Standout UK Art Shows of 2017







Chris Ofili: Weaving Magic

The National Gallery – April 26th, 2017 – August 28th, 2017

We were so thrilled to make it to the National Gallery to see Turner Prize winner Chris Ofili’s collaboration with internationally renowned Dovecot Tapestry Studio.  Here in the Sunley Room, the stage was set, Ofili painted the walls with a large mural featuring voluptuous Asiatic dancers of various genders. The lighting was dim, except for along one wall, where a lush, aquatic colored tapestry hung like an offering at the altar.

Commissioned by the Clothworkers’ Company, Ofili collaborated with the internationally renowned Dovecot Tapestry Studio to see his watercolor design translated into a handwoven tapestry.  It took over two and a half years of dedication by five master weavers to create this extraordinary masterpiece. Ofili had admittedly challenged the weavers to interpret his watercolor, trying to make it difficult to recreate his soft fluid transitioning of translucent colors that bled into one another like a seeping dream.

At almost 8 feet high and 24 feet wide, the breathtaking tapestry eclipsed Ofili’s watercolor, gorgeously reflecting Ofili’s love affair with the myths, magic, sensuality, and colors of his home base of Trinidad.


Grayson Perry: The Most Popular Art Exhibition Ever!

Serpentine Gallery – June 8th, 2017-September 19th, 2017

Of course, they took some liberties with this title, but it was in truth one of the most talked about exhibitions of the summer – even if it was its own hype machine.  I was still on the fence; would I spend time in London seeing the solo show of the artist I remembered as seeming quite obtuse and gimmicky as he accepted his Turner Prize in a dress?

Then I read a review by Laura Cumming from The Guardian, that sealed the deal for me. “I’m off to buy a very serious piece of political art,” boasts the bubble on one of Grayson Perry’s new pots. Who’s speaking? Some idiot collector of course: the kind of plutocrat who needs an adviser to help him choose, who becomes a gallery trustee for the cachet, who buys art as a talking point for parties. The kind of fatcat who buys just such a pot.”

I began to understand that Perry is making his fame off of social/cultural clichés– that I can get into.

Perry’s ceramic pots were the highlight, delightfully hilarious in their glamorous far off stately demeanor, a façade, which on closer inspection a belies a stratum of comments that ridicule the system of hierarchy and elitism that rules the art world.  I couldn’t remember the last time I got to laugh at art laughing at itself. Unless we go to ‘I Love Dick’ season 1, episode 1 where you’re meant to overhear some pretentious intern at some pretentious art party state that “There’s Marfa realness. There’s Marfa “realness,” and then there’s “Marfa Realness.”

The show becomes meta, as Grayson Perry becomes part of the establishment that he mocks, the collectible artist with a collectors list that gets alerted way ahead of the shows actual opening to purchase art based solely on the weight of his name.

The show had breakaway moments with pieces that take a stab at commentating on contemporary cultural and gentrification. Red Carpet, 2017 is influenced by Afghan war rugs. “This is a map of British society as evocative and inaccurate as a geographical one made by a medieval scholar. The distortions partly reflect the density of population rather than the lie of the land. Its covered in words and buzz phrases that I felt typified the national discourse in 2016.”


Arthur Jafa – A Series of Utterly Improbable Yet Extraordinary Renditions

Serpentine Gallery – June 8th, 2017-September 10th, 2017

You know Cinematographer Arthur Jafa’s work– He recently directed JAY-Z’s “4:44” music video,  and was the director of photography for Solange’s “Don’t Touch My Hair” and “Cranes in the Sky.”

His work with ex-wife Julie Dash is a film phenom– Daughters of the Dust (1991) a multigenerational tale of black women from the Gullah sea islands struggling to hold on to their culture. The visuals from Dash’s indie masterpiece became an inspiration for Beyonce’s visual album 2016 Lemonade.

Let’s not forget his seven-minute video Love Is The Message, The Message Is Death, containing found footage exploring African-American identity through contemporary imagery, all set to Kanye West‘s “Ultralight Beam.”

Jafa’s first UK solo exhibition at London’s Serpentine Sackler Gallery, A Series of Utterly Improbable, Yet Extraordinary Renditions, was a site-specific installation for the gallery including a mix of photography, film and social media elements.

