installation with a strong voice, and at times raw, very new, comes as a relief from the monotony of the white stuffy cubed space.
The theme this year for Spring/Break hits you right on the nose. IN EXCESS.1 The society we live in now feels like a horribly high definition repeat of the 1980s. Go Big. Do whatever. F*ck the consequences, you only live once right? Buy things you can’t afford, be gluttonous, ‘go fast and break things’, strive to be a completely unattainable ideal. No longer reserved to just the body, but every aspect of our entire lives is under scrutiny to be better, be perfect, make no mistakes, and you better not have made one not even years ago. Continually, mindlessly, buy one-use items that are now no longer slowly, but rapidly destroying our environment, or surroundings. This seems to be the unspoken theme screaming throughout the entire show.
And while not every artist had environmental/political aim or interpreted the theme in this way, when seen all together it feels so obvious it doesn't need to be stated. Natalie Baxter’s new works from her Warm Guns series on display, the guns so soft and cuddly, you almost forget about the increasing gun violence of this country and how it was because of recurring deadliest consequence of that increase that inspires Natalie in her this body of work.2 A clever, cuddly, colorful reminder of the potential risk (no matter how small) that anyone now has of being killed by a gun.
Scooter LaForge’s room Please Don’t Feed the Animals3, however, curated by Joshua Nierodzinski and presented by the funky LES nonprofit gallery Howl! Happening4, is quite clearly political, environmental, and Scooter has a message he most certainly wants you to listen to you. His works all made by found materials, the message is clear. We are killing our planet with trash, throwing away items that could be used again, repurposed. but instead they are discarded. But the largest culprit is factory farming. The society we are living in now is destroying the planet with the massive production of farmanaimlas on a scale that can not guarantee a good quality of life and is negatively affecting our bodies and mother earth’s body.
But wait! Do not jump to conclusions, the reasoning behind excessive consumption the need to endlessly accumulate does not all come from mindless ignorance, or an inability to accept the realities of global warming, the life that cows lead before becoming a steak. It is the need for comfort, belonging, discovering and saving, not hoard but to not forget, to know who you are, where you come from. Beacon Gallery’s solo presentation of Caron Tabb, whose work/installation was a reflection of her lifelong struggle of being a long term expatiate, to make a new land home, of trying to build new traditions while not forgetting the old. The ways that she is able to do this is the things she can acquire, surround herself with, reminders of home. My (un)Comfort Zone, is a physical reminder of how the comfort language can envelope you like a blanket, making you feel warm, safe.
The amount of material and types of material/mediums used, whether revisiting the-now-hip-again5 use of crochet, embroidery, quilting to re-emphasize a point, but done in what some would call overabundant amounts. Materials that 40 years ago would have been laughed at art school, designated to the tools one makes in elementary school to make cards for father/mother’s day, have been picked up and elevated. It shows not only the expansion artists to do are having, but in a small way a democratization of the art world. Even the ability to have fun and joy and work, whimsical and cute, can be seen at fairs like The Armory Show. At Spring/Break though, is Rachel Gisela Cohen, glitter paintings, reminding of the work an adult Lisa Frank probably sees while tripping on acid in four women group show, EYES EATING I SCREAM curated by Yen Yen and Rachel Gisela Cohen, works circling “ideas such as repetition, abstraction, excess and the desire experienced within a world of endless scrolling”. Which, I know for myself I must admit the amount of time i spend mindlessly staring at screens? Is an excessive amount no question.6
The beauty in the grotesque is seen in installations such as Jordan Eagles installation and works curated by Theodore Kerr of the artist collective What Would an HIV Doula Do? a body of work based around ‘da Vinci’s’ Salvator Mundi infamously sold at Christie’s in 2017 for, to be frank, a stupid and gross sum, an amount of money that could do so many positive things, instead used to buy an object of questionable authenticity.7 Eagles’s Salvator Mundi however is recreated and covered, at time literally cut open and inserted with vials of: blood by an undetectable HIV positive person. Bringing up not just questions of authenticity, but for me, I can’t help but reflect how much more amazing, how many lives could have potentially been saved, if the money spent on this work potentially \instead went towards research for a cure for AIDS, or even to support the people who are currently living detectable, and undetectable, with HIV.
Going into Jessica Lichensten’s pink forest, I first thought ‘ahhh ok, forest, pink, cute, awww words of trees, cute paper leaves on the ground hyper femme..' But, after cleaning my glasses and looking closer, I realized the pink leaves were not leaves at all but naked female anime-esque figures in different poses. The words carved on trees, not sweet nothings and hearts, but snippets of conversation of “he said she said’ no witness, if no one else was there who is telling the truth? Or as Lichenstein’s comments on “if tree falls, and no one is there to hear it, SEE IT, who can say if it fell?8 Maybe it was chopped. Who can say if she wanted it? Maybe she was raped.
What is the excess? Take a look. All around so many figures you can’t count. so many phrases ‘versions’ of an event impossible to read each one. In the era of #metoo people are being more open than ever. And its not that it is because rape and assult are happening more all of the sudden. It's the ‘excess’ of people stating ‘#metoo’, so that is no longer a whisper that can be ignored but a ROAR that demands to be heard.
Excess is what we prize, but the culture is starting to shift. No longer will people be celebrated for selling 90 million work9 that their assistants made, but a revolt is coming.
In excess, the theme of Spring/Break, and the message I am left with is clear. The consequences of continuing the journey into excess is clear, and literally directly affecting our lives in this very moment. (I mean come on, did New York even have ‘real’ winter this year?).
2. ”Late on the night of October 4th, 2019, Pedro Ventura was outside of a nightclub in Asheville, North Carolina, when a stranger fired many gunshots into the crowd. Despite the presence of up to 300 people in the street, he was the only person hit in the gunfire, and the injuries he sustained are severe. Pedro was in town from Los Angeles for one night to attend a wedding but the course of his life was changed forever that evening. The bullet entered his body at the back of his neck and ended up in his C4 vertebra, shattering parts of his spine and severing his spinal cord, leaving him paralyzed from the neck down. It is a miracle that Pedro is alive and the progress he has already made toward rehabilitation has defied doctors' expectations, but the road to recovery remains long.”, - “SPRING/BREAK NEW YORK 2020: GUNS GUNS GUNS New Works by Nathalie Baxter Curated by Lauren Wolchik”, Press release, March 3, 2020
5. Come on, you know the entire 1970s is what made ‘craft’ and the art your grandma makes cool.
6. Of course yes my job is not what I need to look at a screen, but the reality is we ALL could with our eyes unglued from intoxicating glow of the screen and virtual world.
7. Debczak, Michele. A Leonardo da Vinci Scholar Says He Knows the True Painter of the $450 Million 'Salvator Mundi', AUGUST 8, 2018, https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/553761/leonardo-da-vinci-scholar-says-he-knows-true-painter-450-million-salvator-mundi