So the unspoken dirty little secret that separates those on the outside from those on the inside is the odd fact that the Armory Show is not at the Armory, and the show that is at the Armory concurrently to the Armory Show, is The Art Show. Not just an art show, but The Art Show, run by the Art Dealers Association of America (ADAA). It is the 50th Anniversary of the ADAA show, at the Armory, but it is the 100th Anniversary of the Armory Show. At the Pier. Those poor unlucky Sneetches who confuse the two are forced to remove their stars (look it up). So having hung at the Pier for Day 1, I toured 67th Street Armory on Day 2 of Armory Week, which really refers to the show at the pier…..Nevermind.
The Armory is always a pleasant place to view art. The cavernous interior lends itself well to shows, and it never seems to be crowded, but there is no food and no parking. This year’s show was an interesting mix of modern and contemporary, not to mention some bizarre sculptural exhibits. My new all-time favorite art show quirk piece is now the tattooed pig (Really. You should click on this.) by conceptual artist Wim Delvoye at Sperone Westwater. I was told that the artist tattoos the pigs when they are young and the tattoos grow along with the pig. I was both impressed with the artist’s patience and a bit put off by his treatment of piglets. Fortunately PETA was nowhere in attendance.
From the ridiculous to the sublime, in third place for pick of the day was an installation at Chaim and Reed by Greek installation, performance and everything else artist Yannis Kounellis. The work was basically a wall of bricks, metal and crushed strollers that blocked up the entire entrance to the gallery’s booth. I cannot truthfully say that I understood what he was trying to do, but I am big on contrast, and the contrast between the solidity and smoothness of the metal center and the fragile complexity of the strollers on the outside, not to mention the poor gallery person who had to sit on a little chair outside since she had no real booth, set the work apart from everything around it.
Runner up for pick of the day was an incredible 1955 abstraction, Paisage de Papantla by underrated Mexican artist Gunther Gerzso at Mary-Anne Martin. Gerzso’s brand of Mexican abstraction incorporates the muted tones, the earthy forms and the subject matter of his Latin American contemporaries into an abstract style that is unmistakably his own. The work was particularly meaningful to me as I had the opportunity to purchase a work of similar caliber 10 years ago at the same gallery for one 10th of the price that this one was selling for today. No regrets. That I will admit.
And finally, the work of the day, a 1972 black-and-white geometric painting by Al Held (pictured above) at Manny Silverman. Held’s post abstract expressionist style of sharp edged geometric abstraction takes simple shapes and juxtaposes them in such a way that the overall picture develops a new global character, while the individual elements still stand out on their own. His more colorful works are solid, but it is in the black and whites that I think that dichotomy is realized to its fullest.
Day 3 yet to come.
Michael Levine is a New York-based art collector, a graduate of Duke University and a member of the Nasher Museum’s board of advisors. (Thank you, Mike!)
IMAGE: Al Held, Cumulus III, 1971-72. Acrylic on canvas, 48 x 36 inches.