The work reflected Jafa’s interest in exploring and re-contextualizing particular historical narratives and news stories that have been subject to bias against the Black community.  “How do we imagine things that are lost? What kind of legacy can we imagine despite that loss and despite the absence of things that never were?… Black people in America have always had to make art out of absence – whether that be the absence of accurate portrayal, or even of basic materials. We can dance, we can move, in a certain kind of fashion. Our artwork will always be bound up in our struggle. And the absences that exist in our lives because of it.”


The Official Miami Art Basel Roundup of 2017

For veteran fair attendees Art Basel can feel like the same old story year after year; leading galleries flock from North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia and Africa (this year’s Miami edition boasts 20 new galleries) to show significant work from the masters of Modern and contemporary art, as well the new generation of emerging stars. The thrill lay in the search for the standouts hiding amongst the 500,000 square feet of exhibition space.

This was the 16th Edition of the Miami Fair, featuring 268 premier galleries from 32 countries, a new curator for the Public sector, and a new exhibition layout – longer aisles, wider aisles, more lounge space (much needed for rest, relax and recharging).  Poignant works engaging with politics, race, gender and social issues had a strong presence in the Galleries sector.  I was also pleasantly surprised to see galleries like Victoria Miro, bring work from their well-attended summer exhibitions.

Here are the standout pieces we found before our feet gave out and our brains crashed from art overload, your official Miami Art Basel Roundup of 2017.



Chloe Wise | “My sad heart and your stiff nipples at the Biennale” | Oil on Canvas

Chloe Wise | “My sad heart and your stiff nipples at the Biennale” | Almine Rech Gallery

Wise paints breathtaking creatures who ooze complicated pretty girl stories you’d actually want to hear. “My Sad Heart…” kills with that subtle mirror image of a young woman exhausted into grace.


Artist: @chloewise_

Gallery @alminerechgallery

Kehinde Wiley | Portrait of Nick Cave, Nadezhda Polovtseva, 2017 | Oil on Canvas

Kehinde Wiley | Portrait of Nick Cave, Nadezhda Polovtseva, 2017 | SeanKelly

Nick Cave has been more vocal in the past few years about his identity beyond his iconic Soundsuits. It was a treat to see Wiley posing Cave in the style of the Nadezhda Polovtseva portrait, that classic Charles Francois Jalabert three-quarter pose, with frontal depictions of the subjects’ face and hands giving us a more relaxed version of the man we know but rarely see.

*Kudos to SeanKelly for putting all the social media tags you need for each artist on their gallery tags.


Artist: @KehindeWiley

Gallery: @SeanKellyNY


Tala Madani | Three Guests, 2017 | Oil on Linen

Tala Madani | Three Guests, 2017 | Pilar Corrias

I remember the first time I heard of Mandani’s work — from a New Yorker article entitled, “The Charming Disgusting Paintings of Tala Madani”, a quiet bomb of words to amass a commentary on her provocative and sometimes undressed discourse on cultural and sexual identity  The Iranian-American artists’ recurrent motifs usually include men in submissive, vulnerable, satirical stereotypical predicaments.  Three Guests seemed a slight deviation, it stopped me in my tracks, as I tried to figure out how the conversation might have changed.


Artist: @talamadani

Gallery: @Pilarcorrias


Pedro Cabrita Reis | Still Life with Anchor and Rope, 2017 | enamel on Plexiglas, found door frame, found anchor and rope

Pedro Cabrita Reis | Still Life with Anchor and Rope, 2017 | Peter Freeman, Inc.

Reis’s Who’s Afraid of the Red #2 (Lisboa) was my first official swoon over the artists’ continued opus with found objects.  The transformative nature of the objects into works of contemplation and curiosity draw you in and make solid testimonials of the necessity of having a bare all-white wall on which to hang them.


Artist: Pedro Cabrita Reis happily has no social media outlets

Gallery: @Peterfreemaninc


Do Ho Suh | Hub, Wielandstr. 18, 12159 Berlin | Polyester fabric, stainless steel

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This past summer, I missed the Do Ho Suh Passages exhibition at Victoria Miro. I resolved myself to accepting that seeing it in photographs was enough.  I was wrong.  These translucent fabric passages are built from polyester fabric sculpted around thin stainless steel piping. The different colored passages represent various spaces around either world, creating a journey of migration representing the connection of living spaces shared across global cultural groups.

Artist: Do Ho Suh

Gallery: @VictoriaMirogallery


Lisa Yuskavage | Ludlow Street, 2017 | Oil on Linen

Lisa Yuskavage | Ludlow Street, 2017 | David Zwirner Gallery

I love the fresh feeling I get from Yuskavage’s paintings, her use of classical techniques to depict taboo subjects are done without blushing.  Her touches of color to enhance normal intimacy feel like an onrushing of rebellious and revolutionary coupling.


