Here are some stand-outs from this past weekend's Armory fair week, seen in a New York minute
Douglas Coupland, From his Deep Face series, 2016, Acrylic on archival pigment print
This year marked the 22nd annual edition of the world-renowned Armory Show, the fair at the center of Armory Week, a constellation of fairs that pop up in the busy first week of March spawning countless related parties, performances, and VIP tours of the fairs and private collections. Here is a rundown of the highlights from the Armory Fair along with some other satellite favorites.
205 exhibitors displayed their works of art across Piers 92 and 94 on the far west side of the city, with a focus on African art in both the modern section and the main attraction, the contemporary pier. Yielding to that theme was a piece by Yinka Shonibare MBE. Working in painting, sculpture, photography, film and performance, Shonibare's work examines race, class and the construction of cultural identity through sharp political commentary of the tangled interrelationship between Africa and Europe and their respective economic and political histories.
Yinka Shonibare MBE, Girl on Flying Machine, 2008, Mannequin, Dutch wax printed cotton, steel, rubber and aluminum
London gallery Tiwani Contemporary, which works with established and emerging artists from Africa and the Diaspora, was selected for the special Armory Focus section. The gallery presented a solo exhibition of works by Francisco Vidal. His drawings, sculptures, and installations are marked by a visual lexicon that builds on Cubist portraits by Pablo Picasso, ethnographic photography, and African fabrics, as well as the bold, calligraphic lines of graffiti and street art. Vidal's large-scale portraits are composed of layered sheets of paper, highlighting their status as both objects and paintings, and evoking an architectural physicality. Great jam music was playing in this booth to complete the environment.
Francisco Vidal, Black Fire, New Spirits No. 2, 2015
An enormous new diptych by Njideka Akunyili Crosby was a showstopper. This Nigerian-born LA-based painter often includes images of family members, people at weddings, celebrities on the red carpet and other figures in her collaged works, made up of multiple Xerox transfers taken from photographs and magazines. This piece was acquired by an undisclosed museum.
Njideka Akunyili Crosby, To be determined, 2016, Mixed media
We loved this recently executed bronze sculpture by Kehinde Wiley, his first sculpture of women. The women are bound together by their hair, allowing Wiley to look at the presence of black women, the women who raised him, and the ways in which black American women adorn themselves as both a type of communication act and of armor.
Kehinde Wiley, Bound, 2015
Abdoulaye Konaté was born in Diré, Mali, in 1953 and lives and works in Bamako, Mali. His work primarily takes the form of textile-based installations which explore socio-political and environmental issues, as well as showcasing his aesthetic concerns and formal language. The artist questions the way in which societies and individuals, both in Mali and beyond, have been affected by factors such as war, the struggle for power, religion, ecological shifts and the AIDS epidemic. Employing material native to Mali, namely woven and dyed cloths which are sewn together, the artist creates large-scale abstract and figurative compositions. Konaté refers to the West-African tradition of using textiles as a means of commemoration and communication, balancing global political and social reflections with a reference to his own local and cultural history.
Abdoulaye Konate, Composition en rouge (orange, vert et jaune citron), 2015, textile
Represented both at the Pier and uptown at the ADAA fair, Nathaniel Mary Quinn was a big hit. Inspired by a difficult upbringing spent in an impoverished public housing project in Chicago, Quinn makes mixed-media drawings and paintings of collaged and fragmented figures, through which he demonstrates that we are all the sum of our experiences. In his words, "I hope to convey a sense of how our experiences, both good and bad, operate to construct our identities. I also want to portray a mutual relationship between the acceptable and the unacceptable, the grotesque and what is aesthetically pleasing." Formed from a mixture of family photographs, images from articles and advertisements, and his own brushstrokes and charcoal marks, the men and women who populate his compositions appear as hybrids, both monstrous and delicate. For Quinn, they are portraits of his fractured family, and images of our multi-faceted selves. This was the first time his work had been shown in New York.
Nathaniel Mary Quinn, First and Fifteenth, 2016, Black charcoal, gouache, soft pastel, oil pastel on Coventry Vellum paper
Also seen uptown at the ADAA fair was Simone Leigh, an American artist born to Jamaican parents. She makes mixed media-sculptures and installations, as well as videos, through which she expresses the beauty and complexity of her own identity as an African-American woman, describing her work as auto-ethnographic. Clay, in the form of terra cotta and porcelain, is her primary medium. Schooled in West African and Native American ceramic traditions, she crafts vessels, female busts, and sculptural forms composed of items that have served as stand-ins for stereotyping the black body. Leigh's forms dare viewers to confront and move beyond black stereotypes.
Simone Leigh, From her Anatomy of Architecture series, 2016, Terracotta, porcelain, india ink, epoxy
Catherine Murphy's depiction of interior spaces also caught our eye. Her interest in decoding reality and realizing abstract ideas through the exploration of everyday objects and situations has been a career-long interest. Murphy often sets up specifically-defined formal situations that play with our sense of surface and depth, teaching us to see the under-examined aspects of our daily surroundings in startling ways. In her paintings of domestic spaces, Murphy draws upon the imprint of the humans that inhabit them but she inverts expectations and blurs boundaries in such a way as to challenge the viewer's assumptions about the places she represents and the people who live their lives in them.
Catherine Murphy, Floribunda, 2015, oil on canvas
Downtown at the Independent Art Fair, we were intrigued by Donna Huanca's works. Her immersive sculptures, installations, and paintings are uniquely done a la Yves Klein. Huanca incorporates live models into her pieces, painting them and then inviting them to improvise and interact with her sculptures and canvases.
Donna Huanca, Untitled, 2016
Ninety-three year old artist, WWII veteran and educator, Robert Barber had a retrospective at the MOCA Tucson last year. His series of "Freeway Paintings" are bright, geometric canvases harking back to Frank Stella and Ellsworth Kelly. Inspired by highway underpasses and overpasses observed during a family trip to San Francisco, Robert Barber began this series in 1970. He used these banal, yet monumental constructions, as the basis for small-scaled geometric abstractions, incorporating bold colors in elemental, constructivist verticals, horizontals and diagonals. Their depth and dimension are inspiring and refreshing.
Robert Barber, Untitled (Freeway Painting), 1973-74, Acrylic on canvas