5 Works at Spring/Break You Can Buy for under $10,000
Azikiwe Mohammed, installation view at SPRING/BREAK Art Show, 2020. Photo by Samuel Morgan Photography. Courtesy of the artist and SPRING/BREAK Art Show.
The Spring/Break Art Show has always been extra. The roving, funky, alternative fair, now in its ninth year, features elaborate performances, wild installations, and booths helmed by artists and curators who are more interested in self-expression than pristine presentations. This year, by selecting the theme “In Excess,” Spring/Break founders Andrew Gori and Ambre Kelly encouraged participants to take their creative pursuits even further.
Over 100 projects follow their dictum to “go for baroque,” exploring maximalism, capitalism, consumerism, overabundance, overindulgence, and more, more, more. The mandate has inspired a booth (curated by Jac Lahav and Eli Bronner) featuring works by over 24 artists about Diet Coke; a garden of Frozen dolls by Solange Mishika Tshibangu, sculpted to look like they’re pregnant; a painting by Anna Berlin of an astronaut copulating with a devil; a sculpture by Colin J. Radcliffe of a masturbating alien; a presentation of new GIF work by Faith Holland titled The Most Beautiful Dick Pics of All Time; and a booth that features a book titled Cock Paper Scissors. Queerness and exuberant color reign here.
Through Sunday, March 9th, floors 10 and 11 of the straightlaced Upper East Side building at 625 Madison Avenue are a zany creative haven where too much is never enough. Yet in choosing just five treasures from the show that cost under $10,000, we’ve had to exercise the opposite—extreme restraint.
Claudia Bitran, Frenzy (Shower Vomit) (2020), $7,500
Claudia Bitran, Frenzy (shower vomit), 2020. Courtesy of the artist and SPRING/BREAK Art Show.
Painter Claudia Bitran culls viral Vine, Instagram, and YouTube videos from the internet and transforms them into small, lovely paintings. Upon seeing these works in the booth curated by Lauren Powell, I asked Bitran about the source material for one piece I found particularly beautiful (I later learned its title, Frenzy (shower vomit)). “It’s a young man in the shower, very drunk, sitting on a potato chip bag, trying to not throw up, and then he throws up eventually,” she told me. Bitran found grace in this fratty footage. As she painted, she attempted to capture the boy’s movement, creating staggered shadows of his face and shoulder. Under Bitran’s brush, the vomit looks like radiant yellow light issuing from the boy’s mouth: He becomes more prophet than miscreant. The artist noted that she references Futurism, the 20th-century Italian movement concerned with painting progress and speed. “I thought this was a nice little rainbow waterfall,” Bitran said as she looked lovingly at the pink-and-orange figure.
Allen Midgette, Leaf Gown II (2020), $5,000
Allen Midgette, installation view of Leaf Gown II, 2020. Photo by Samuel Morgan Photography. Courtesy of the artist and SPRING/BREAK Art Show.
Back in the nascent days of celebrity culture, Andy Warhol sent Allen Midgette to impersonate him in public. The actor, who appeared in Bernardo Bertolucci’s 1964 film Before the Revolution, donned a white wig and adopted Warhol’s mystique out on college campuses and at events. Soon enough, Midgette tired of the act and skipped town. He worked on a commune, lived among the Hopi tribe, and eventually moved to Woodstock, explained actress Jicky Schnee. These experiences inspired a new craft practice: Midgette began making delicate leather dresses and capes that resemble sewn-together batches of leaves. Schnee recently filmed the living legend at home. The video, created with Joe Cohen and titled Warhol; Midgette, Dandelion (2020, $2,200), plays in the booth curated by Anthony Haden-Guest, showing the white-haired Midgette, smoking and sitting in front of a cloudy blue backdrop. “He turned his home environment into a living diorama,” said Schnee.
Takashi Horisaki, #Instabonsai C (2017), $2,400
Takashi Horisaki, #Instabonsai C, 2016 © Takashi Horisaki. Courtesy of the artist and SPRING/BREAK Art Show.