Artist: @Lisayuskavage

Gallery: @Davidzwirner


Toyin Ojih Odutola | Through Line, 2017 | charcoal, pastel and pencil on paper

Toyin Ojih Odutola | Through Line, 2017 | Jack Shainman Gallery

Toyin Ojih Odutola is this year’s shining star and art media darling. Her focus is on the sociopolitical construct of skin color through her multimedia drawings, explore her personal journey of having been born in Nigeria then moving and assimilating into American culture in conservative Alabama.


Artist: @toyinojihodutola

Gallery: @JackShainman



Philly Flashes Its Revolutionary Teeth with a Street Art Exhibition ft. Local Artists

Today at the South Street HeadHouse Shambles, Visit Philly held a press conference to announce the launch of a 6-week art exhibition called Revolutionary: A Pop-Up Street Art Exhibition.

Revolutionary will be a free, six-week exhibition featuring 13 works of art that interpret the spirit of revolution at 13 different sites throughout Philadelphia’s Historic District.

The street art exhibit inspired by last months’ opening of the American Revolutionary Museum, seeks to tie together Philadelphia’s rich historical stories with its vibrant neighborhoods.

Meryl Levitz – CEO of Visit Philly, lead the brief press event, heralding the exhibitions draw; “It’s a great opportunity for our local artists to push the boundaries and make some statements about change. It gives locals and visitors alike another fun, free and interesting way to explore Philadelphia’s Historic District – the original city.”

Revolutionary is funded, in part, by three grants awarded to Visit Philly’s Historic District campaign. The artworks will appear indoors and outdoors at selected 13 innovatory sights and attractions from May 25th throughout Philadelphia’s annual Welcome America Festival cumulating July 4th.

The exhibition was curated by Conrad Benner, the founder, and editor of street art photo-blog  Benner, a foremost authority on documenting Philadelphia’s street art culture selected thought-provoking local artists/activist like Michelle Angela Ortiz, Shawn Theodore, IshKnits, and Calo Rosa to lead the way.  Benner will also moderate an artists’ panel at the National Constitution Center on June 7th, 2017 to further explore the exhibit’s theme.

The more you know:

On Thursday, May 25th there will be an insta-meet with Philadelphia’s influential photographers.  You can follow along with them as they visit the 13 sites (like Spruce Street Harbor Park, Franklin Square, Elfreth’s Alley and more), documenting the works of art, using the hashtag #RevolutionaryArt.

Philly can also interact with the exhibit with an Instagram Contest running from May 25th – 29th.  Take a photo of your favorite piece from the exhibition; include the official hastags #VisitPhilly #HistoricPhilly #RevolutionaryArt for your chance to win 1 of 5 copies of a piece by the artist, Yasmin.

DaKu’s Creative Ad Takeover

daku hyderabald ad takeover

DAKU means bandit…and this one commonly get referred to as the Indian Banksy.  The well-known graffiti artist started tagging in Delhi around 2009 – since then Daku has continued to make a name for himself through his socio-political wheat pastes and the complexities of his ever morphing tag.

Daku a former sign painter in Gujarat, studied typography in Art College.  His street style combines a fascination with typography with oversized messages that intended to “make people think”.

We thought it was time to check back in on India’s popular street artist, and see he’s been up to.  And we’re loving these funny takes on the daily bombardment of billboard ads.  Dubbed The Advertising Project , 5 ads have shown up around Parade Ground and the Khairatabad flyover in Hyderabad.  The project was done in collaboration with St+art India (Dia Metha Bhupal & Daku).


Check it: Instagram


A post shared by Offical DAKU Page (@daku156) on

A post shared by Offical DAKU Page (@daku156) on

A post shared by Offical DAKU Page (@daku156) on

A post shared by Offical DAKU Page (@daku156) on

They Left Their Hearts at Casa Azul: How The Frida Kahlo Emojis Came To Be

The spell of Frida Kahlo is like a beacon, drawing to her work those who see their anguish, heartache, resilience or celebration of life expressed in her paintings.  Under Frida’s hue, they find inspiration enough to keep, share or pledge allegiance to her memory on bags, t-shirts or pilgrimages to Frida’s beloved home, Casa Azul.

