Surprises at the Armory Show
March 10, 2014 | King by Alice Neel (1900-1988), c. 1954. India ink on paper, 13.33 by 11 inches. The Estate of Alice Neel, Courtesy Aurel Scheibler, Berlin.
The modern section of the Armory Show on Pier 92 (March 6-9) opened with a significant surprise: an installation curated by Susan Harris, Venus Drawn Out: 20th Century Works by Great Woman Artists. Pier 92 had never done a curatorial project before so encountering one hung salon style amidst the intensely commercial hubbub of the show was the first surprise...but not the last. When she was initially asked to do an exhibition culled from the galleries that would be exhibiting on the pier, Harris began by thinking about drawings, something she loves but not something that is at the red hot center of a market where paintings rule, surprise number two. As she was making a list of twentieth-century artists whose drawings she admired she realized that they were all by women, another unexpected development. Thus Venus Drawn Out whose organic, almost accidental, progression from Harris's idea to its realization accounts for its refreshing lack of agit prop ...and for the spontaneous pleasure of encountering further surprises, from Alice Neel's drawing of a dog to Pat Steir's large scale site specific work. Among the fifty-seven or so artists included (most but not all drawn from pier exhibitors) were Anni Albers, Jennifer Bartlett, Lynda Benglis, Lee Bontecou, Helen Frankenthaler, Goergia O'Keefe, Lee Krasner, Louise Bourgeois, Agnes Martin, Joyce Kozloff, Eva Hesse, and Yayoi Kusama.
Harris had hoped that her exhibition would amount to a visual still point amidst the "dizzying blur" on the pier which it very definitely did, but she is also somewhat amused that in 2014 drawings! by women! should be such a novel conjunction, "the marginalized joined to the marginalized," as she puts it. If that conjunction is in fact a double negative it amounted in this case to an emphatic positive.
The below slideshow contains images from the exhibition and from elsewhere around the Armory Show.