Wandering the halls of an art fair, visitors often flick their eyes to the ostentatious—pillars of color, sparkling shapes, neon word-based art and even manipulated reflections of self. It’s easy for explosive color to captivate. And yet, passing through 2019’s The Armory Show in NYC, numerous works composed solely of black and white remind visitors of the power in simple contrast. The following five selections stretch from collage and mixed media to painting, but their spectrum is limited to extremes.
“Star Ceiling” by Leo Villareal
Artist Leo Villareal set the tone for the fair as guests walked through his 75-foot-long work before even entering Pier 94, The Armory Show’s venue once again. Inside a long, black passageway, the site-specific 2019 piece features an electronic ceiling of shifting stars and radial bursts. The stellar, immersive and experiential work is presented by Pace Gallery—and falls into the fair’s Special Project category.
“The Weather” by Shannon Bool
Toronto’s Daniel Faria Gallery presents Shannon Bool‘s profound 2019 work “The Weather.” More than 10 feet long and eight feet high, the wool tapestry with embroidered embellishments sets a calm scene before viewers. There’s a play between the power of nature and contemporary ease—all of which is disrupted by the circular, floral patterning that could be interpreted as the absence of leaves.
“Nueve sombras de una noche” by Martín Soto Climent
To gaze upon Martín Soto Climent‘s “Nueve sombras de una noche” is to access a place of dream and nostalgia. For all its meticulousness and nuance, there’s something to the work that reminds viewers of playful doodling—only at a level few will ever achieve. This mixed media on raw linen work was created in 2018, and brought to the fair by Mexico City’s PROYECTOSMONCLOVA.
“Three Women” by William Kentridge
With William Kentridge‘s “Three Women,” the artist has painted laser-cut stainless steel with black acrylic-based paint. This 2017 work employs negative space to complete the visual presentation—and does so powerfully. Italian gallery Lia Rumma showcases the sculptural piece from the South African artist at the Armory Show.
“Hazel Flannagan” + “F.H. Hawpine” by Nathalie Boutté
Perhaps our two favorite works on site, Nathalie Boutté‘s collages aim to interpret 19th-century photographs. Both produced in 2019, “Hazel Flannagan” and “F.H. Hawpine” are composed of hundreds of strips of Japanese paper—some covered in ink and font, all layered into feathered rows. Boutté reflects upon and calls to light the inspiration imagery, and her process is one to admire. NYC’s Yossi Milo Gallery presents Boutté to The Armory Show.
Images by David Graver