Twenty-three stories above Times Square, the windows of the former Vanity Fair offices frame views that look as if they’re photograher Michael Wolf’s dizzying architectual landscapes. Across 43rd Street, office workers sit at desks—the stacks of which can be seen by floors at a time, while billboards flash and buzz nearby. This cold remove, far above the tourist masses, makes for a fitting backdrop for SPRING/BREAK Art Show, which had asked its exhibitors this year to curate autobiographical work on the theme of “Black Mirror,” a device used by the Old Masters to isolate a subject from its surroundings. The open call was a risky stipulation in danger of encouraging the solipsistic, but it mostly paid off. Over 150 curators have brought in over 400 artists—here are eight artists in particular who stood out.
In an exhibition titled “Two In a Room,” curator Eric Sutphin brings together who he describes as “two sisters, separated by two generations, in a coven of figuration.” Beyond the studied compositions and predilections for certain colors, the paintings of both Angela Dufresne and Rosemarie Beck reference iconic pictures. But in contrast to Beck—whom, Sutphin says, “looked back to the panoply of Western art in search of a new way forward”—Dufresne describes her own “covers” as “loving transgressions.” Dufresne’s Love Was Found and Lost in Pornelia is a crowd favorite.
Valery Jung Estabrook
Hometown Hero (Chink), a three-part installation by Valery Jung Estabrook, is dominated by a recliner in the center of the room, upholstered with the pattern of a Confederate flag. “I wanted to make an uncomfortable space with comfortable materials,” Jung Estabrook says, as a way of speaking to the “state of psychological exile” common to immigrants who’ve found home in the American south. The entire installation also includes a single channel video and furnishings, and upholstered beer cans (Born N’ Bred Beer) and shotguns (Pillow Gun) are also editioned separately.
Curators Christopher Stout and Rick Herron have exhibited a number of works by Danny Coeyman, including six self portraits made from the artist’s pillowcases and clothing pulled over stretchers. But what shines is Coeyman’s Double Self Portrait: Pietà, a large ink and watercolor drawing of the artist entangled with his double. A portrait painter based in Brooklyn, Coeyman has exhibited his work at The Kitchen, the Leslie Lohman Museum, the New Museum, and Purdue University.
Also exhibited in Stout and Herron’s “Black Mirror, Pink Reflections: Portraits of Queer Identity in Contemporary Art” is John Hanning’s I Survived AIDS, a sculpture made of 500 stacked c-print posters, reminiscent of Felix Gonzalez-Torres’s stacked prints (that unlike Hanning's, are free to take.) Each poster depicts a photo of the artist—who was diagnosed with the syndrome on January 24, 1995—as a boy, with the title emblazoned across the bottom. Hanning has shown at Mixed Greens, WAH Center, La Mama, and has work in the MoMA Research Library.
Aneta Bartos’s series Family Portrait began with a suggestion from her father who has worked a professional bodybuilder in Poland since his early twenties. Now 72 years old, Bartos’s father posed for the first polaroid in the series (pictured above, left) as part of another body of work. (Her father wanted his daughter in the picture.) Now, Bartos plans to return to Poland this summer to complete the series that developed from that first photo, which has already been published in Photograph, Secret Behavior, i-D, and other publications. Bartos’s work has also been shown at Artsource, Steven Kasher, the Humble Arts Foundation, and elsewhere.
Andrea Wolf & Karolina Ziulkoki
Future Past News, a collaborative project by artists Andrea Wolf (from Chile) and Karolina Ziulkoki (from Brazil), came about during their joint stays at New Inc., an art and technology incubator run by the New Museum. Staged as a homey living room from the midcentury, the installation involves a television that displays newsreel from before the outbreak of WWII, which Wolf and Ziulkoki uncovered in a Mexico City flea market. The project makes use of augmented reality technology, allowing the viewer to hold up their phone and reveal another, more timely layer. To give away one example, Stalin on T.V. becomes Putin on the phone.
Future Past News can be also be viewed at futurepast.news, paired with the duo’s augmented reality app.
With “I Need a Place to Spend the Day,” curators Jess Carroll and Emma Clough invited three Canadian artists to create a space of sanctuary. Brian Rideout paints photographs found in interior design magazines in soft, muted hues that mark a telling contrast to the hyper-city, visible through the window in the form of a cadmium red Toshiba billboard. Rideout has shown at Evans Contemporary, Butcher, 52 McCaul, Elora Centre for the Arts, and elsewhere. His works are held in the private collections of TD Bank Group, PCI Development, and more.
Debra Zechowski says she’s drawn to the tension between the intimacy of her family photographs that she paints, and the larger-than-life scale of the paintings themselves. With an eye for working-class signifiers (a Brillo box in one painting pulls double duty as an art historical reference), she paints witty scenes of her family’s history in their gentrifying Brooklyn neighborhood. Zechowski has exhibited at Sardine Gallery, Brooklyn Artist Gym, and Queens College.