The Armory Show 2016 | Favourite Picks

My favourite picks from The Armory Show (3-6 March 2016) might as well be labelled a lush-crush. At the core of this aesthetic obsession is fern, along with any of its botanical derivatives and visual or conceptual synonyms. Uber popular indeed, fern has over recent months permeated Insta feeds and interiors, eventually finding its way into my hippocampus, where it  grows like any self-respecting plant would. It is then no surprise that my selection of contemporary art from The Armory Show’s various sections, including this year’s focus—African Perspectives, could be entitled The World of Fronds


Palais du Gouverneur #2, Lomé, Togo, 2012, Archival pigment ink on fine art paper


The horticultural journey begins with French-Ivorian artist François-Xavier Gbré (b. 1978), showing at Abidjan based Galerie Cécile Fakhoury. His documentary photographs tell the tumultuous story of West Africa through images of decayed colonial era buildings. Forsaken places alternate with glimpses of a modernised future as scenes of construction sites symbolise a progress that seems to come hand in hand with destruction. Although vacant, Gbré’s spaces remain immensely eloquent; they have witnessed and absorbed decades of social, cultural, and political history, and now proceed to deliver a detailed visual account thereof. 


water and air [Shelby] , 2015, Ink, collage, photo transfer, graphite, resin


Ruby Onyinyechi Amanze’s surrealistic works on paper, presented at Mariane Ibrahim Gallery, can be defined as science-fictionalised versions of the artist’s life trajectory. Born in Nigeria and living in Brooklyn, she evokes displacement through hybridised, part human part animal characters who find a way of inhabiting and ultimately belonging to their incongruous surroundings. 


         Victory, 1997, Cibachrome, Edition of 5 


Recognised as a pioneer of performance art and internationally acclaimed for her audacious interventions, Marina Abramovic (b. 1946) is featured at Lia Rumma with a Cibachrome print from 1997 titled Victory, in which she poses against a jungle-like backdrop while holding an oversized knife. The sharp weapon is somehow reminiscent of Rhythm 10, the artist’s first performance in which she used multiple knives to repeatedly stab the spaces between her fingers, and in so doing questioned the interconnection between mind and body. 

Les arbres ne fleurissent qu'au Printemps, 4, Oil on canvas


Les arbres ne fleurissent qu'au Printemps, which can be translated as Trees only blossom in Spring, demonstrates Jef Verheyen’s (1932 - 1984) process-oriented practice. From highly gestural brushstrokes, ubiquitous in his early works, the Belgian artist transitioned to colour gradations characterised by an absence of painterly evidence. Attained with the application of multiple translucent coats, the dissolution of technical marks confers a glowing effect to Verheyen’s paintings, which embody the artist’s lifelong concern with the intricacies of colour and light.  


See a full preview of The Armory Show 2016 here