Art and Innovation—A Look inside the SPRING/BREAK Art Show Collaboration with +POOL

  • From Right to Left: Ambre Kelly, Andrew Gori and Archie Lee Coates IV. Photo courtesy of SPRING/BREAK Art Show and PlayLab

    From Right to Left: Ambre Kelly, Andrew Gori and Archie Lee Coates IV. Photo courtesy of SPRING/BREAK Art Show and PlayLab

SPRING/BREAK Art Show is back in full swing (with lines wrapping around the block) for its fifth installment this year. Founded by Andrew Gori and Ambre Kelly in 2008 as a way to provide an alternative venue for artists and curators to showcase their visions, this year’s iteration, "⌘COPY⌘PASTE", features over 100 curators and 800 artists exploring ideas of ownership, appropriation, privacy and reproduction in this post-Internet age. Staying true to the theme, Ambre and Andrew have collaborated with like-minded accomplice, Archie Lee Coates IV, the artist behind art and design studio PlayLab, and Co-Founder +POOL, an initiative that seeks to install a water-filtering pool on the East River. +POOL, which is the beneficiary of SPRING/BREAK’s annual benefit auction, is an initiative that could only rise out of the society we find ourselves in, where information travels at the tap of a screen and connections are made in serendipitous fashion. Both the fair and +POOL are projects that have risen out of necessity and a refusal to accept the status quo. On the occasion of this collaboration for SPRING/BREAK Benefit Auction, we sit down with Ambre, Andrew and Archie to find out how this collaboration came about, the visions behind their projects, a few of their favorite artistic interpretations of the theme "⌘COPY⌘PASTE", and what sort of advice they would give to new collectors who have a chance to explore this intriguing show.

Erin KimHow did the partnership between SPRING/BREAK and +POOL come about? What are the commonalities between your values?

Andrew Gori + Ambre Kelly: “SPRING/BREAK Art Show emerged out a simple knee-jerk: the barrage of emerging artists during the financial blight were too numerous and opportunities for them too small. We wanted to get their voices amplified, Recession or not. So the two of us were basically formally and culturally interested bystanders of the underserved 2008 New York City talent pool, thrown into production, press, design, organization and implementation out of necessity. We know Archie and +POOL’s situation was similar - creatives not formally trained to orchestrate a water-filtering community resource in the treacherous East River. A partnership was easily struck through natural alliances, and the mirror image of that outsider grit to get things done with mythological intent was the initial attraction, from our end at least.”

Archie Lee Coates IV: Like SPRING/BREAK, +POOL is also an idea that rose out of necessity. My friends and I created PlayLab, our design firm, so that we could build whatever we wanted to build, and create works that build a world around a simple observation. +POOL came about of the simple observation that New Yorkers can do just about anything they please - except swim in the rivers. Manhattan is surrounded by water but it is just too dirty for us to enjoy it. I lived on the river my entire life - when I moved to NYC, the river just became a strange, oppressive border between cities. This collaboration came about thanks to a serendipitous introduction to Ambre and Andrew through a mutual friend. 

  • Envisioning the world's first water-filtering pool in NYC. Photo courtesy of +POOL

    Envisioning the world's first water-filtering pool in NYC. Photo courtesy of +POOL

EK: SPRING/BREAK is notable for its themes. Last year was Transaction, this year is "⌘COPY⌘PASTE". How do you decide on the themes? How does +POOL fit in?

AG & AK: Our themes are natural distillations of things we're seeing in our culture, the art world, and the artwork of people we know. The dialog around re-appropriation, especially in the context of a rising new media on the high concept, the evolution (or de-evolution) in digital discourse via social media on the low, gave rise to "⌘COPY⌘PASTE".  We were jogging on the Eastern Parkway when it hit us. "TRANSACTION" was about the multiverse of exchange of which currency is only one component, and upon which currency is based.

AC: I feel that if we had launched +POOL 10 years ago, it would not have happened the way it has happened today - precisely because of social media, how fast the Internet moves, and how fast people respond to what you put out there. When we floated the idea to the world, we sent it to a lot of people who would have agency in the discussion, whether you would be swimming in it, building it, permitting the park. In 24 hours, we had about 50,000 hits on the website, the website crashed, and within 2 days we had a call from engineering offices on how to build it. All within 24 hours. Additionally, in the most literal translation of "⌘COPY⌘PASTE", this concept can be applied to just about any major city. 90% of major urban cities have rivers where it is too contaminated because they have become literal dumping grounds for sewage.

EK: Can you highlight your favorite works in the auction that speak to the theme?

AG + AK: They're ALL our favorite somehow--but the first that come to mind: Alfred Steiner's self-made Louis Vuitton's from his show LVDIY are great, his auction Redskins shirt no exception. Genevieve Gaignard combines domestic tchatchkis, romance of bygone female propriety-via-thrift store painting, and a soft core airbrushed Internet siren to create Frisky 2015. Fanny Allie's Man Volcano is also fantastic.

AC: Alfred Steiner’s general body of work is awesome. He does these projects that have super simple ideas, and then he can do them in any scale. Edward Ubiera’s work is also a favorite. On a personal level, it is cool to see him in this collection of work for the benefit auction; we had created these murals together in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Of course, I love the John Richey t-shirts, Jim Jarmusch’s collage with Hillary Clinton on it, and the iconic Maripol selfies. 

EK: What sort of advice would you give to those who are brand new to collecting, and what do you naturally gravitate towards?

AG + AK: Go with your gut. Aesthetic magnetism is visual first. The intellectual, academic, transformative--it starts in your eyes and moves to your stomach. If you like something, you like it. We found the more we learned about the work we liked starting out, and learned how to read it, the more it affirmed what we were drawn to instinctually to begin with. Good visual language pulls from the everyday world--and there's transformative depth and complexity for anyone in that. Not knowing art history or industry makes no difference to this. We started collecting cheap--and relevance to us has very commonly translated to relevance to others.

AC: I am also brand new to collecting. I never thought of myself as a collector until recently. However, I can say that ideas that come in all shapes and sizes are what I gravitate towards. I love works that are funny, simple observations that are executed in an excellent way. It doesn’t have to be crafty. John Baldessari comes to mind, immediately as well as Helmut Smits. Helmut Smits' work is a Dutch artist whose pieces are always seemingly quick observations that took a lot of planning in some way.

Bid on works and contribute to +POOL in the SPRING/BREAK Benefit Auction 2016 exclusively on Artsy