This year Snapchat devoted one of their International Women’s Day filters to Frida—just a click adorned you with her trademarks braids, a crown of flowers, and red lips underneath a proper unibrow.

The multi-generational Mexican artist with a devoted fan base is the inspiration behind 160 new emojis – called FridaMoji – available in App stores now.

Museumito — a father and son design team, designed the first Kahlo-inspired emoji last summer.  They run Cantor Fine Art and wanted to engage their Instagram audience in a fun and memorable way.  That’s how their Fine Art Emoji project came to be.  The Frida emoji was getting the most attention and the project snowballed from there.

We spoke to Museumito about the success of the FridaMoji app and what it took to make it happen.  Our candid conversation delves into the process and rabbit hole that led to an obvious crush on all things Frida.

“The art of Frida Kahlo is a ribbon about a bomb” – Andre Breton


Don’t mind me, I’m just going to barrage you with questions.

Why Frida Kahlo? How long did it take to bring this project to fruition? Did you experience any hang-ups along the way?

It was a long and winding path. I think it took 8 months in total with lots of hang-ups. The biggest of which was that we really did not want to do this project. Not with Frida. Not with any artist.

Larry, my dad, and I are just two art history nerds who run a fine art gallery without a ton of resources. To make emojis for someone like Frida would and should take tons of energy, and emotion, and research.

Here is a timeline of hang-ups:

We launched the fine art emoji project in July last year and it got all that attention online. The comments, emails, and phone calls just never really stopped for four months. It seemed the like the more we told people no, the more they pushed back and the more people reached out. Last week I had a meeting with someone who found the emojis for the first time last week. I wonder if it will ever stop.  After 3-4 months, and enough attention from the art history community, we decided we would entertain the idea…but we would give up a lot of control to make our lives easier and partner with a Korean company, whose name I will leave out, to distribute the emojis/stickers worldwide.

I created 25 animated Frida stickers for them, they showed them to the head of Kakao Talk, and that homie was smitten and said that this was no longer for worldwide release but exclusive only for Kakao Talk. Even though we had already signed contracts for worldwide release.  Frida is HUGE in Korea. There are like Frida stores and Frida makeup lines….

They also wanted me to cut out a bunch of references to Frida’s work and replace it with “more useable emotions.” Sooooo I was like naw. Our goal was to spread Frida’s message, not make a ton of money for a company.  So, through some legal ugliness, we yanked our images and started looking for a new partner.

When we found out that the people who make Kimoji worked in the same building as our gallery, we reached out. We were just about to dump the project but, they were like ‘no dude this is cool, and worth it’. They thought about taking it on, but like, one of the Kardashians was getting a divorce or something, and they decided it wasn’t for them and their brand. Those guys’ are really nice and smart and helped us a ton.  We were like, ‘Ok we said we would do this. Let’s just make it us. We will probably lose money on developing it, it will take a lot longer – but we have gone this far.’ I designed the apps and hired a freelancer — had a ton of learning along the way. However, it was really rewarding. Now we have the app that we own, and I didn’t have to compromise on any references that we were allowed to use from Frida Kahlo Corp.

In terms of why Frida… Frida painted around 143 paintings, 55 of those are self-portraits. Each of these self-portraits had its own emotion or style that we could reference for the emoji.

So why Frida? Because we are living in Frida Mania and there were already so many images of her iconic face expressing anguish, beauty, betrayal, love, happiness, passion, pain.

Plus people were already using this amazing FridaMoji around the world.
}:)   No joke. Fridamaniacs throw a unibrow on all their emoticons. I love it.

Frida Kahlo Emojis _The Two Fridas

I read that you spent some time in Mexico City studying up on Frida. Now that you have bonded with her self-portraits, what elements were the most important to retain when creating the corresponding emoji?

Ya. WOOF. Have you been to Mexico City? That place is amazing. Everyone is so scared of it. I loved my time there. Never felt unsafe. Ate such amazing food. I cannot wait to go back.

The process was – we researched Frida, read books, studied all of her work, and watched the movies. I spent two weeks in Mexico City visiting Casa Azul and all the museums to see as much of the work in person as possible. It really is amazing seeing the work in person. Then spent six months working with the Frida Kahlo Corporation making hundreds of emojis.

