SPRING/BREAK Offers a Breath of Fresh Air for Weary Fairgoers
Yesterday, the curator-driven SPRING/BREAK Art Show, now in its fourth year, opened with surprises in store. Compared to the conga line of international art fairs that can feel repetitive and rote, SPRING/BREAK’s spontaneous energy was refreshing, leading this reporter to spend five (largely enjoyable) hours perusing around 80 exhibitions and performances organized by some 90 curators.
Founders Andrew Gori and Ambre Kelly selected this year’s participants based on the theme of transaction. The word alludes to many concepts—like currency, exchange, collaboration, and transformation—and all definitions are explored in the storied Farley Post Office building (soon to be Moynihan Station) that houses SPRING/BREAK for the first time this year. One specific interpretation, however, set the tone for a day of candid and unexpected experiences. During an afternoon gathering in the cavernous stairwell that connects the fair’s two floors, Kelly emerged in a white dress and walked through the crowd toward Gori. As it turns out, Kelly and Gori are in love and were married right there, on the spot. The founders had just set their project in motion with a mischievous, moving, and legally legitimate transaction.
From there, an expansive range of art—static, performative, experiential, contemporary, and historical—unfolded. Featuring some 400 artists, projects range from playful to serious, transportive to grounded, and fresh to overly familiar. They are discovered by traveling down long hallways and entering rooms that differ in size and color. Some presentations are tucked into hidden vaults, others integrated into spaces labeled “Consumer Affairs Office,” covered with checkered linoleum floors, or bordered by windows that are much-appreciated by weathered fairgoers used to a steady stream of cubicle booths. In short, the five-hour experience felt like a walk through a life-size cabinet of curiosities—one focused on art and accented with an idiosyncratic setting, mellow crowd, and great snacks (popcorn, espresso, oysters).
The first room entered also happened to be a favorite. The curator, Sam Parker, perched in an installation of surreal, inventive objects that are debuting at SPRING/BREAK. They included a floating umbrella made of palm fronds (Palmbrella (1981)) and a clear vinyl chair stuffed with freeze dried foliage (Chariarium (1981/2015)). Both are by Philip Garner, a conceptual artist known for his 1982 catalogue of aspirational lifestyle products, Philip Garner’s Better Living Catalogue. In the mid-1980s, Garner transitioned from Philip to Pippa and several more recent works by Pippa are also on view. Intrigued parties take note: Pippa is rumored to be joining Parker in the booth for the remainder of the fair.
In another historical project edged with the excitement of discovery, career-scientist Alexis Adler shows (for the first time publicly) photos of Jean-Michel Basquiat and the small, wonderful works on paper he gifted her while they were roommates on 12th Street in the late 1970s. Film equipment decorated the two rooms and nodded to a documentary being made about the outing of Adler’s archive and rare Basquiat collection. If you talk with Adler, who is installed in the space answering questions, be ready to sign a waiver.
In “Paradise Café,” an installation organized by Exhibition A’s Olivia Smith, artists lounged on lawn chairs as Smith flipped through a very large, limited-edition book of silkscreens by Matthew Chambers. She talked about the last-minute nature of her participation. (The room housing Paradise Café was only discovered about a week ago, unlocked by a man very good at wedging credit cards into tight spaces.) She also mentioned an exciting series of performances, by Rachel Lord, Kadar Brock, Brad Phillips, Kyle Clairmont Jacques, Harry Gould Harvey IV, and Ted Gahl & Gregory Kalliche, happening throughout the week.
The most talked about project at the fair, Dustin Yellin’s immersive five-room installation, also centered on a creative approach to currency. Through spaces resembling messy offices straight from Twin Peaks hung abstract 2D works made from shredded greenback ($10,000 worth, gifted by an anonymous donor). These pieces, like all the works at SPRING/BREAK, are for sale and available online. The price tag for each? $10,000, with all proceeds going towards art scholarships.
Over a nightcap at the bar, a man attempted to buy a beer with so-called emotional currency made by artist JaZoN Frings, which resembles a euro bill. It didn’t work, but the act certainly fit the theme.