Going Political: Highlights of SPRING/BREAK Art Show 2017

By Alyssa McClenaghan

                        Future Past News, Andrea Wolf & Karolina Ziulkoski. Photo Courtesy of the Artists.

It’s Armory Week in New York City. With many art fairs to see, Open House has been making the rounds. Here I focus on SPRING/BREAK Art Show 2017, taking on the task of viewing the spaces of over 150 Curators and 350 artists. Taking place in the former Condé Nast Building in Times Square, politically charged work made a big dent in the fair this year. While there was plenty of the experimental, playful atmosphere that SPRING/BREAK has come to be known for, it was clear that there has been a shift from previous years. The current political climate brought an influx of profound, contemporary work to this year’s event, themed “Black Mirror“. With so much to take in, and an incredible line up of work this year, it was hard to pick just a few to talk about. Below is a peek into three wonderful curations from this year’s event. 


                       Future Past News, Andrea Wolf & Karolina Ziulkoski. Photo Courtesy of the Artists.

Curated by Ambre Kelly and Andrew Gori (the founders of SPRING/BREAK Art Show), FUTURE PAST NEWS, a collaborative work by Andrea Wolf and Karolina Ziulkoski, presents the circular trajectory of history. Old news reels contrasting with news from today, comments on the old verbiage of history repeating itself. Combining the old and the new, a room filled with antique furniture and an old fashioned television set playing newsreels from the first World War and invites the viewer to participate. Visitors  are offered to sit in a chair across from the TV, while using an application created by Wolf and Ziulkoski that converts a newsreel from 1937 to play news from present events on an iPad or iPhone, when held in front of the television. The parallels are alarming between the events happening almost a century ago and today. Wolf and Ziulkoski played all of their cards right, creating an inviting, curious environment, that allows the viewer to enter and participate on a platform they are comfortable with, provided by the iPad. Knowing how important this message is, the artists have made the work accessible to all on the internet and through this iPad application

                        Future Past News, Andrea Wolf & Karolina Ziulkoski. Photo Courtesy of the Artists.

ALCOHOLOTOPIA (A GEOPOLITICAL DREAM UNDER THE INFLUENCE) a work by Daapo Reo, featured in a group show curated by Natasha Becker, re-imagines the American Flag to create a new symbol out of African textiles. The typical stars and stripes are no longer limited to red, white, and blue, instead the stripes are amassed with bright colors and bold patterns. Sewn together and referencing quilt making, the flag evokes a utopian dream of unity and acceptance. Reo instructs the viewer to, “Pour yourself a shot of wine, stand three steps away from the flag, then chug the drink in one go. Close your eyes and count to three before reopening them.” Incorporating dark humor into a necessary cry for universal dialogue regarding race, heritage, and religion, Reo completes his instructions with, “Please kindly dump your disposable cup in the trash can provided for this purpose after drinking, so that we may record how many of you indulged in socializing around a dream constantly put in the trash.” It’s a whoa moment.

American Trilogy, Phil Buehler. Photo Courtesy of the Artist.

Artist Phil Buehler’s tryptic like installation, American Trilogy, curated by Larry Walczak, consists of three large column like structures containing panoramic images on the interior. Walking inside the cylindrical forms you are confronted with images of life, death, and protest, taken from recent events. The first panoramic image places you in the middle of the road standing on the altars built in Michael Brown’s neighborhood in Ferguson, Missouri, shortly after a tragic shooting by a Ferguson Police Officer. A nearly life size replica of the environment begins to enlighten us to the pain we can only imagine of those involved in the Ferguson shootings. In the next column you enter into the heart of the women’s march protests, standing in the middle of a field surrounded by “pussy hats” and signs emblazoned with slogans protesting the the recent inauguration and birth of the Trump Administration. It’s a different sort of energy than the first. While still emotionally provoking there is a sense of hope, community, and action. The last column encircles you in Arlington National Cemetery, surrounded by graves of American soldiers who have fought and died throughout American history. The center of the image shows the grave of Captain Humayun Khan, the Muslim American soldier whose story made headlines during the elections. Placing the viewer in that environment evokes many emotions; what exists mostly as blips on the news becomes more of a reality and confronting the viewer with the important political issues we face today.

American Trilogy, Phil Buehler. Photo Courtesy of the Artist.
American Trilogy, Phil Buehler. Photo Courtesy of the Artist.

This years SPRING/BREAK Art Show is located on the 22nd and 23rd floor of 4 Times Square the former Condé Nast building. The fair runs Wednesday March 1st- Monday March 6th 11am-6pm.

Alyssa McClenaghan is an artist and writer, currently splitting her time between Brooklyn and Upstate New York. She maintains a studio practice out of Troy, NY.

Going Political: Highlights of SPRING/BREAK Art Show 2017

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