Here Are 9 of the Most Wildly Creative Ways That Artists Transformed an Office Building Into an Art Wonderland for SPRING/BREAK 2020
The fair returns to New York with wild art installations from the likes of Jessica Lichtenstein, Kate Klingbeil and more.
Filling offices, cubicles, and spilling into the hallways of the old Ralph Lauren headquarters in New York, the SPRING/BREAK Art Show did not disappoint in its ninth year with the over-the-top installations for which the fair has become known.
The theme for this year’s fair, as selected by founders and directors Andrew Gori and Ambre Kelly, is “IN EXCESS.” And given the fair’s penchant for elaborate, immersive presentations in unconventional environments, it’s no surprise that artists and curators embraced this brief wholeheartedly.
Here are nine of the most show-stopping installations at this year’s fair.
“Super Future Kid – Two for Me, None for You: A Narrative on Excess and Wishful Thinking”
curated by Mindy Solomon Gallery, Miami, and Ché Morales
Steffi “Super Future Kid” Homa has turned her corner of SPRING/BREAK into a candy-colored fantasy land that guests enter through a giant gingerbread house, built from 300 cookie bricks and expanding polyurethane foam “icing.”
The artist, who conceives of her surreal paintings as sort of emotional self-portraits, created all new work for the occasion, inspired by the medieval poem “The Land of Cockaigne.”
“It’s a meditation on excess and abundance and how this belief in the possibility of abundance can bring hope,” gallerist Mindy Solomon told Artnet News.
The gallery enlisted curator Ché Morales, a SPRING/BREAK veteran known for presenting immersive installations, to help design the booth, which features toadstool beanbag chairs and a bright red bridge over a pink stream. Adding to the feeling of bounty, the floor has been covered with 2,500 pounds of salt, which reads as sugar in Super Future Kid’s candy land paradise. Her paintings are priced between $4,500 and $8,000.
“Jeila Gueramian: Belly of the Beast”
curated by Sidel & McElwreath
At the entrance to the fair’s 10th floor, you can’t miss Jeila Gueramian’s massive crochet installation Belly of the Beast. The piece is a cacophony of pattern and color that opens up to a darkened cave where you can sit in a cozy swing. It’s an opportunity to get away from the stress of the fair, if only for a moment.
“It’s a womb-like space have a meditative experience within this excess,” co-curator Emily McElwreath told Artnet News.
Gueramian went to art school, but only recently returned to making work after starting to raise her children. “I came to this through craft, just making things for my family,” she said. “I decided to merge the two worlds.”
In a commentary on waste, the artist incorporates found textiles into the work, giving fabrics a second life. The work is site-specific, but could be reconfigured to suit any space, should you wish to buy it for a cool $25,000.
“Jen Dwyer: Dreamer’s Delight”
curated by Lauren Hirshfield
Growing up in Oakland, Jen Dwyer saw a lot of ceramic art. “I didn’t realize until I was in my 20s that it was considered a minor art form,” she told Artnet News. Now, her work in the medium looks to shatter gender hierarchies.
Her booth at SPRING/BREAK harkens back to the age of rococo, presenting her ceramics in a beautiful parlor space, table set for an elegant afternoon tea. “During the rococo period, porcelain was called white gold,” said Dwyer, pointing out how well the historical opulence ties into the fair’s theme of excess.
“We wanted to challenge that notion of ceramics as a lower value object,” added curator Lauren Hishfield, who has priced the work at $150–2,000.
Though the space is feminine and beautiful at first blush, a closer inspection reveals quirky, unsettling details, like the disembodied, witchy-looking blue finger on the tarot cards at each place setting, or the sprawling, cartoon-like female nude on the ornate vase centerpiece.
“Kate Klingbeil: Burrowed”
Rachel Frank, Kristen Racaniello, and Jacob Rhodes for Field Projects
Kate Klingbeil’s paintings already leap off the canvas, populated with sculptural elements she makes from molding paste and acrylic paint.
At SPRING/BREAK, she’s extended that approach to the entirety of her booth with a 3-D mural that transports the viewer underground, to the secret world of ants, roots, and small burrowing mammals.
“I was doing this residency and you had to do 12 hours of physical labor,” Klingbeil said of her inspiration. “I was doing a lot of digging in the dirt.”
She sees the underground as an unappreciated wellspring of life. “The female energy is a big part of the work,” Klingbeil added.
The booth was fast on its way to selling out during the fair’s VIP hours, but Klingbeil’s mural, at least, will live on. The artist will reuse the sculpted elements, returning them to her cache until the opportunity arises to incorporate them into another canvas, each painting almost serving as a backdrop for an elaborate choreographed dance.
“I have a large collection that I pull from—it’s constantly evolving,” she explained. “Each work is essentially a collage made out of paint.”
“Jessica Lichtenstein: …Do They Make a Sound?”
curated by Indira Cesarine for the Untitled Space, New York
Jessica Lichtenstein may have the most Instagram-friendly booth at the fair, with pink leaves piled up on the floor against a backdrop of white birch trees with pink foliage reflecting in a serene lake. But look a little closer, and you’ll see there’s a deeper message.
Each leaf in the digitally painted scene is actually a woman’s body, a 3-D model that Lichtenstein has posed in thousands of positions, falling from the trees to the ground below. She was inspired by the old saying “if a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” The question Lichtenstein poses harkens back to the old problem of he-said-she-said—if a man and a woman have an intimate encounter and come away with two different stories about what happened, who do you believe?