As I write this, Instagram features 1.8 million posts tagged #bonsai. At Nina Horisaki-Christens’s booth, “Neo-Ornamentalist Redux,” artist Takashi Horisaki considers the social media frenzy over an ancient Japanese practice that merged art and the environment. Bonsai requires practitioners to carefully cultivate small trees and thoughtfully position them in attractive containers. For Spring/Break, Horisaki is showing dozens of his own ceramic vessels potted with Instagram-friendly cacti. #Instabonsai C features a mangled mauve ceramic tree sprouting from a thick orange and chartreuse base. The branches support tiny scarlet and seafoam planters.
In the 19th century, an export market developed for bonsai. “It becomes one of the forms associated with Japanese culture,” said Horisaki-Christens, “this way that Japan is presenting itself to the world.” The artist is intrigued by bonsai’s long association with capitalism and cultural exchange. To drive home the point, Horisaki presents a wall of printed images of bonsai from Instagram behind his ceramics.
Nathan Randall Green, PIPIP BUBBLE U (2018), $8,000
Nathan Randall Green, PIPIP BUBBLE U, 2018. Courtesy of the artist and SPRING/BREAK Art Show.
If you’re done with the artspeak and would rather chat about the multiverse, head to Marina Gluckman’s booth, where Nathan Randall Green’s acrylic-and-paper pulp paintings are on view. The artist’s cosmological research inspired his suite of canvases stretched over shaped wood, which look, at first glance, like hard-edged abstractions full of triangles in vivid color palettes. PIPIP BUBBLE U (2018), for example, features brilliant crimsons and salmons at the bottom, gobbling up shades of purple, which rest just beneath rays of teal and cerulean. Look closer, and the composite shapes begin to form different fields of varying depths. Green’s deep layering and sanding create an intricately textured surface that hints at his laborious process. His paintings aim to convey time and space all at once. “There was something that was really exciting to me about trying to imagine something unimaginable,” Green said.
The artist traces his interest in String Theory back to two events: his visit to the McDonald Observatory in Fort Davis, Texas, and the birth of his daughter in 2017. “I was imagining this huge expanse functioning on the same laws as this small being,” he said. “There was something thrilling about trying to visualize the beginning of everything there is.”
Azikiwe Mohammed, Elma’s Cheesecake (2020), $6,600
Azikiwe Mohammed, Elma's Cheesecake, 2020. Courtesy of the artist and SPRING/BREAK Art Show.
Azikiwe Mohammed has creatively reimagined the Subway Lounge, a basement music venue at the Summers Hotel in Jackson, Mississippi. During segregation, the Black-owned-and-operated lodge was one of the few spaces open to Black travelers. Musicians including Nat King Cole and James Brown passed through; it was a magnet for creative talent trying to move safely through the South. In 1966, owner W.J. Summers transformed the lower level into a jazz and blues club, which remained a celebratory space until its destruction in 2004. Speaking of his desire to recreate the legendary lounge, Mohammed said he was hoping to develop the same, very rare “feeling of comfort, safety, and ease” of a home.
Mohammed has centered his booth, curated by Gori and Kelly, with a card table. Four female sculptures sit in wood chairs and play hands of flashing neon cards. Mohammed has an incredible eye and an excellent ear (he DJs with the stage name DJ Black Helmet): The floral rug, the wood panel wallpaper, and a series of art nouveau lamps atop lawn-green fabric generate ambiance, while the artist’s curated selection of records (Makaya McCraven, Sun Ra, Ras G, the Chi-Lites, Watts Prophets) pumps atmosphere into his space. Two paintings—one of a berry-splattered cheesecake and another of an extended hand holding a cigarette—line the walls. Mohammed’s mother makes cheesecake. He described the space as “an extension of your home…which you’re welcome into,” as long as you don’t start a fight, look at his cards, or spill a drink without wiping it up.
Clarification: A previous version of this article misrepresented a quote from Azikiwe Mohammed regarding the intentions for his work. The text has been adjusted to more accurately reflect Mohammed’s statement.