I mean before really diving deep into Frida, I knew she had a unibrow, flower crown, a pet monkey, and parrot was married to Diego and was often sad. I think for a majority of people she is a unibrow and flower and they know they are supposed to like her. When I started reading about her and her work and her life, it is impossible to not get swept up in it. She was such a remarkable figure. She was so honest and so brave. She was so beautiful and so ugly. She was so tortured and yet found bliss. She was so romantic and always heartbroken. She was so secluded and yet so popular. I just fell in love with her character and her message, in a way I never really have with another artist.

I swear you can stand in front of Los Dos Fridas for days and still not take it all in. Then some of her work is so intimate and small. So when I went to Mexico I just gobbled everything up. Just tried to take in the overall messages and jotted down notes about recurring images or themes beyond a third of paintings are self-portraits. This might sound silly but before I went to Mexico I hadn’t grasped how prevalent or important watermelon was to Frida or what the monkey actually stood for.

Then I came back to the states with a head full of ideas, and I took in every image and painting the Foundation had. Each painting has its own emotion or style or story. So I took all of Frida’s paintings and photos, and thought about what people could actually use in conversations, looked at the most used emoji worldwide, and thought about what could open people up to more of Frida’s work. The process wasn’t necessarily easy. We ended up making over 400 emoji, and only 160 made the cut. Things were cut because they didn’t truly reflect Frida or felt like they wouldn’t be a useful emoji.

So now the question will be can we open up Frida’s legacy to more people?
Can we usher Frida and everything she stood for into this very new medium?
Can she become more than just the iconic flower and a unibrow to her new young fans?

If this is a way to do that….then awesome.

Frida Kahlo Emojis

You mentioned the art history community embracing the project. Could you share a few examples of that?

I can’t track it down because it happened so long ago, but LACMA reposted all the emojis on Facebook after the Artnet article came out and it just went gangbusters. It was as if everyone had to qualify their emails to me with “and you can trust me I’m a museum director” or “and this is coming from an art history teacher.” I loved it. Got lots of emails of die hard Frida fans.  Last week I helped a preschool teacher, and we were in someone’s master’s thesis in Europe.

Projects like this are sustaining new ways of educating and engaging a new generation – what artist is next in the emoji line?

Not sure. To do this right takes a lot of time, energy, and brainpower, and maintaining it takes some work. We have definitely been flirting with other artists estates that we admire, and there is definitely interest.  So we will see. Stay tuned to our Instagram, hopefully, there will be some news soon.

The Digital Graffiti Experience

The digital graffiti experience

These days, some street artists are having trouble finding spaces where they can showcase their work. Over in Glen Cove, New York, an edgy urban project was debuted on a historical downtown landmark known as the First City Project house. While this was meant to be an artistic boost to the struggling downtown area, in addition to art intending to provoke feelings of all kinds, the project sent critics into a frenzy. They claimed that they destroyed the house, despite the artists taking care in preserving the wood.

But there’s a new innovation that’s giving street artists a new avenue, an opportunity for freedom of expression with no limitations as to where they can or cannot display their work. Because of the growth in the mobile app sector, creative minds have teamed up with gaming developers to bring street art into a virtual world. Mobile gaming is probably one of the fastest growing categories in the video gaming industry, with companies consistently offering new developments that innovate the whole field at large. These tools have brought us closer to real life experiences in a digital space, as tech giants like Gaming Realms, which is currently running the Slingo franchise, continue to be honored for their interactive mobile content and its ability to merge gameplay with social media. Another example is Google, which is lending its Tilt Brush to other VR platforms like Oculus Rift.

The Tilt Brush may have been one of their most impressive products that has breathed new life into contemporary art, but there are a couple of companies that may be giving Google a run for its money. Epic Games, for one, is employing VR technology to transport artists to different places around the world, letting them tag, spray and add their mark to any walls they wish, whether it is an alleyway, a backstreet or an underpass. Choose between airbrushes, spray cans and stencils to work with, and take advantage of features such as mirror painting to streamline your workflow.

Another spray-painting experience that will be available to the public soon is the Kingspray Graffiti Simulator VR. Although it’s already available in a non-VR format, playable on mobile devices, it worked quite well on the HTC Vive headset. With this app, artists can hone in on their skills without potentially ruining any physical canvases, practicing on realistic surfaces with drips. This format will make its premiere on SteamVR this month.

What do you think about street art in a virtual space?

Another Year, Another Armory Week In The Books

Another year, another Armory Week in the books. I missed last year and was heartbroken, so I was really looking forward to all the greatness I was going to see. And then it happened, The Armory Show disappointed me. How was that possible? So maybe disappointment is the wrong emotion to convey, perhaps underwhelmed is better. I had been looking forward to this for months, weeks and days and with its one less row and sparsity of art I was underwhelmed. Thankfully, Art on Paper, Volta and Scope all pulled up the rear and made my overall experience great!