On each tree, the artists has written relevant messages, replacing carved initials with quotes about women from pornography, Donald Trump, Harvey Weinstein, and even romantic poetry. “These are the mixed messages we’re sending to each other,” Lichtenstein said.
Though Lichenstein works on a computer, she hand-dyed and cut the mulberry paper “leaves”—also in the shape of female silhouettes—that add an interactive element to the space, which decorates both the walls and floor. Smaller versions of the scene are available for sale in the form of acrylic face mounted prints, priced at $800–3,600.
It’s the artist’s biggest installation to date—she’s done wallpaper before, but “this is the first time I’ve done the whole floor, leaves, a room that I don’t want to leave ever!”
“Ali Shrago-Spechler: Eine Friedliche Industrie”
curated by Tahl Mayer
Ali Shrago-Spechler trained as a painter before moving into sculpture and performance art. Now, cardboard and papier-mâché represents yet another new direction for the artist. “We had moved and there were tons of boxes,” curator Tahl Mayer, Shrago-Spechler’s husband, told Artnet News. “Rather than letting it go to waste, she started to play with it.”
At SPRING/BREAK, the artist has built an entire cardboard environment in which to house her sculptures, creating a maze inside former cubicle spaces. Shrago-Spechler envisions the installation as a period room, imagining what her Jewish family’s home in Karlruhe, Germany, might have looked like before they fled for the US in 1938.
Shrago-Spechler’s grandmother always refused to talk about life in the old country. With this patchwork of cardboard, she’s rediscovering her family’s past, Mayer said. “She’s constructing this using her own memory and through research.”
The works start at just $200—”we honestly struggled with how to price cardboard!” said Mayer.
“Bobby Anspach: Place for Continuous Eye Contact”
curated by BRIC, Brooklyn
Don’t be alarmed by the somewhat clinical feel of Bobby Anspach’s installation Place for Continuous Eye Contact. The interactive artwork requires lying down on a hospital bed to view it, but don’t worry, you won’t be undergoing medical testing. The piece is designed to induce a deep meditative state by gazing into a mirror, staring continuously at your own eye for three and a half minutes. (Yes, you’ll have to wait in line to check it out.)
Anspach first became intrigued by the strange effects of continuous eye contact during an acid trip, and then became aware of Eastern traditions of eye contact meditation. His series of Continuous Eye Contact works—which you may have spotted at SPRING/BREAK’s 2018 edition or at last year’s Portal: Governors Island—seek to heighten the experience with a score commissioned from composer Eluvium, a pulsating light show, and by filling the rest of one’s field of vision with brightly colored pom poms.
The piece, which Anspach estimates features some 4,000 LED lights and 10,000 pom poms, is for sale for $100,000.
Valery Estabrook, “The Impeachmint”
curated by Ambre Kelly and Andrew Gori
SPRING/BREAK veteran Valery Estabrook is serving double duty at this year’s fair, curating a booth by Kat Ryals while presenting her own project “The Impeachmint.” Since 2018, Estabrook has been designing and manufacturing commemorative coins to immortalize the misdeeds of President Donald Trump and his administration.
She was inspired by Trump’s apparent fascination with making his own commemorative coins, which you can buy on the White House gift website (there was even one made for a North Korean peace talk that saw the US walk away from negotiations). “These coins are basically pure propaganda,” Estabrook told Artnet News.
Her concern was that with the current 24/7 news cycle, “every two weeks there’s a new scandal and the last scandal gets buried.” Estabrook wanted to make a “literal, material, factual record of events that can’t be ignored.”
To that end, there is no commentary on the coins, just factual descriptions of actual events, like a coin that lists every single lie told on the job by former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee-Sanders, or another that lists the Trump campaign operatives, including Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, and Jared Kushner, who attended that infamous Trump Tower meeting with Russian operatives looking to undermine Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
You can buy the full set of “Impeachmint “coins for $1,200, or individual ones from $90 to $250.
It was Gori and Kelly’s idea to present the work in an installation format. “I thought the most natural setting would be a collectible shop,” said Estabrook, who designed the store to feel like small town America, dusty and dated. She’s carefully considered every detail—even the video tapes for sale are clues to her feelings about Trump, with titles like Clueless.
“Alonsa Guevara: Alumbrados por la Misma Luna (Lit by the Same Moon)”
curated by Anna Zorina Gallery, New York
Born in Chile and raised in Ecuador, New York-based artist Alonsa Guevara has drawn on childhood memories for her SPRING/BREAK installation, which transforms a drab Midtown office into a moonlit jungle on the edge of the ocean, with palm trees, sand and seashells surrounding her paintings. The artist has covered the windows with black fabric, save for a single cutout that allows the light of the presentation’s titular “moon” to shine through.
“I thought SPRING/BREAK would be about the excess of the contemporary world, but this is the natural excess that I think people should embrace,” said Guevara.
Her paintings range from $1,500 to $22,000, topping out with a large-scale self portrait. But Guevara wants her figures, seen in the darkness under moonlight, to read as universal. “There’s more of a tribal feeling, and they all blend with nature world,” she explained. “It means we’re all the same, in the end.”
The SPRING/BREAK Art Show NYC will be on view at 625 Madison Avenue, New York, March 4–9, 2020.
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