Spring Break Art Show Directors On Disrupting Trad...

Spring Break Art Show Directors On Disrupting Tradition And Friendly Ghosts

The Spring Break Art Show is always an adventure. Snaking through art fair venues that include an abandoned Catholic school and decrypt former post office, encountering hemoglobin projections, treadmill mountains, and sometimes rare Basquiat drawings, one feels glee and horror (often in equal measure). The fifth edition of the thematic art fair held at the Skylight at Moynihan Station promises this and more with over 100 curators presenting new work around a pertinent aesthetic concern—⌘COPY⌘PASTE.

The DIY group exhibition commercial fair is the brainchild of husband-and-wife duo Andrew Gori and Ambre Kelly. Conceived in 2009 as a “break” from the art world’s dealer-driven, white-box fairs, SPRING/BREAK offered curators—mostly selected through an open call—display space for a mere percentage of sales, unlike mainstream fairs where booths are priced in the thousands. The result is a refreshing sense of ease. Along with curatorial context, SPRING/BREAK provides a space where creators can freely and unpretentiously show off their peculiar concepts, wittiness and technical ingenuity.

Art Report caught up with the bold and hilarious fair directors for insights on this year’s SPRING/BREAK.

Azikiwe Mohammed A New Davonhaime Thrift Store Dustin Yellin spring break art show

“Azikiwe Mohammed A New Davonhaime Thrift Store,” curated by Dustin Yellin. Photo: Sofija Maria Kas

Art Report: With the new location, your impromptu wedding at the press preview and Dustin Yellin’s shredded dollar bills, last year’s SPRING/BREAK Art Show received rave reviews. What do you think will excite people most in 2016?

Ambre + Andrew: In our fifth year, SPRING/BREAK Art Show 2016 really feels like a culmination. Numerous group shows include cross-generational reflection: students are showing professors; mentors are displaying mentees; and masters share wall space with emerging spitfires. Some incendiary standouts are Magda Sawon’s Chop Shop, in which Greg Allen will slice you a Barnett Newman or Gerhard Richter by the foot, Jo Shane and Maripol’s cut-and-paste concoction of girlhood ephemera, and Azikiwe Mohammed’s performative installation, A New Davonhaime Thrift Store, exploring the black American diaspora through thrift store detritus.

AR: If you had to buy one artwork at this year’s SPRING/BREAK, what would It be?

A+A: Actually, in the spirit of commercialism—both in the nature of American matrimonial ritual and the anniversary of last year’s theme— we are starting a wedding registry with works we want for our first anniversary. People who purchase those works will get the artwork and a limited edition print of our Wedding Certificate from TRANSACTION. I’ll give you a hint for how to find which works we’re choosing: this is our paper anniversary.

Cannibals Jo Shane and Maripol spring break art show

Lily Ives in “Cannibals,” curated by Jo Shane + Maripol. Photo: Sofija Maria Kas

AR: Transaction, Publicprivate, Apocalist, the fair’s curatorial themes tap into the 21st century’s artistic preoccupations, but are still simple and accessible. Can you elaborate on this year’s theme ⌘COPY⌘PASTE?

A+A: Recent technology has recalibrated ideas of personal ownership, especially in terms of intangible art like music and digital photography. Anything you can’t touch is now free. (Kind of a beautiful idea in and of itself.) But this battle over intangible ownership has waged since people stopping signing things Anonymous, and now objecthood conjoins murkily with aesthetics. On the one hand artwork is unique and singular, but its experience is borrowed by many, shared again and again through museums or gifs. Technology has evolved this sloughing off of “mine,” but the nature of art has always been applicable to more than one perspective so the sensation feels indigenous.

AR: Are there any advantages or disadvantages of creatively collaborating while being romantically involved?

A+A: Advantages: brutal honesty polishes lumps of coal quickly in the direction of diamonds. And you deal with a lot of coal when bringing anything from your imagination into the tangible world. It’s great to have someone to call your bluff, and make sure you’re not falling for commercial blandness or amateurish gaffs. Two heads are better than one, and two heads in love can enjoy the process on a different level.

Disadvantages: Diplomacy gets tossed out the window when you’re problem-solving with someone who daily encounters your family flaws.

LV DIY spring break art show

“LV DIY,” Alfred Steiner, curated by Kevin Van Gorp + Shen-Shen Wu. Photo: Sofija Maria Kas

AR: What has been your most absurd or memorable experience since the first SPRING/BREAK?

A+A: The cast of characters that come with a building are always unforgettable. When at The Old School we met a woman who once taught there and whose father had been the janitor, he passed away a few weeks before we did our 2013 show. Walking through the space with the teacher a few days before install she broke down crying: “I saw him. I saw my father!” This is a level-headed, no nonsense Dominican New Yorker. But we just passed it off as grief.

Five days later we left collaborative duo, The Future Future, overnight in the Old School to finish installing their piece. We entered the next morning seeing them ready to head out we asked “how was it last night?” “Good,” the duo responded “the cleaning guy came in around 4 A.M. and started mopping the halls downstairs. Other than that everything was quite.” We both became momentarily confused and said, “we don’t have a cleaning crew.” They told us a man was walking around with a bucket on the floor below them, mopping for the few hours before we got there. We had an odd feeling we knew who that man was.

AR: The show began as a break from commercially-driven fairs with little curatorial context. Has SPRING/BREAK stayed the same over the years?

A+A: We always felt the need for disrupting the traditional white-box exhibition context, and that remains. We’ve always felt a pratfall of art culture in general is its willful divorce from day-to-day context. Challenging curators to work within pre-existing context—both architecturally and through our annual exhibition themes—is a way to argue that art doesn’t need to be divorced from daily perception. That the every day is choked up with complexity, unreality, beauty, the idea—and simply needs sensitivity to be excavated and seen.

Light Show blue Ulys O Hanson spring break art show

“Light Show,” Joey Frank and Daniel Kent, curated by Ulys O. Hanson. Photo: Sofija Maria Kas

Light Show red Ulys O Hanson spring break art show

“Light Show,” Joey Frank and Daniel Kent, curated by Ulys O. Hanson. Photo: Sofija Maria Kas

Greg Allen's Chop Shop Magdalena Sawon spring break art show

“Greg Allen’s Chop Shop,” curated by Magdalena Sawon. Photo: Sofija Maria Kas

Greg Allen's Chop Shop Magdalena Sawon spring break art show

“Greg Allen’s Chop Shop,” curated by Magdalena Sawon. Photo: Sofija Maria Kas


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Sehba Mohammad is a culture writer, whose art obsession has been deepened by stints at Jack Shainman Gallery, Art+Auction, and now If she isn't harassing artists or schmoozing at exhibition openings, she's exploring New York's constantly evolving electronic music scene.