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The Armory Show, hosted at Piers 90 and 94, NYC, from 4-8 March 2020, has established itself as a leading cultural destination for discovering and collecting the world’s most significant 20th and 21st-century art. The art fair features presentations by leading international galleries, innovative artist commissions, and dynamic public programmes. Since its founding in 1994, The Armory Show has served as a nexus for the art world, inspiring dialogue, discovery, and patronage in the visual arts. It was founded by four New York gallerists – Colin de Land, Pat Hearn, Matthew Marks and Paul Morris – who sought a platform to present and promote new voices in the visual arts. Alongside the main event, a number of curated sections have joined the roster over the years. Something Curated takes a closer look at this year’s unmissable presentations, getting further insight from the various sections’ curators.

A number of exciting exhibits are presented under the Focus umbrella, entitled Another time, another place this year, and curated by Jamillah James of the Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. James tells: “Art, at its very core, is a fiction in the service of some truth. Photography, painting, and sculpture often share the commonality of being a representation, a simulation of something beyond itself. Light, gesture, and ideas can become material, a testament to art and artists’ ability to take something, however unremarkable or ordinary, and transform it into something extraordinary—and at times life changing. The 2020 Focus section will consider artists’ relationships with truth as a received form of knowledge.”

Mexican gallery CURRO presents Alejandro Almanza Pereda, who reinterprets his series Horror vacui within the context of The Armory Show. In this series, he submerges idyllic landscape paintings in concrete casts. The installation reflects on the interdependence between art and architecture, as well as on the fragility and violence between humans or human-made objects and the natural environment. Elsewhere in the Focus section, Anna Zorina Gallery presents large-scale works by Dominic Chambers, exploring the artist’s relationship with the social construct of the veil as articulated by noted sociologist W.E.B. Dubois. Chambers’ fascination with presence and absence and the performance of masculinity is depicted in his subtle concealment of the figure and landscape in his works.

James expands, “Each participating artist constructs or choreographs a version of history, reality, or self where the boundaries of fact and fiction are indistinct. While the motivations, approaches, and results may be distinct, these inquiries invite viewers to examine their own preconceptions and expectations. Taken as a whole, Another time, another place is an open-ended proposition that asks how history functions when the present is constantly accelerating, and how much agency individuals or communities have in narrating their experiences and making new worlds.”

Perspectives is a newly introduced section dedicated to historical artworks viewed through a contemporary lens. For its inaugural edition, Perspectives will bring together a range of projects that evoke the spirit of The Armory Show’s early years, when exhibitors offered daring, gritty, even whimsical presentations. Art from the past can in many ways be understood as a catalyst for art of the present. Curator Nora Burnett Abrams explains, “Past as Present aims to generate new dialogues across generations and movements, both within each presentation and amongst the collection of presentations on view, ultimately offering new perspectives on the continuum of art history. Leading contemporary artists will be presented alongside influential historical figures, and lesser-known artists will be given a platform for rediscovery. Offering an unusual and unexpected look into the past, Perspectives will function as a nexus from which the many currents of thought represented elsewhere in the fair radiate.”

Showcased within the Platform section, titled Brutal Truths, gallery Morán Morán present British artist Charlie Billingham’s new installation, comprised of stencilled wall paintings with several figurative paintings hung on top. In the tradition of William Hogarth and other great British satirists, Billingham’s work recalls satirical prints of the late 18th and early 19th-century that skewered patrician society and corrupt politicians. Dressed in the coattails, breeches, and bonnets of an earlier era, Billingham’s figures are often crowded together or literally piled on top of one another in scenes of public unrest or upheaval. One painting portrays a congested group of spectators, their corpulent pink fleshy faces jeering at an unknown subject. Another portrays a large man carrying several bodies out of a crowded room, as if taking out the trash.

Platform curator Anne Ellegood says, “This year’s Platform projects consider how the provocative and potent genres of satire, caricature, and the grotesque have endured through time—and are being taken up by contemporary artists as sharp tools of social critique. At a global moment of heightened political partisanship and corruption, mounting threats to basic human rights, and frequent environmental calamities, artists’ keen observations and sharp wit serve to illuminate the perils of these issues and to encourage civic engagement. Brutal Truths underscores the need for artists to be able to interpret recent cultural and political events in their work freely and unfettered, argues for art as a catalyst for public discourse, and offers viewpoints that utilize humor, exaggeration, and the outlandish to emphasize the urgency of the issues they highlight, while simultaneously imparting a dose of levity. For centuries, artists have acted as incisive social critics, and there seems to be no better time to call attention to contemporary artists who draw upon these traditions with fresh insight and formal ingenuity.”

Feature image: Nathalie Djurberg & Hans Berg, This is Heaven, 2019. Presented by Tanya Bonakdar Gallery as one of the seven Platform projects this year. Image courtesy of the artist and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery.

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