5 things you can’t miss at spring/break 2017, from ballpoint pen punk posters to basquiat

The beloved curator-driven show returns for Armory Arts Week, but has a new home: the old Condé Nast building in Times Square. Here, we share highlights from the city’s most exciting art fair.

by Emily Manning
Mar 1 2017, 5:00pm

"Spring Break forever bitches!" The rallying cry of Harmony Korine's debauched troupe of Disney tweens turned ski-masked Panama City Beach party animals is also what we feel like chanting when our favorite New York City art fair, SPRING/BREAK, returns each March. Today, it is officially open to the public!

For those unfamiliar, SPRING/BREAK is a unique fair for many reasons, one being its focus on curators. SPRING/BREAK's walls belong to independent curators who organize their offerings based on a theme (rather than belonging to galleries who bring their top-sellers). SPRING/BREAK further breaks the pristine white cube model by setting up shop in historic locations around the city. The fair's name is a play on its initial location, an old schoolhouse in Nolita. For the past two years, it's been staged in the dilapidated office wing of a post office on 31st Street. And given that much of the work is site-specific, the office's original wood paneling, light fixtures, crumbing ceiling tiles, and leaky bathroom faucets added interesting new dimensions to the art. This year, SPRING/BREAK has a brand new home: two floors of the old Condé Nast building at 4 Times Square.

After attending yesterday afternoon's preview, we've rounded up our five favorite Spring/Break installations, from Tamara Santibañez's ballpoint pen punk bedroom to The Museum of "Who Let the Dogs Out" (seriously). As a cornrowed James Franco once slurred, "spraaang breaaak."

Tamara Santibañez's bedroom of dreamsTamara Santibañez does everything. She's a highly respected tattoo artist at New York City's Saved shop, a firm fixture in the city's thriving zine scene with Discipline Press (her publishing imprint focused on intersections between subculture and sexuality), and a regularly exhibiting visual artist. Her most recent solo show, Landscapes, opened at L.A.'s Slow Culture gallery in September. Somehow, Santibañez also found the time to create the coolest installation at the SPRING/BREAK fair: an all-white bedroom in which everything is illustrated with ballpoint pen. Those AC/DC, Sex Pistols, and Iron Maiden posters? The Metallica tees and cassette tape covers? All done by Santibañez's impossibly skilled hand. The installation (titled Thinking About Everything, but Then Again, I Was Thinking About Nothing) is a solo project for New York's Castor Gallery, a representative of which told me Santibañez has been working on this project for almost a full year. It's like one of Adrienne Salinger's 90s era bedroom portraits if it belonged to teen punk Terence Koh or Martin Margiela. But the vision and precision are all Santibañez's own — not to be missed!

Alexis Adler, Jean-Michel Basquiat. Courtesy of the artist.

Photographs of a young Basquiat: Alexis Adler's portraits of Jean Michel Basquiat, taken at his East Village apartment in 1979 and 1980, are currently on view in Denver at the Museum of Contemporary Art's Basquiat Before Basquiat exhibition. SPRING/BREAK is the East Coast's chance to see some of the photographs on home soil, as 33 Orchard Gallery's Jane Kim will present a never-before-seen selection of Adler's Basquiat portraits. The series of intimate shots feature a young artist who is already exhibiting the breed of expressionism that made his work so iconic (in some of the photographs, half of his head is completely shaved off — a bold look even by today's standards). Read more about them here.

The Museum of "Who Let the Dogs Out": Walking through what used to be the Condé Nast building, it's funny to imagine what the old tenants might make of the new. Take Floor 22, for example; Vanity Fair's former home is now, in part, a museum dedicated to "Who Let the Dogs Out?". What I, and I'm sure all of you, know as the finer point of the Baja Men's discography — the Grammy-winning 2000 track made all the more inescapable by its appearance on the Rugrats in Paris soundtrack — actually boasts a fascinating, decade-spanning history. Organized by The Midnight Society and curator Jac Lahav, the installation by Ben Sisto features, "over 200 CDs, LPs, shirts, toys, and promotional items related to my seven-year investigation into the origins of the WLDTO hook/chorus." Sisto, the self-proclaimed "world's leading expert on the history of 'Who Let The Dogs Out?'" dates elements of the song back to 1959. His collection includes Hit Clips (here is the fossil record of this last-stop-before-iPods) and an issue of The New York Post. If you have failed in all attempts to answer the question that has plagued humanity — who (who? who?) let the dogs out? — a trip to Sisto's institution will set you on the path to enlightenment.

Azikiwe Mohammad, "Aisha" from the series From Here On Out, 2016, C-print. 

Azikiwe Mohammad's explorations of contemporary blackness: Last year, Tribeca-born artist Azikiwe Mohammad made our SPRING/BREAK highlights for Jimmy's Thrift. The multimedia installation transported SPRING/BREAKers to New Davonhaime, a fictional town Mohammad created to imagine new possibilities and futures for the black community. Jimmy's Thrift contained everything from neon art to custom pizza boxes. This year, Mohammad is behind another fair high point, Further Explorations Into Contemporary Blackness: New Work. The installation — set up across a corner of reception desks on the 23rd floor — features a compelling collection of images (some from his beautiful From Here on Out series) and objects like nameplate necklaces, Crown Royale purple velvet pouches, neon saxophone signs, airbrushed portrait t-shirts. Mohammad recently shared some of this work with i-D, when we sat down earlier in the year to discuss memes and thrift stores.

Jason Peters, Extrospection, courtesy the artist. 

Jason Peters's mind-melting light worm: Jason Peters's Extrospection is sort of what I imagine the offspring of Yayoi Kusama's pumpkin patch, Dale Chihuly's rivers of glass, and Tim Burton's adaptation of James and the Giant Peach might look like. The artist plays with optics, space, and light by installing a large-scale sculpture in the middle of a completely black room, and manipulating our perception of its volume through expert use of mirrors. Cutting through the expanse of darkness like a warm, glowing outer-space worm, the structure is at once disorienting and playful. "Using light as a gauge for spaciality is our sensory reaction against darkness," Peters explains in a press release, "however when this is manipulated, our whole perception of reality is thrown into disarray."

SPRING/BREAK is on view through March 6, 2017 at 4 Times Square. More information here


Text Emily Manning

jean-michel basquiat
castor gallery
Tamara Santibanez
jason peters
alexis adler
azikiwe mohammad
ben sisto
the museum of who let the dogs out