Spring/Break Art Show opens this week and, like always, it is a fair in the truest sense of the word: a maze of visual excess which promises to immerse, astound, and confound.
Founded in 2012 by Andrew Gori and Ambre Kelly, Spring/Break first occupied St. Patrick’s Old School in Soho and has moved around various New York landmarks since. For its 2022 edition, 120 exhibitors are sprawled over two floors at 625 Madison.
The New York edition usually falls during Armory Week, and it distinct from the calendar’s blue-chip affairs in both vibe and model. For each edition, the organizers announce a theme and then pick the best proposals from a pool of unknown, emerging, and established artists. Each presentation is curated by a commercial art dealer, nonprofit organization, or an artist. There’s little to no exhibition cost for participants.
2022’s theme, “Naked Lunch,” strives to thrill its audience with unpredictable displays, of which there are many, including paintings made by a robot dog (which roams the fair), a facsimile artist studio occupied by a mannequin, and—always fun—art you can hold. The organizers also provided a Homeric description of the theme, “Naked Lunch”, complete with “required” reading, viewings, and listenings for applicants (Herodotus’ Histories, Party Girl, and MGMT are among the assignments). They put a call out for art that epitomizes “Neo Renaissance,” multimedia that subverts (but doesn’t mock) the tenants of the Old Masters — self-reference, vanishing points, voluminous forms.
The product is spicy: across the fair’s two floors, bodies abound in film, painting, and sculpture. Some artists took cues from the Impressionists, who re-imagined the pastoral as a place of unearthly color and illicit gatherings, like Manet’s Luncheon In The Grass, which is treated as a thematic lodestar. “Naked Lunch” also calls to mind William S. Burroughs’ seminal novel, whose protagonist hurtles through space and time in search of stimulation. It’s fitting description of an afternoon at Spring/Break.
Below are some highlights of the 2022 New York edition.
Noah Kloster, curated by Sara Driver
Eyes, eyes everywhere in this homage to Big Boy and irreverent Americana by Noah Kloster and curated by filmmaker Sara Driver. The biggest boy in this pantheon of fast-food mascots is watching even before entering the booth via a grainy monitor that broadcasts its occupants.
Once inside, though, you discover the 100 or so replicas painstakingly created by Kloster have been subjected to their own surveillance and experiments. Some have been flown on a kite, flung off a city pier, or hurtled against the ground in a durability test. A coffee maker, salvaged by Kloster from a diner’s trash, brews a pot on the table.
Big Boy was once-ubiquitous in America, though its mascot was more memorable than its food, and the chain’s legacy endures today in merchandise and fond, if inaccurate, memory. (Were the burgers even that good?) As a statement on the afterlife of consumerism, it’s an effective display. You’ll crave something, if not food, then the rush of a disposable purchase.
Dasha Bazanova, curated by David Alexander
Take some time inspecting the motley occupants of Dasha Bazanova’s solo booth. Her ceramic figures, who appear elsewhere in the group presentation “That’s What You Get!”, vary from Babushkas to cartoonish animals (there’s an especially endearing alpaca in red boots) and androgynous entities. The Babushkas—a grandma or old woman in Russia—are perched on burnt boards of wood like gargoyles protecting the booth.
Bazanova, who was born in Arkhangelesk, Russia before the fall of the Soviet Union and spent most of her childhood at her grandparents’ farm, has an obvious affinity for abrasive forms. It’s an appropriate revision to Hellenistic ideas of perfection, that sinewy white marble. Bazanova’s creations aren’t beautiful but, more importantly, they are honest.
Jess Bass, curated by Gabe Zetter & Gabriel Chalfin-Piney
A few steps from Bazanova’s presentation is the solo booth “Goo & Ooo” by Jess Bass and curated by Gabe Zetter & Gabriel Chalfin-Piney. This is Bass’ second outing at Spring/Break and she again proves her deft grasp of the fair’s specific brand of logical disorder. She’s offering here a mix of installation, sculpture, and video, which play around with themes of commodity, identity, and performance.
A pink sentry is constructed out of shredded balloons while another figure scrolls on their phone elsewhere, their kicked up like a schoolgirl. Yellow balloons obscure their entire body; they’ll deflate by the weekend’s end. One of the booth’s best elements is the video, which depicts Bass sticking her head through cardboard approximations of her family members. Her movements slow as the pile grows, but she faithfully assumes the baggage.
Fay Ku, curated by Field Projects
While Spring/Break is known for its visual extravaganza, some of this year’s most intriguing booths chose a more restrained approach, like Kathleen Vance’s tableau of suitcases, some of which hide miniature ecosystems, or the presentation “hit by a car in Venice,” a gentle study of two lovers via photography. Fay Ku’s installation, “Axonometric Tongue,” is another successful exercise in brevity. It features new drawings by Ku where Ming Dynasty art tradition meets the artist’s modern story of immigration and cultural de-location. Some of the art is reminiscent of Outsider artist Martín Ramírez, whose works on paper were layered with symbolically charged motifs.
Ku, the child Chinese parents who fled to Taiwan, depicts herself in a funeral jade suit, commonly worn by ancient Chinese rulers. In some pieces, she’s soaring through the air like an acrobat, the jade impossibly flexible. Ku is the ambassador of an “anti-Italian” Renaissance, where the sphere of all influence never settled over Europe.
Patty Horing, curated by Anna Zorina Gallery
In “Invasion of Privacy”, by Patty Horing and presented by Anna Zorina Gallery, viewers are made into spectators of a cast of characters engaged in “non-Instagrammable” moments. This isn’t a cynical display—Horing is advocating for solace in solitude, where we simply exist instead of perform.
The booth includes works on paper, painting, and sculpture, including pieces from Horing’s Portal series. Those are paintings consisting of 20-inch panels featuring subjects surrounded by decorative borders that evoke a social media filter, or a very pretty cage. Horing also draws an insightful link between the socio-economic privileges that enable privacy, a lesson that will resonate with most New Yorkers.
Rebecca Goyette, curated by Shelter Gallery
The Triple Goddess—a mystic merger of mother, maiden, and crone—guides “PARLOR TRICKS: A Self-Service Social Space”, an immersive booth by Rebecca Goyette. Here, slices of a multi-generational life play out over new hand-built ceramic sculptures and resplendent quilts created by Goyette’s mother. Our pasts and presents are difficult to reconcile, especially where family is involved. But the artist isn’t wallowing in memory’s trenches. Color and pattern pops from every surface. Goyette is merging with her mother but, like the patchwork quilt, neither woman’s personality subsumes the other.
Rebecca Morgan and Megan Bogonovich, curated by Kishka Gallery & Library
Fungus blooms on stalks of coral in “Biospherians”, an alien garden of delights. What seems like hundreds of ceramic sculptures—all by Megan Bogonovich—are tightly arranged on a table that dominates almost the entire booth, which demands much crouching and peering to properly view each work, no two of which are exact copies.
The display is complimented by works on paper by Rebecca Morgan that depict men and women with the body of a Rubens and the electric expression of a good trip. It’s one of the most coherent interpretations of the theme, and on the preview day multiple pieces were already spoken for.