DAVID COHEN, Editor           
       March 2005  



Doors and Floors, War and More: Reflections on The Armory Show 05"
The International Fair of New York
Piers 90 and 92
March 10-14, 2005

By Joan Boykoff Baron and Reuben M. Baron


Post-Modernism, with its focus on figuration, narrative, social commentary, humor and the general impurity of style was no doubt the most well-represented category in the show.

Tracy Emin And that's how I feel 2005
appliqué; 72-13/16 x 60-5/8 inches
Photo credit: Stephen White
Courtesy Jay Jopling/White Cube, London

One major thrust within this category was a strong political critique.  The most powerful two-dimensional work was the tattered appliquéd American flag, “And that’s how I feel” by Tracy Emin (Jay Jopling/White Cube, London).   The blood and bandages that our stars and stripes were originally meant to represent were eminently clear in this work which had painted across it, “Blood, Blood, and and More Blood”.  For anyone looking to art as an escape from the real world, at least for this moment, the escape hatches were closed.

Allison Smith Armory
2005 (detail)
mixed media with wooden rifles
Courtesy Bellweather Gallery

Also on the subject of war and guns, was an anti-war  “Armory” within the Armory Show by Allison Smith (Bellweather Gallery, NYC).  Attired in full Civil War military garb, Smith calls attention to her 100 hand-made individual wooden rifles patterned after guns of that period.  These were available individually for purchase by people who would be recruited to question what they are fighting for in today’s world, be it the arts, or perhaps metaphorically, Iraq.

Joseph Beuys Horn 1961-69
bronze, plastic hose, filled with red pigment and water
approximately 55 x 12 x 6 inches
casted in 1969 at Neusser Kunst-und Bronce- Giesserei
with a photo certificate, signed, dated and titled: "Diese Arbeit "Horn" von
1959 Bronze
mit Schläuchen + rote Farbe ist von mir als Abguss 1969 gemacht worden
Joseph Beuys"
Courtesy Galerie Schmela, Dusseldorf

Joseph Beuys’ (Galerie Schmela, Dusseldorf) work alternatively deals with the world of politics and the world of art.  It was a rare treat to see his work from the sixties at this art fair.  Three powerful sculptures included his famous multiple of “Sled”, and two lesser known works leaning against a wall, one pelvis-shaped and the other, “Horn” made of bronze and plastic hose filled with red pigment and water, and suggestive of blood. 

Mark Dion Threshold
mixed media, 3 panels, door; 107 x 107 inches

Courtesy Georg Kargl, Vienna

By some strange coincidence, in addition to Ivan Navarro’s doorway of light, there were replicas of two famous doors at the show.  Mark Dion’s “Threshold’  (Georg Kargl, Vienna, Austria—see photo) showed the interior door to Sigmund Freud’s office with Rorschach inkblot-patterned flocking on the wallpaper surrounding the door.  Christian Marclay’s “210 W. 14th Street” (James Cohan Gallery, NYC) reproduced the exterior door of Marcel Duchamp’s Chelsea abode.  There is little doubt that both Freud and Duchamp would have had a field day at this show.

Linda Bessemer Black Multibulge Sheet #10 2005
acrylic; 44 x 60 inches
Courtesy Angles Gallery, Santa Monica, CA

Perhaps the most varied manifestations of the Post-Modern strategy were on display at Angles Gallery, Santa Monica, CA.   Linda Besemer and Tom LaDuke produce social commentary with a lighter touch.  Each, in a very different way, produces work of exceptional subtlety that are feasts for the eye as well as the mind.  Linda Besemer’s “Black MultiBulge Sheet 10” offers a postmodernist twist in creating patterned optically scintillating color fields, some of which bulge in the center, à la Vasarely.  These paintings which are made from acrylic paint alone, with no support of any kind, are simultaneously self-referential and reference a feminist sensibility.

Tom LaDuke Knell 2005
military enamel on aluminum; 14 x 20 inches
Courtesy Angles Gallery, Santa Monica, CA

LaDuke paints in what might be described as the L.A. reincarnation of the New England Luminists.  Like his predecessors, much of LaDuke’s work focuses on light and sky.  Only in the L.A. context, this leads him to celebrate the poisonous beauty of the smog and industrial sprawl.  This can be seen in “Knell” where the white-gray sky ispunctuated by a flag pole and a bright beam of light. 

