The Armory Show in New York City, March 3 to 6, is a major international exhibit of contemporary and modern art. Its debut in 1913 introduced a shocked audience to Europe’s most daring innovators — Picasso, Matisse, Duchamp, Brancusi, Gauguin, Braque and Kadinsky.
The show no longer fits into its namesake, the 69th Regiment Armory at Lexington Avenue and 26th St. It is now held on Piers 92 and 94 over the Hudson River. The shock of “Nude Descending a Staircase” in the isolationist period before World War I cannot be repeated, but there is plenty to surprise, puzzle and delight.
I’m not an art expert, but I can spot newspapers. I made a scavenger hunt from my ability to spot newspapers. Here is what I found to be the current state of newspaper art, drawn from the contemporary material on Pier 94. In contrast, the abundance of newsprint included on several walls covered by Robert Rauschenberg’s pieces in the modern portion of the show on Pier 92, made me wonder if the heyday of newspaper art is over.
Most of the examples are appropriation, in this case meaning the use of borrowed elements in the creation of a new work. Think: Music sampling in hip-hop and rap. For instance, Isabel Aninant Galeria de Arte from Santiago, Chile, displayed two photographs by Colectivo Aninat & Swinburn of a woman’s eyes behind headlines connected by straight pins. In one photo, the woman’s eyes were opened and in the other, her eyes were closed.
Another appropriation example was Pae White silver stencil on distinctive pink pages of the Financial Times. Given her choice of the FT, I was not surprise to see that White is represented by a London gallery, Greengassi. Of all the contemporary newspaper artists I spotted, White got the most attention, including mentions in The New York Times and Art Fag City. She is also in the 2010 Whitney Biennial.
The newspaper hat seen in Wei Dong’s “Beside the Girl #1” is not appropriation. It is an element of a story this 2011 painting is telling , but I don’t know what that story is. Normally, newspaper hats are fun or, at least, neutrally utilitarian. Only a detail of it is shown here, but the painting portrays a young woman wearing only that hat and a gas mask, which serves as a g-string, is surrounded by military figures.
What does the hat represent? What’s with the drips of blood? I hope she is not a detained journalist. Wei, by the way, is represented by the Nicholas Robinson Gallery in New York, where an exhibit of his new work is on display.
Aristarkh Chernyshev’s piece titled “Urgent (Newsbin)” does not include a newspaper but it does has headlines. It is artwork as commentary on the news. Artinfo said that Chernyshevn is mocking journalists by suggesting that the news profession belongs in the dustbin, has described as “info sculpture.” Designboom describes a similar piece as an info sculpture “that explores the modern phenomena of information overload.” Just like the news zipper at 1 Times Square, headlines move through the sculpture into and out of the dustbin. They read like genuine news headlines about Afghanistan, the economy, jobs and other issues. Accounts of this work said the headlines were from a real-time Internet feed but the stream on Saturday, March 5, carried the date of March 3, the day The Armory Show opened. Perhaps that was the lack of wifi at the piers. The piece was displayed by the XL Gallery of Moscow.
Newsprint of the appropriated variety showed up in Gabriel Vormstein’s “Smog,” a 2011 piece from The Breeder gallery in Athens. Here, newsprint is part of a multimedia piece but Vormstein often uses newspapers as his canvas for his paintings. The struggling newspaper industry would benefit from more artists like Vormstein.
The ephemeral nature of newspapers is shown by its rescue from dustbin for inclusion along with other detritus encased by ployurethane resin inside the head that Richard Dupont presented as “Amnesiac #2,” which was in the booth of the Carolina Nitsch gallery of New York.
This last work is included despite its title.
The newspaper of “Still Life with Books, Table and Fake Newspaper” looked real to me. The sculpture is by Mark Manders, who is represented by the Zeno X Gallery of Antwerp, and lists its material as wood, painted epoxy, painted canvas, iron, offset print on paper. What looks like a piece of newspaper is visible only on the back of the sculpture. The front of the sculpture shows a partial view of a woman’s face and is far more attractive than the back.
And in the huge cavern of Pier 94, that was all I saw.