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The Armory Show and beyond – around the galleries in New York

26 February 2020

The Armory Show (5–8 March) returns to Manhattan this year with an enhanced curatorial presence, continuing the innovations that director Nicole Berry began to introduce on taking over at the fair in 2017. The fair’s main section at Pier 94 sees the usual jostling of blue-chips with lesser-known galleries – but for the first time, the entirety of Pier 90 is given over to curated presentations.

Nora Burnett Abrams – director of the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver – has overseen the inaugural ‘Perspectives’ section, which considers how the reverberations of the post-war years continue to be felt in the art of the present. There are surveys of the American ‘fiber artist’ Jana Vander Lee (at Inman Gallery) and of Pierre Soulages (at Archeus/Post-Modern), while Susan Sheehan Gallery looks at the influence of women printmakers of the 1980s, with editions by Vija Celmins, Jasper Johns, Brice Marden and Ed Ruscha produced by female-led studios.

The Tourist (2019), Amir H. Fallah.

The Tourist (2019), Amir H. Fallah. Denny Dimin Gallery at the Armory Show

The fair’s ‘Focus’ section is curated by Jamillah James, of the Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, and looks this year at the construction of selfhood in the modern world. Keep an eye out for Lavar Munroe at Jack Bell Gallery; the artist uses a broad range of materials, including textiles and acrylic paint on unprimed canvas, drawing on childhood memories of graffiti in the Bahamas to create works that are at once fantastical and menacing. Denny Dimin, meanwhile, offers works by Amir H. Fallah. The Iranian-born, California-based artist’s elaborately conceived canvases draw on a range of pictorial traditions, from Persian miniatures to Dutch genre scenes and American Pop. The Tourist (2019), with its typically brash palette, communicates the fractures of a globalised world. At Galerie Kornfeld, the Tbilisi-based artist Tezi Gabunia’s Breaking News: The Flooding of the Louvre (2018) conveys an apocalyptic vision of a future perhaps not too distant, by means of a miniature gallery and a video camera.

Breaking news: The flooding of the Louvre (2018), Tezi Gabunia.

Breaking news: The flooding of the Louvre (2018), Tezi Gabunia. Courtesy of the artist and of Galerie Kornfeld

Across at Pier 94, the fair’s main section includes a number of exciting displays. There are collages by Jonas Mekas, the Lithuanian-American film-maker who died in 2019, at Apalazzo Gallery, and a display at Ronald Feldman that places works by Hannah Wilke alongside those of younger generations she inspired.

At the end of February, the Park Avenue Armory hosts The Art Show (27 February–1 March). Organised by the Art Dealers Association of America (ADAA), this annual event is a more intimate affair, with the ADAA selecting 72 exhibition proposals from its 180 member galleries. For this edition, more than half of these are solo displays. DC Moore Gallery presents a group of landscapes by Jane Wilson – all low horizons and large, luminous skies – that have not been exhibited since the 1980s. Pavel Zoubok brings recent sculptures by the American artist and activist Vanessa German, whose wacky mixed-media assemblages incorporate everything from mantel clocks to crutches and tennis rackets in a subversive refiguring of colonial history. First-time exhibitors include Andrew Kreps Gallery, which joins forces with Bortolami for a display of paintings by the Italian artist Carla Accardi – one of a number of shows that highlight women artists whose roles in key post-war movements are perhaps less well-known than they should be. Predominantly from the 1960s and ’70s, the paintings on show here are geometric abstractions, rendered in acrylic on plastic so as to reveal the bare wood of the mount; they make clear the artist’s move away from the gestural approach of Arte Informale in the 1950s, and toward Arte Povera. Themed exhibitions at the fair include ‘Psychological Realism’ at Jonathan Boos, featuring nightmarish scenes, rendered in egg tempera, by mid-century American artists Paul Cadmus and Jared French. Finally, Cheim & Read bring some wistful works by Alice Neel, including a twilit street scene, Ninth Avenue El (1935), and a later depiction of a stormy sea beneath a pale moon, half concealed by a bank of dark cloud.

The Sea (1947), Alice Neel.

The Sea (1947), Alice Neel. Cheim & Read at The Art Show

Finally, there are a host of gallery shows to take in elsewhere in the city. ‘Track Work: One Hundred Years of New York City’s Subway’, at ACA Galleries (until 7 March) features evocative etchings of commuters in motion by the Ashcan school artist John Sloan, works by August Mosca, known for his semi-abstract, geometric renderings of subway tunnels, and paintings by the social realist Philip Reisman. At Acquavella Galleries are 23 works by Miró in bronze – the medium favoured by the artist in the final decades of his life (until 28 February). And don’t miss ‘Jack Whitten: Transitional Space – A Drawing Survey’ at Hauser & Wirth, which promises a fascinating insight into how the late American artist – for whom the materials and processes of painting and sculpting were so central – experimented on paper (28 January–4 April).

The Armory Show is at Piers 90 and 94, New York, from 5–8 March. The Art Show is at the Park Avenue Armory from 27 February–1 March. 

From the February 2020 issue of Apollo. Preview and subscribe here.

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