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The 10th annual Armory show, NYC was held at Pier 94 from March 27-30. Only contemporary art was featured by the participating 150 galleries chosen by this year's selection committee.

According to The Art Newspaper's special fair edition, the sales held up well despite market jitters. The art fairs serve as places where top notch collectors come to see many new works and buy. This is one of the premier fairs in the world to see the best of contemporary art. As such this fair, along with some of the other fairs such as Scope and Pulse that ran concurrently, create a once-a-year survey of contemporary art that no museum, even with an unlimited budget could hope to duplicate.

Prior to attending, I had read various press releases and reports about the fair. I knew that some top galleries had been excluded by the fair this year. The NY Times article by Roberta Smith in weekend Arts sported the headline,” Smooth and Safe at Pier 94”. Generally, this years fair had few surprises and some of the galleries currently in Chelsea had better shows back home than in their booths. Ironically, looking back it seems to me that a few of the galleries missing this year had brought some of the best, cutting edge and thus press receiving work to the fair previously. Of course, the public has no idea what galleries were actually not included as we lack information as to who had applied.

If, as Rebecca Smith indicated some galleries held back the best work of their artists, possibly for Art Basel, others pulled out all the stops. Most galleries feature the works of many of their artists, while a few chose to focus on only one.

For me this year's fair seemed to excel for works by Conceptual, especially Word artists. The art theory that I am founding, UnGraven Image is a next step from Word Art, so obviously I appreciate it. However, most of the mentions in the fairs and shows I have reviewed (and will, as I am also working on Scope and Pulse) have not covered Conceptual artists to the extent I do here. Much of the best work here just happened to be by these artists, perhaps due to the recent show at the Whitney of Lawrence Weiner's work.

The Cheim and Read booth was an installation of Jenny Holzer's work that was the best booth I have seen in any fair so far. Period. OK, I am a fan of Jenny Holzer's, but exciting, powerful display was especially insightful for her work. I hope there is a way for the display to travel to museums or venues as being booth sized that is a viable idea. The booth was totally symmetrical. The blue and red scrolling light image works in the corners (two are visible in the phot below) were repeated in all four corners.) The small "benches" were carved marble to resemble monuments.

Here is just one quote from this display by one of my favorite Word artists, “TRUST VISIONS THAT DON'T FEATURE BUCKETS OF BLOOD”.

Cheim & Read booth at Armory 2008 fair

Another gallery that had a good booth dedicated to the work of one artist was Ronald Feldman Gallery's tribute to the late Eleanor Antin.

Since there was so much to see, and I had already been to Scope and would next go to Pulse on my day into the city for the fairs, I took notes that would mention basically one artist's work for the galleries I covered. Of course, in relation to some galleries this is especially difficult, but if I had already covered an artist is a review of a show, or am expecting to cover one in an upcoming show, I chose a different artist's work for a good mention. The mentions below are in order of my meandering path.

At Stuart Shave, Jesus Christ Loves You, a rainbow as a tambourine by Phillip Lai made a musical statement. Thanks to Nadia Berri for introducing me to the artist and this work.

At John Connelly Presents ' booth Ara Peterson made more visual music.

Still dancing to the music of art, despite obvious but minor injuries to her arm and foot, delightful and intrepid Tracy Williams showed me the interesting work of Fiona Banner at her gallery's booth.

Yvon Lambert was Bethan Huws' Untitled is a conversation between Bethan the artist and gallerist Erika. Too true. Do click on the link to see it. Good to see Emilio again, who was helpful explaining the unique presentation of this good conceptual artist. Also giving a nod to a work in the booth by Lawrence Weiner.

At Andrew Kreps , Uwe Henneken's work intrigues by probing the fantasy of reality.

Zach Feuer and I nodded and smiled at each other in his gallery's busy booth. Three colorful, playful sculptures by Tal R get my good mention here, especially one entitled, Sssstick Ball Ball Ssstick Ball Ball.

At Gallerie Thaddaeus Ropac Elaine Stortevant's Warhol Black Marilyn 2008, silkscreen, acrylic on canvas is a retake on Warhol's iconic work brought Andy Warhol into this fair dedicated to contemporary art. He casts a long shadow.

Choosing from Pace Wildenstein's artists was at first difficult, but I choose to mention Elizabeth Murray in tribute.

At Greenberg Van Doren I found especially appreciated the work of Ben Edwards.

I enjoyed discussing John Bangston's work with Katie at Jack Shainman Gallery's booth.

Lehmann Maupin had a splendid display of work by Mickalene Thomas's portraits.

Ratio 3 had Ara Peterson. My focus is always about the stroke, which can be made with a paintbrush, or it can be a button (Tara Donavan), or even a stitch. Ara Peterson's strokes are carved and assembled and colorful inventions.

Matthew Marks had works by several of their artists, including two large diptyches by Andreas Gursky in the artist's frames. Elsewhere, including in the manifesto for UnGraven Image booklet (free to download at www.ungravenimage.com )., I have written about how photography creates a image in a the click of an instant, whereas painters, sculptors and other pure visual artists who create via strokes take time. Gursky fascinates me as he is capturing what I call :strokes' that for him may be people I a crowd, merchandise, or other repetitive images. Usually, I shy from mentioning photography as my background is more painting and some sculpture, but I get Gursky's strokes as the closest photography comes to painting.

At Gallerie Barbara Weiss had silkscreen prints by Thomas Bayrle who creates images from repeated images, which for me a kind of stroke. Again, use the link to see more.

At Bob van Orsouw Gallery portraits by Albrecht Schneider paid homage to Rembrandt's self portrait but left the face blank posing questions of identity. Having recently created an Essence series portrait of Rembrant using his same self portrait for inspiration, I resonated to these works.

Artists Mary Heilman and John Waters were commissioned to create prints for the fair and the proceeds went to charity.

With thanks to Chris Burnside of Cheim and Read for speedily sending the image above that is used with permission of the gallery. Also a nod to Andrew Sheffer for alerting me that such a good photo of the booth would be available.

March 3, 2008

"The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed." -- Albert Einstein

"True spirituality is a mental attitude you can practice at any time." -- Dalai Lama

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