Carlos Garaicoa Untitled (The Marvel)
diptych: black and white photographs and drawings with thread
47-1/4 x 59 inches
Courtesy Galleria Continua, San Gimignano, Italy

It is photography, however, that provides the most powerful postmodern statement as we are forced to confront dystopias of contemporary urban life.  Carlos Garaicoa’s black and white photographs cause us to reflect on the unfulfilled promises of urban design.  These works, like “Untitled, (The Marvel)” utilize orange thread drawings to complete unfinished or demolished buildings which are paired with the same settings at an earlier point in time.  

Alain Bublex V2 Circulaire secteur C18 » (Plan Voisin / Ivry) 2004
C-print and diasec; 65 x 65 inches
Courtesy Gallerie Georges-Phillipe & Nathalie Valloise, Paris

Alain Bublex’s digitally manipulated photograph, “V2 Circulaire Secteur C18 (Plan Voisin / Ivry)”  at (Gallerie Georges-Phillipe & Nathalie Vallois, Paris, France), is a depiction of a never-realized Le Corbusier plan to move all commercial activity, including what appears to be an active sex trade, to the periphery of Paris.  What results is a neon urban peep show at once garishly beautiful and repelling.

Icons of Minimalism

Majestically present, and providing anchors for the current art scene, were several icons of minimalism — Donald Judd’s late enameled aluminum sculptures (D’Amelio Terres, NYC), Judd’s Menzicken box and Dan Flavin’s light sculpture (both at Paul Kasmin Gallery, NYC), and Fred Sandback’s multi-colored string corner-piece and Sol Lewitt’s very early and rare baked enamel on steel construction (both at Rhona Hoffman, Chicago, IL). 

Frank Thiel Stadt 2/36B
( Berlin )
C-print photograph; 93-3/5 x 69-2/5 or 48-4/5 x 36-7/10 inches
edition: each format 4
Courtesy Gallery Krinzinger, Vienna

Frank Thiel’s  arresting C-print photograph“ Stadt 2/36B” (Berlin) at (Gallery Krinzinger, Vienna) of the inside of a building with its massive criss-crossing pipes has the kind of power of sculptures by Mark Di Suvero and Richard Serra.  Thiel shows just how much strength and scale a photograph can muster through the use of geometry and perspective.

High Modernism

Callum Innes Exposed Painting Lamp Black 2004
oil on canvas; 48-1/5 x 46-1/4 inches
Courtesy Frith Street Gallery

Also present were several very satisfying examples of the purity of High Modernism as exemplified by several beautifully wrought reductive paintings that fit into the “art for art’s sake” paradigm.  Among our favorite examples was a group of paintings at Peter Blum Gallery, NY.  These included geometric abstractions by Susan Frecon and reductive, virtually monochromatic paintings by Joseph Marioni and Rudolph DeCrignis.   There were several excellent examples of Callum Innes’ paintings at Sean Kelly Gallery, NY and Frith Street Gallery, London, who exhibited “Exposed Painting Lamp Black” (see photo); Innes’ elegantly composed images evoke a zen-like meditative reaction as they simultaneously deconstruct and reconstruct the act of painting.


By and large, the selection committee did a fine job of bringing to the Show galleries representing many established artists familiar to New York audiences as well as those who are just launching their careers or who have only been seen outside of New York.  The show was solid—not a knock-out by any means—but surely a place to both catch up with what’s been happening and perhaps even get a glimpse of what’s about to happen.

JOAN BOYKOFF BARON and REUBEN M. BARON, independent curators, have written reviews for artcritical.com and two essays, “Simply Complex: Monochrome Paintings from L.A.” and Film Revival: Reinvigorating Abstraction in Painting and Drawing” for their curated exhibitions at the Dorsky Gallery.  Their forthcoming curated show, Extreme Color: Stressed Plastic and Polarized Light” at the Martucci Gallery at the Irvington New York Public Library, May 4-28, 2005, features the cameraless photography of Carol Pfeffer.  JOAN is an educational evaluation specialist who has directed a statewide assessment of art and music for the Connecticut State Department of Education and assisted other states and private foundations in developing arts assessments.   REUBEN, Professor Emeritus and Research Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Connecticut, has written extensively in a range of psychology journals on the differences between perceptual and conceptual modes of knowing. 


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