the 2019 armory show was a color-drenched dreamscape
i-D highlights 8 artists of note, from Ariana Papademetropoulos' hallucinogenic 70s-inspired interiors to Jamel Shabazz's photographs of 80s Red Hook.
Left: Naudline Pierre, Soft Touch, 2019. Courtesy of Shulamit Nazarian Gallery. Right: Jannis Varelas, Sailor and Leopard, 2019, mixed media on canvas 250x210 cm, Courtesy The Breeder, Athens. Installation view at The Armory Show, 2019, booth #612 Pier 94.
Incredibly, this was the Armory Show’s 25th year. Originally conceived to buoy a stagnant art market, and held at the Gramercy Park Hotel (in the rooms!) it’s now utterly massive, taking over piers 90-94, and crammed with galleries from 33 different countries. The opening was similarly crammed, although I was thrilled to spot Paul Rudd, who has also aged fantastically while not sacrificing any of his artistic appeal. Somehow, wandering the corridors of art world power, the show felt endless. This is despite it having been condensed, due to Pier 92 being structurally unsound (which presented one with visions of people types with thick rimmed spectacles floating in the Hudson) and thus part of the fair being moved to Pier 90.
Catastrophe averted, this year featured a fantastically diverse and thought provoking array of work, from the legendary 60s artist Faith Ringgold’s quilts dedicated to black activists, to Jeffrey Deitch’s presentation of Ai Weiwei’s lego zodiac animals, to The Breeder’s eclectic selection of cutting edge Greek art. And Cameroonian artist Pascale Marthine Thayou’s enormous hanging sculpture made of hundreds of plastic bags served as both convenient meeting point, and beautiful, depressing monument. Below, we present some of i-D’s highlights.
ACA Gallery — Faith Ringgold
Ringgold began her career in the mid 60s, and this incredible retrospective at ACA is rich with work from across her life (on Wednesday, the artist herself was sat in the booth receiving visitors). Her Black Light series, which examines black skin, was given particular prominence (and the eight segment piece looked particularly monumental), alongside activist prints and her quilt work. Ringgold’s quilts are part of the American canon, and these were especially moving and personal: one devoted to self portraits and another showing a trio of black activists.
The Breeder — Assorted Artists
The Breeder is Athens’ most influential gallery, an outsize presence in the ever growing art scene there. Founders George Vamvakidis and Stathis Panagoulis started with a magazine, which obviously we approve of greatly, being once a magazine, and still a magazine. This year, a standout was a large, quite mental work by the brilliant painter Ariana Papademetropoulos, of a color drenched lounge, shown amongst her doughnut shaped paintings of naked ghosts (do they have orgies in the next realm?). Janis Varelas’ Sailor and Leopard seemingly combined photography and painting in a surreal way that made you look twice, and then a third time, while Kyle Vu-Dunn’s nude was weird and monumental. The Breeder makes us want to down tools (or take up tools?) and move to Greece.
Kohn Gallery — Jonathan Lyndon Chase
Kohn Gallery showed two artists in conversation. John Altoon was working in the 60s, and Jonathan Lyndon Chase is very much of today, but both explore the various boundaries of the body through their dynamic work. Altoon’s ink on board drawings, comprised of chaotic zig-zags, sit alongside Lyndon Chase’s color drenched studies of queer black men. Lyndon Chase has spent his life dealing with mental illness, while schizophrenic Altoon lost his at the age of 43. This show crackles with manic energy that’s hard to forget. Evidently, we weren’t the only ones thusly moved — four of Lyndon Chase's paintings in the booth have been acquired by major US institutions, including Dawn Embrace (2019) going to The Walker Art Center.
Anat Ebgi — Jay Stuckey
“GET MY SHIT TOGETHER NOW” read a scrawling on one of LA artist Jay Stuckey’s cartoonish works, which document people with very big teeth going about their lives. Some look thoroughly pissed off, probably because they’re stuck in LA traffic, some wear snake suits, while others drink themselves senseless on a boat or fly about in capes, smoke spewing from their catsuits. Stuckey’s characters lay the human condition bare, or at least the condition of their teeth. We’d like one of his cactus people to take home.
Galerie Bene Taschen — Jamel Shabazz
When photographer Jamel Shabazz, who grew up in Red Hook, gave us his ‘tips for surviving the subway,’ chief among them was to “Stay in your lane.” Shabazz’s glorious show at Galerie Bene Taschen does the opposite of this, his life affirming imagery rising to the top of the photography on show this year. One of our favorites, “Trio,” is a masterclass in both composition, and style — whatever you think about fashion, evidently it’s been getting worse since this gorgeous 1980 harmony in maroon. Shabazz's work is a tribute to the people of Brooklyn.
Rosenfeld Porcini — Ndidi Emefiele
Ndidi Emefiele’s scenes of Nigerian women at home are glorious in both their domesticity and glamor, replete with CDs serving as sunglasses. The artist’s wildly colorful paintings encompass collage, textiles, and traditional materials to give a unique viewpoint on her homeland and the women born of it, who she depicts with oversize heads. “My glasses protect women,” Emefiele told the BBC in 2016. “It’s my strategy to give them protection.”
Shulamit Nazarian — Naudline Pierre
Naudline Pierre’s fantastical paintings serve as a window into another world — one populated by angels and demons, gallivanting in neon pink and gold. Pierre’s father is minister of a church in Miami’s Little Haiti, and the world Pierre creates is informed by her early experiences with the more colorful aspects of the church — the casting out of demons, for instance. “In the work, I’m creating my personal mythology and exploring these themes in this imagined world that I’ve put together,” the artist told Gallery Gurls. Pierre is based in Brooklyn, where she paints her increasingly otherworldly self-portraits in oils.
Galerie Tanja Wagner — Grit Richter
Grit Richter’s psychedelic neon paintings were visible from across the room. Presented as an installation, with the works arrayed across the floor and walls, Richter’s work combines painting, sculpture, and “space-consuming drapery.” Richter’s work is a mixture of landscape and abstraction, bright colors and inky blackness, as if her work was levitating up from the void. The artist was one of many to explore the inner space, this year, as if there was a collective withdrawal from the external world. Who can blame them? If our only refuge is in the surreal, the strange, and the otherworldly, then so be it. So often, art fairs are a jostling reminder of the world outside. This year, the Armory Show proved welcome relief.