The fifth edition of the “curator-driven” Spring/Break Art Show, which runs through March 7, returned this year to Skylight at Moynihan Station, inside the James A. Farley Post Office on 8th Ave. With a building this old (the post office was built in 1912) and large (it takes up two full city blocks), you might just find some rodents. That was the case yesterday at Spring/Break’s press preview, when a tiny mouse led a guided tour of sorts for a few visitors. “Isn’t this so cute,” one women said as the mouse scampered around a few feet, eventually climbing up a man’s legs. “This is amazing,” the man said, before following the critter into a different room. “Where are we going next, buddy?” he asked.
Instead of focusing on galleries, Spring/Break invites an international list of curators to take over rooms in the show, which this year was sprawled out among three floors and 70 rooms, covering any and all spaces available. Rooms, lobbies, stairwells, bathrooms—they were all filled with art. There was a lot of wood paneling, which reminded me of my elementary school, something I had mixed feelings about.
“This is like Bushwick Open Studios, but with money, in a post office,” the artist Lily Roche said. She was there to see her friend Giovanna Olmos’s work, How To Sell A Digital Painting, a performance in a booth curated by Teriha Yaegashi, Juliette Premmereur, Ella Marder and Lara Pan. Olmos opened with a dry and most likely tongue-in-cheek thank you to Perrier (one of the fair’s sponsors) before starting a 15-minute process-based performance that centered around audience participation and quite a bit of smartphone use. The end result was a selfie taken by three audience members, altered by Olmos on her phone, and then sold back to the original selfie-takers, auction style, for $25.
Guy Richards Smit and Joshua White had made an installation-cum-fake art studio, in a booth curated by Catherine Mahoney dedicated to Smit’s alter-ego, the painter Jonathan Grossmalerman. The installation doubled as a set piece for a sitcom about Grossmalerman that you could sit down and watch on a flatscreen television in the center of the room.
“[Grossmalerman] is German slang for ‘big time artist’ but what it really means is sort of ‘big crappy artist’ in German,” said White, whose credits include work on Seinfeld as well as the legendary Joshua Light Show that accompanied performances at the Fillmore East in the 1960s. The set had previously been built in the boiler room of Pierogi in Williamsburg. Once a week for five weeks, Smit and a cast of friends would film an episode.
“He wanted it to have all the tropes of an ’80s sitcom,” White explained. Although the entire series was filmed “basically in a day and a half,” the meta-sitcom had a polished insanity that wouldn’t be out of place on something like the Adult Swim network. “The artists and the actors are all really good improvisors,” he said. “So it works. It works beautifully.”
As I was talking to the artist Jaimie Warren—who had a series of her self-portrait photographs on view in Adam Parker Smith’s booth—she was getting ready for a performance later that night. “We’re doing Jeff Goldblum in The Fly, it will be like five different costumes where it will show the transition of him from man to fly and we’re all singing this love ballad together,” she told me. “It will be really slimy and disgusting.” Warren had just gotten back from the Material art fair in Mexico City, where she did a similar performance. “There will be lots of ooze,” she continued.
The artist Alanna Vanacore took over Aaron Levi Garvey’s booth, which was adorned with streamers and balloons. “Work” by Rihanna and Drake played out of a small boombox. “This is the party room that goes along with the paintings in the hall,” she explained to me. I told her it looked like a mini-prom. “It kind of looks like a high school dance in here, but it’s more like a birthday party,” she said. She invited fairgoers to write birthday wishes on the balloons.
A birthday party for whom? “For whomever. And we got seven minutes in heaven, so if people want to come in here and make out, you know?” I asked her if she would lock the door. “I wouldn’t close and lock the door but I would definitely ask if I could videotape them,” she clarified. Vanacore was born in the town of Ormond Beach, Florida, not far from the actual Spring Break mecca of Daytona Beach. “I hope people make out,” she said.