Here are my Top 10 pieces in no particular order:

I had the pleasure of attending Art on Paper its first night as a VIP, because I roll with some awesome people (Hi, Paradigm Gallery+Studio) and Tatyana Fazlalizadeh’s artistry was the first capture by my trusty iPhone. She is called Olympia and was painted with Oil on canvas just last year.

My next selection found at the Armory Show focused on a common political theme I saw throughout the galleries. Mel Bochner’s “Eradicate” carried a thought I’m sure most considered in these past weeks and months.

I found a great deal of irony in my next piece, “Alternative Titles for Recent Exhibitions I’ve Seen”. Scott Reeder seemed to be picking at my brain in particular.

“Alternative Titles for Recent Exhibitions I’ve Seen”

I love it when I go to a show and the art reminds me of my childhood or just makes me giggle. Perfect example of this is Douglas Coupland’s “Towers”. A huge display of Legos, building structures and towers alike. Instantly I’m back in my younger brother’s room building some structure that architecturally will never work, but will take us hours to create.

The second display that made me giggle was an entire park of sorts by Yayoi Kusama named “Guidepost to the New World”. Who doesn’t like polka dots? You can’t help but smile and laugh when you discover this park in the middle of the Armory Show floor.

Nick Cave, Hustle Coat. Having recently moved to Atlanta makes me long for the strange variety of life displayed constantly in the streets of New York. Nick’s Hustle Coats, one in black the other in tan made me crave that variety of life even more.

Nick Cave Hustle Coat_Black Nick Cave Hustle Coat_Beige

I always find that I look, search even for my favorite artist and when I find them I’m so very excited. With that being said…Kehinde Kehinde Kehinde!! I cannot shout this man’s name enough. Ladies and Gentlemen, the greatness known as Kehinde Wiley. If by chance I get the opportunity to own one of his pieces of work, I would be jealous of myself. They are real, vibrant, elegant and simply magnificent.

And now I find myself at Scope. Honestly I had never been a fan of Scope, but this year before I could fully get within the many gallery walls I was snapping pics and genuinely skipping to the next wall of fine art. On this brutally cold Saturday afternoon, I am warmed by the eyes from this painting by Roberta Coni. The boldness of her stare and the softness of colors welcomed me.

Roberta Coni

And just like that I was not only smiling but dancing a bit too from reciting lyrical genius in my head. Mark Drew’s series of four paintings with Peanut characters and hip hop lyrics made me reminisce of simpler times.

Mark Drew_Peanuts

So I know I said that these were my Top 10 picks, but this series of painting genuinely blow my mind. No major complexity, no variety of color, just big black bold strokes of paint swirled around the canvas. I would put one in every room of my home and walk through it like my own personal gallery. James Austin Murray captivated me and believe me for a woman with several zillions of things running through my mind that is quite the feat.

James Austin Murray_Another Year, Another Amory Week In The Books James Austin Murray

Lastly on this International Woman’s Day I wanted to choose something that displayed not only our strength but also or vulnerability. No matter how hard you knock us down, women will always rise again. Kim Byung Kwan’s Ghost Backup #002 depicts Wonder Woman down at her very lowest, but she will always rise.

Kim Byung Kwan’s Ghost Backup #002 _Another Year, Another Amory Week In The Books

I can truly say that I enjoyed this weekend filled with art. Next year, let’s do it again!

Our Favorite Rooms at the 2017 Spring Break Art Show

Spring/Break is one of the Armory Week attractions I try not to miss, it unapologetically has fun with art – blocking out the cynical in favor of its dialogue driven exhibits.  This year it moved out of the Moynihan Station Post Office and into swankier digs in Times Square.  What didn’t change – is the integrity of the show, the feeling of being sent off to the races into the all encompassing line of rooms. The rooms can be a showdown of hit-or-miss aesthetics, but it affords the artist space to create a story, and that discovery is always worth the price of admission.

This year, the annual curator-driven art show, Spring/Break chose Black Mirror as its theme.   Here’s a list of the rooms we loved walking thru.


