With gleeful exasperation, the late Robert Morris once described the failure of his attempt, in Finch College Project (1969), to achieve the ‘purity of nothingness’. By recording the removal of photographs and mirrors from the walls of a room – and subsequently projecting the footage on to those same walls – Morris had wanted to defeat ‘the tyranny of the image’, but succeeded only in replacing one form of image with another. ‘Erase it on the left,’ as Morris put it, ‘and it pops up on the right.’ Fifty years on from the project’s first performance, and a few months after the artist’s death, it is fitting that Morris’s ‘allegory of loss and memory’ should be restaged by Castelli Gallery at the Armory Show, which returns to Piers 92 & 94 in Manhattan from 7–10 March.
Providing audiences with a new lens through which to look at canonical post-war figures has been a key ambition of the Armory Show throughout its history – and this year’s 25th edition, with 198 galleries from 33 countries, is no different. The fair’s ‘Platform’ section – curated by Sally Tallant, director of last year’s Liverpool Biennial – draws inspiration from the 1939 New York World’s Fair, with a series of large-scale commissions attempting to recapture a spirit of optimism in an increasingly turbulent world. Meanwhile, the Armory’s ‘Insights’ section features a number of displays focused on key artists of the 20th century: ADN Galería has works by Margaret Harrison – who co-founded the London Women’s Liberation Art Group in the 1970s – and the Rasheed Araeen show at Aicon Gallery extends from early sculpture of the 1960s to more recent kinetic and performance-based pieces. In the Armory’s main section, Alison Jacques Gallery is presenting historical works by Dorothea Tanning (coinciding with the retrospective across the Atlantic, at Tate Modern), while the prints and drawings specialists Carolina Nitsch has an enticing highlights reel of works on paper by artists from the gallery’s roster, from Louise Bourgeois to Sarah Lucas and Ebony Patterson.
Among contemporary displays, don’t miss the Spanish artist Victoria Civera’s new paintings on metal at Galería MPA. Sam Durant and Jim Shaw, two American artists who employ a variety of media to investigate socio-political issues, are an intriguing pairing at Praz-Delavallade. An arresting Dry Clay Head by Mark Manders, its features bifurcated by a plank of wood, perhaps representing the fractured nature of historical memory, is offered by Tanya Bonakdar Gallery.
Finally, in the fair’s ‘Presents’ section, a platform for young galleries, look out for Edson Chagas at Apalazzo Gallery. The Angolan photographer depicts figures wearing traditional African masks while attired in Western clothing; this splicing of cultures is seen to striking effect in his portrait titled Tipo Passe (Diana S. Sakulombo), in which the figure sports a mask of the central African Chokwe people while decked out in a tuxedo and bejewelled neck ornament.
The Armory Show is at Piers 92 & 94, Manhattan from 7–10 March.
From the February 2019 issue of Apollo. Preview and subscribe here.
This article was corrected on 12 March 2019. A previous version stated that the Armory Show hosted 194 galleries, rather than 198.