Entrance to the Armory ShowSadly the title truthfully should read “Bad at Sports makes a mad dash in The Armory cause the phone is ringing and everyone wants you back to put out a fire” but “Goes to The Armory Show” gives it a more fun and lighthearted feel as I would have wanted the visit to be. Sadly this is the 21st century so in keeping with it; here is a caffeine induced breakdown of The Armory Show: 2008.

Getting into the Building

First off I want to say kudos to the Armory staff for doing such a bang up job on keeping an artificially long line at the front. It looks great and everyone enjoys a wait filled and confusing stall before they enter an empty foyer to queue up and pay to see art. It’s like being in College all over again just without the alcohol and women. A contemporary installation before you even enter the building.

The Layout of the fair is a upside down “T” so you can either go left and see the more modern and pop grouping of certain galleries or go right and see the more conceptual and seemingly European grouping of galleries. Either way you end up at the long “shaft” of the upside down “T” and see the seemingly more blue chip mix of work. I chose left.

The Left Ball

Inside the Armory Show
The work here as I stated earlier seemed to be largely Pop oriented paintings/installations and sensationalized photography. Also included is the cross marketing (which I am not against) of various magazines, websites & such in greeting booths along the left wall. I wish I had more photos of this area but planned to make a second trip and sadly didn’t but you don’t really miss much (sorry to the good galleries that I am lumping with the rest in this wing). The VIP room is also in here and as many sites will tell you the brightly colored “Rauschenberg” style exterior of the room was garish but who really cares. VIP rooms are either quickly passed up since you (and I) don’t often get in them or if you do have access to them you don’t want people in there, and appreciate it when they get chased away by it’s exterior so you can have a quiet moment for yourself.

Teasing the Shaft on the way to the Right Ball

Moon over Zurich
This is when the art started to get good, feel fun and I began to hear a melody as I walked by. The showing of Galerie Bob Van Orsouw of Zurich was the fist showing I saw that felt really coherent and spoke in a rich and varied way to me. It had different works to show (video, painting, sculpture) and made you forget that there was a larger fair going on. That being said it really did take the Pop sensibility of the left wing (the painting titled 3rd Party by artist Wawrzyniec Tokarski which depicts a very Pop moon with 20th Century Fox style text was right out of a Taschen book on the Pop work of Edward Ruscha).

The walking man light/animation installation part of the Zurich works again was nothing new but was very enjoyable and brought some life to the show.

The Right Ball

Von Brandenburg
Turning the corner brought you the work of Ulla Von Brandenburg from the gallery Art:Concept in Paris, France. Before I say anything else about the work of Ms. Von Brandenburg I want to take a moment and say again for anyone who does not know: sloppy or completely absent information cards next to work is not clever or hip or cool, your a douche. If I have to play the guessing game because you can’t afford the money or patience to put a small 1.5″x3″ card next to a work with the name of the artist, title and year at the very least ( I would also love medium and gallery name since when I do a review I photograph the card for reference) then I get to touch the work with my grubby fingers to figure out the medium and call it “That thing with the big boobs that turned Duncan on”.

Put one title next to each work in a predictable fashion, not three names next to three works or no names next to the shit I have already forgotten about before I even passed it.

To get back to Ms. Von Brandenburg it was cool and spoke to me in ways that are to long for this review but was a good series that only suffered from the quality of the newsprint it was on.Ryan McGinley