Hometown Hero (Chink) /Thinly Worn | Valery Jung Estabrook

I shudder to think that I almost walked past this room without meeting Valery Jung Estabrook 

Hometown Hero (Chink) featured an installation of three parts: a single channel video, a custom upholstered recliner, and a fabric-covered room furnished with other upholstered items that immediately transport you to a version of the American South. The items reveal hidden personal histories that cling to Jung’s experiences growing up a mixed-race Korean American who was taught to revere a past to which she felt no connection.

The recliner – with its looming imagery of the Confederate flag, dominates the space. It sits facing the television, acting as a physical stand-in for the [cheap] desire to return to an idealized fictional version of America – the wish to “Make America Great Again.”  Everything in that room is in direct opposition of Jung Estabrook’s honest conversations regarding race, alienation, and assimilation playing on the television with a repeating video clip featuring segments called Twinkie, Wasp and assimilation that features Jung Estabrook lip syncing while dressed as Tammi Wynette.


“Thinking about everything, but then again, I was thinking about nothing” | Tamara Santibanez

Tamara Santibanez recreates her adolescent bedroom in shades of white symbolizing the purity of memories we wish to retain. Her pen drawings of rock band posters and t-shirts hang among the other trappings of a certain youth – cassettes, AM/FM radio, vinyl’s, studded leather wrist bands and jeans tossed casually on the carpet make for a trip I didn’t want to end.

Sophiya Khwaja | Cade Tompkins Projects

Sophiya Khawaja‘s hoops sans the cloth and thread that traditionally sit between the two wooden circles, showcase images of herself, a solitary female figure trapped – possessing – raging and navigating the landscapes she inhabits. Each become a symbol of the female encased in the intricate bindings of the world around her.

“Melissa Godoy-Nieto: Dream Journal,” curated by Ambre and Andrew Gori

Visitors were invited to share their dreams with Godoy-Nieto so she could translate them into drawings.  If you took part in the project, I hear you might be able to find your dreams roaming wild & free on Melissa’s website.

Sisyphus | Light Sculpture | Valerie Sullivan Fuchs

Sisyphus, 2009, is a palm sized video projection where the viewers capture the video onto their open hands. The video is of a woman who appears to climb up the viewer’s hand but slides back down repeatedly. Each time she slides back down, she draws a line of chalk which appears to mix with the lines of the view’s palm.

Screen Shot 2016-08-28 at 4.25.21 PM.png

Further Explanations into Contemporary Blackness : New Work From Azikiwe Mohammed 
Azikwe Mohammad travels from last year’s Jimmy Thrift Store, a project based around New Davonhaime, a fictional town whose name is a make up of the five cities with the highest African-American populations (Detroit, Savannah,  Jackson, Birmingham, and New Orleans).  Mohammad filled the room with thrift shops finds (elaborate chintzy lamps, old albums, neon signs and ceramic figurines) cast offs ready to breathe new life into old lives.  Assuming the personality of Jimmy, Mohammad told us colorful stories of the non-existent town until it felt relevant, until we felt like we’d benefit from visiting.
This year Mohammad was back in a less structured space with more stories to tell, a memorial to those we lost this past year in violence, a closer look into the lives of those from Davonhaime. Names and faces were memorialized on airbrushed t-shirts and iconic jewelry found in nearly every African-American home. Photographs from his visit to the cities were rolled up and placed in containers for those who felt like delving a bit deeper.
It was as if last years’ search for stories was a mere beginning into the insight into the crux of the stories he evokes through memory and representation. I remember when Mohammed had a seat out in the hallway of the first Spring Break Fair, patiently explaining his hip-hop tapestries to us.  Each year his exploration into African American iconography gets deeper and more creatively explorative.

Erin M. Riley Opens Solo Show “Simple” at Hashimoto Contemporary

Erin M. Riley Opens at Hashimoto Contemporary

Artist, Erin M. Riley’s meticulous hand-woven tapestries are intimate portraits into past experience, of both personal and communal memory. The large-scale work confronts viewers to contemplate subjects often considered socially taboo.  Frequently autobiographical, her work addresses the innate trauma of womanhood and the objectification of the sexualized body.  This Saturday, March 4th, Riley will show a solo exhibition of brand new, hand sewn tapestries entitled “Simple” at Hashimoto Contemporary in San Francisco, California.

Simple” is a culmination of her previous bodies of work and serves as an investigation into the complexity of the feminine identity. The artist explains that because of the Internet’s infiltration into our personal lives, “Intimacy is blurred, bodies exist in this surreal way, sexuality is abstract. A few specific pieces in the show are of experiences I have had throughout my life… These are the moments we prepare ourselves for with self-defense mechanisms and paranoia. I am trying to evolve from these moments but also want to acknowledge them so as not to live in denial or make people feel like they are alone.” The work physically memorializes moments of our fleeting digital life by depicting selfies, text messages, and screenshots of pornography.

