The Stories Behind 5 of The Armory Show’s Largest Artworks
It’s hard to miss The Armory Show’s new Platform section of large-scale artworks and installations. Enter the fair on Pier 92 and you’ll walk straight into Abigail DeVille’s Sarcophagus Blue (2017), a worn, wooden boat overflowing with mannequin legs in ripped tights. Kick the day off on Pier 94 and you’ll see Sebastian Errazuriz’s The awareness of uncertainty (2017), an upright piano hoisted high in the air. These are just two of the 13 Platform works sprinkled across the two piers.
Platform was curated by Eric Shiner, Sotheby’s senior vice president of contemporary art, who took it as an opportunity to reinvigorate the fair experience. “I wanted to break the monotony of the art fair,” Shiner said on opening day. “I wanted to create a few moments of surprise, respite, and energy, just to let people take a pause for as long as they can.” Here are the stories behind five of the highlights.
Yayoi Kusama, Guidepost to the New World, 2016
Envisioned as a sculpture park (hence the green astroturf), Guidepost to the New World is comprised of 11 cast aluminum, red-and-white spotted phallic forms that are emblematic of Kusama’s practice.
One of the first artists Shiner and Armory Show director Benjamin Genocchio thought of for the section, Kusama quickly agreed to be included and faxed over a sketch of her idea on a napkin. Occupying the fair’s newly christened Town Square, the piece is poised for selfie ops and rest stops alike. “I view it as the public agora, or greeting place, of the fair,” said Shiner. “It’s so big and welcoming.”
Iván Navarro, Chant, 2016–17
Known for his mirrored, neon sculptures that create the illusion of an infinite tunnel, Navarro set out in a new direction with this work, inspired to find a new way to visually represent sound. With Chant, the artist said he wanted “to capture what’s in the air, in a metaphorical way.” To achieve this goal, he’s mounted tiny microphones to the tops of two large wooden boxes, which are covered with a grid of mirrors. As the noise level in the pier increases, the soundwaves activate lights in the boxes, which in turn reflect off the mirrored panes, alighting one by one from the bottom row, and revealing words like “beat” or “crack.”
“The microphones capture ambient sound, and the words represent that sound,” he said. You might draw some stares, but it’s worth clapping loudly in front of the work to see all the panes light up. Navarro said the art world can expect more of this type of work from him in the future: “This is just the beginning.”
Fiete Stolte, Eye, 2017
Stolte’s contribution to Platform provides one of the most accessibly priced art-buying opportunities at The Armory Show. For $100 viewers can take home a passport-sized “self-portrait” that captures their silhouette within an image of their eye. The artist has mounted the installation once before—at abc (art berlin contemporary) in 2014.
“I came up with the idea when I saw reflections in the eyes of my wife,” said Stolte. He chose the small-scale prints due to their inherently intimate feel. “You look into your own eye at that moment, you press the button yourself, so it’s very personal,” he explained. The photographs are printed out on the spot and come in a small folder, which Stolte said “you can give to your friend or put in your pocket—it’s a memory.”
Patricia Cronin, Tack Room, 1997–98
Cronin’s contribution to Platform is her own take on the tack rooms found in horse stables; the installation is lined with bridles and saddles, paintings, and accessories, some more sexually suggestive than others. “You smell leather, wood, a few bales of hay; you see the riding crops, whips, chaps—it’s all there, and your mind’s eye will just fill in the rest,” Cronin said with a laugh.
In 1997, the artist’s wife was teaching at Maine’s Skowhegan School. While there, Cronin took up horseback riding and began painting portraits of the animals. “I wanted to be a successful artist so I could buy a horse, and I’m trying to relive an adolescence I never had,” she added. Cronin later purchased saddles and other equestrian accoutrements for still lifes, but felt drawn to the objects themselves—which led to her creation of Tack Room in the Skowhegan woodshop.
The work was first shown at White Columns in 1998, and has been featured in two more exhibitions since. However, it never sold, despite strong reviews. Now those reviews are framed and included in the installation at The Armory Show. Shiner said it’s the work he’s most proud to show, especially given its powerful female energy in the present political climate.
Abel Barroso, Emigrant’s Pinball, 2012
Barroso’s timely installation is composed of seven wooden pinball machines and sits tucked away on the mezzanine of Pier 92. Each pinball machine is almost dioramic, filled with drawings, text, and sculptural elements that playfully illustrate the emigration process. Visitors can push the machines’ levers to experience the process figuratively.
“You have to go through each of the pinballs to migrate, to get accepted in a country,” said Fernanda Torcida of the work. It was previously shown at Torcida’s Pan American Art Projects in Miami as well as in the artist’s solo show at the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes in his home city of Havana.