Moving onto the Ugly part of the Good and Bad brings us Ryan McGinley’s second most iconic photo. I have seen this in print many times and when I caught a glimpse of it I was very excited to see it up close. Disappointment doesn’t begin to describe it, I don’t know if this is how his photo’s look in real life or if this was a bad reproduction but when a print reproduction has more general focus, color range and appeal then an original then you have a problem. It was a blurred and seemingly badly printed mess that let me down considerably.
National Geographic?
Thankfully I was able eject his gallery representation from my mind when I looked forward and saw the single worst excuse for a gallery presence in the Armory Show. Magnum Foundations showing of the greatest hits of National Geographic and the AP Photo staff. What this was doing in the show I have no idea and would love for someone to inform me because if it’s goal was to make me laugh, mission accomplished (or as some might say “epic fail”).
Layers upon layers
The “squid is the new deer” of the Armory show this year seemed to me to be the theme of layering images as metaphor of this complicated, complex and busy life we all lead. This was best and worst performed by Gallery Sfeir-Semier of Hamburg artist Hiroyuki Masuyama and his LED lightbox composite image tribute to Turner’s Approach to Venice, 1884. This was interesting and original and gave me lots of visual and mental enjoyment for all of 5 minutes. Then like all candy, the rush was over and I was wondering what I got excited over. Still excellent execution even if the idea is a bit old in a new tech way.
Stopped at the last few inches
Michael Joo of the Anton Kern Gallery, New York showed off one of the most interesting works for me in the whole show. It was one of those pieces where you are not really sure why but you feel a kinship with it. Again I can not tell you it’s name since it’s card has nothing beyond the artists name (which was placed no where near the piece). The director I spoke to about the work was wonderful and pleasant but like all gallerists these days he was more then willing to have me think whatever I wanted to about the piece and the view of Mr. Joo was not really covered leaving one to sadly question if there was a backstory/subtext to the work.

Following the Shaft (and this sad metaphor) to it’s Long Awaited Finish

Candy Land Nightmares
Again the 3 different sections seemed to have a distinct theme and now I was entering the longest grouping to see the largely blue chip & likely up and coming work. To start off by getting the crap out of the way may I say to Gerald Davis and his Leaf House painting presented by the Black Dragon Society Gallery. Being a second rate Will Cotton is no way to live a life. Many people don’t like his works for various reasons, but being the dark gloomy low contrast half cousin isn’t something to strive for. It seems this is a new route for you and getting off that bus now isn’t a moment to soon.
You talk to your momma with that mouth?
Then you have the “I went to NYC and all I got was this clever painting” award which goes to Thomas Locher who’s work is a rehashing or earlier work that says in a round about way “You want this painting because I have made this painting for you to want” this is both trite and elitist even if it knows it is being trite and elitist. Saying “I have nothing to say” doesn’t get you out of having, in fact nothing to say. That being said, if every piece of art had to say something new or focused we would all be going to 1 art fair a year.
This just in Jenny doesn't like the War
To sum up a grouping of work quickly, Jenny Holzer was fun for me again (largely due to the change in color scheme, don’t ask me why) but a lot of other people had problems with the work. The main gripe was the war references but again for me I had no such issues.
WorksOne of these things is not like the other
Sudarshan Shetty’s Untitled (really? you have hundreds of little Taj Mahals stacked on each other next to skeletons and I am supposed to believe that the work has no title? that the work didn’t speak a name to you?)
was fun and visually striking. Oddly the most important peice of the installation for me was the deep red carpet and without it I could easily view the work differently. Also the “Untitled” with the skeleton under the Taj is much weaker then the Taj under the skeleton. 100 little Tajs on the ground says it all for me you don’t need a second in the air.

Encrusted with attention

The much vaulted diamond skull of Damien Hirst was in the Armory if only in print form. This was fun and chromatically dynamic up close. Lots of fun, and quickly left. Still I say the work will be remembered years from now as one of his best pieces. Not saying that it is; just that I will be recorded that way. Mark my words just as I said that HD DVD would win, the diamond skull will be one of his high watermarks.
So great it must not be true
Bettina Pousttchi’s Lord Hetley was great and made me stop cold in my tracks. I really , really wanted it to be a painting and not a photographic print but regardless it not only looked great but made everything around it look better.
So soft, so round, so fully packed
Eleanor Antin’s photos are neo-classical porn, call it what you will that is what it is and nothing more. Big sharp images of well formed breasts that hide behind their humor. To that I say shame shame on you for not showing more. After the day I had they were a welcome break even though it’s still just high minded soft porn.

There was more but right about this time I got my phone call to rush back to work and I want to take this moment to thank The Armory again for making the layout or density of the show as such that I had perfect cell reception at all times in the building. I can not tell you how much FUN it is to be taken out of artistic bliss by a work call 100 feet deep in a expo. Next year can some artist do a piece with a transmission jammer just so that we all can get some peace 🙂

In Summary

The show was good, higher enjoyment factor then the average fair and very well executed. The coverage was balanced and fun with something for everyone. As a wise main once said on this show melancholy is seemingly high praise in today’s art world and I felt 2008 was a good year for the Armory so let that say whatever you will about it. Now let’s hear everyone else’s thoughts!

Christopher Hudgens
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