The exhibition also features weavings of car wrecks and images of abuse, often accompanied with lines of text. One piece entitled “Portrait of a Father” portrays a crashed semi-truck, with the interwoven caption “you don’t deserve my forgiveness.” Riley utilizes the truck as a metaphor for “how sexual violence knocks us off our axis” and challenges the viewer to consider the inherent aggression women face in our contemporary society.

*information via Erin Riley press release


Ulla Stina Wikander cross stich embroidery

Ulla Stina Wikander cross stich embroidery

Artist Ulla Stina Wikander uses cross stitch embroidery to create a new skin for everyday objects. Finding older, outdated technology, and furniture, she lines them with colorful embroidery that’s just as old (or older). “The cross-stitch designs I have collected for many years,” she explains, “and placing them in a new context allows them to change.”

Ulla Stina Wikander cross stich embroidery

via [My Modern Met]

SPOTLIGHT: Norman Rockwell and Ruby Bridges

Norman Rockwell and Ruby Bridges

In 1963, Norman Rockwell confronted the issue of prejudice head-on with one of his most powerful paintings, The Problem We All Live With.  At the time editorial policies governed the placement of minorities in his illustrations (restricting them to service industry positions only). The painting was a clear indicator that Rockwell was supporting equality and tolerance.

I’ve heard it said that Norman Rockwell was safe because he strayed away from depicting any direct social commentary in his work — his painting of a six-year-old Ruby Bridges being escorted to school amidst the chaos of protestors that didn’t agree with the United States Supreme Court Brown v. Board of Education says otherwise. That unpopular ruling that declared the state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students were unconstitutional, that could not be more frankly expressed than in this emotional tribute to courage.

*“The Problem We All Live With,” Norman Rockwell, 1963 Oil on canvas, 36” x 58” Illustration for “Look,” January 14, 1964 Licensed by Norman Rockwell Licensing, Niles, IL. From the permanent collection of Norman Rockwell Museum*

Learn More:

Learn more about that landmark United States Supreme Court case at PBS/The Supreme Court — Expanding Civil Rights.

Emmanuelle Moureaux’s Color Wheel Crazy ‘Forest of Numbers’ Install


The National Art Center, in Tokyo commemorated its 10th Anniversary in January by commissioning a large installation from architect, Emmanuelle Moureaux, “Forest of Numbers” – a visualized symbolization of their future from 2017 to 2026.  Their 2000 square meter exhibition room was presented with partition walls for the first time, filled with “100 colors – more than 60,000 pieces of suspended numeral figures – ceiling to floor inspirations and emotions, for vistors to wander through.  This installation was created with the help of 300 volunteers, and drew over 20,000 visitors in 10 days.

Emmanuelle Moureaux does layers and color like no other.  She’s not simply playing around with the color wheel, but assigning meaning and hopeful desires to her three-dimensional layered numerology.  This practice she attributes to the first time she visited Tokyo, where she now works and lives.

“I was immediately impressed by the colorful store signs and vending machines…these elements gave depth to the space and appeared beautifully like a painting.  The emotion I felt was the inspiration to my design concept of shikiri, which means dividing space with color.” *

“The numeral figures from 0 to 9 were aligned in three dimensional grids. A section was removed, created a path that cut through the installation, invited visitors to wonder inside the colorful forest filled with numbers. The installation was composed of 10 layers which is the representation of 10 years time. Each layer employed 4 digits to express the relevant year such as 2, 0, 1, and 7 for 2017, which were randomly positioned on the grids. As part of Emmanuelle’s “100 colors” installation series, the layers of time were colored in 100 shades of colors, created a colorful time travel through the forest.”**

The installation is composed of 10 layers, representing the 10 years to come all images © daisuke shima

Forest of Numbers Emmanuelle Moureaux-hahamag

Forest of Numbers Emmanuelle Moureaux

Forest of Numbers Emmanuelle Moureaux

The More You Know:

  • Watch a video of the installation, Forest of Numbers going up here on Emmanuelle’s Vimeo.

via [design boom] [Emmanuelle Moureaux website]

*quote pulled from interview with Moureaux in Attitude Magazine, 2015

**quote pulled from Emmanuelle Moureaux website.