Lost at The Armory: A Riveting Quest to find the Meaning of Art
For a show called The Armory, I felt, upon entering the West Side Highway and 52nd location, conspicuously devoid of any armor. Sunglasses were abundant—and those who weren’t wearing sunglasses were kept safe under wide-brimmed hats. I felt nothing short of naked, and the fact that I know nothing about art wasn’t helping me. But no matter—Kathryn Chadason, our intrepid Graphic Designer/Photo Editor, was with me. And so, after unloading my bladder, we set off on my quest to learn the meaning of art.
The first work we encountered was a totaled car. “Slow Motion Car Crash,” artist Jonathan Schipper calls it, and a pretty accurate description too. It was dirty, and I imagine the inside wasn’t any better. “Should I call Xzibit?” I wondered aloud. “If there’s any time to bring back Pimp My Ride, it would be now.” Kathryn pretended not to hear me. We continued on.
I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t initially feel lost, estranged. So much shade—one bowler hat here, one newsboy cap there!—and yet not a speck of sun. Suddenly, something caught my eye. It looked like a bruise I once had. Or was that a blister? I took note. Unconsciously, I reached my hand out to touch it. I was told, “Please don’t.” Then I did something weird with my left hand.
I trudged along, waded through throngs of safety-pinned ears, trying not to get poked while, at the same time, hoping to come home to a titillating Facebook poke. “Hey look! A vagina!” Kathryn called from up yonder. I ran over. It was Anish Kapoor, the Indian-born British sculptor, and the piece did indeed look like a vagina. Apparently, the sculpture is comprised of 261 individual vaginas to make one gaping, vagina-like slit. “Wound,” Kapoor calls it—and I tried not to think too hard about that.
We continued onward. “Onward and upward!” I bellowed, trying to remain hopeful after that whole vagina as wound thing. Yet swelling hope does not an art master make—that much was becoming clear. Did I feel out of my element? Certainly. Inadequate? Unlearned? You bet. I looked down at my press pass and rubbed it for good luck.
“Someone who smelled of influencer said, ‘Wow,’ so naturally, I followed.”
“Maybe this is where I’ll get discovered,” I thought. Someone who smelled of influencer said, “Wow,” so naturally, I followed. To where? To a hanging silver grid sculpture, of course. The piece is called “Cuadriláteros,” and it’s by Venezuelan artist Elias Crespin. Droves of people began to crowd around it. “I stood here watching it for awhile,” I overheard one woman say. “It’s amazing.” The grid remained idle, then moved, and then went idle again. Color me confused.
“Listen to your heart, not the crowd,” I told myself. And if it weren’t for the antidepressants, I might’ve been able to. So I listened to the next best thing: Kathryn. “Frank Stella!” she exclaimed, and led me to this colossal sculpture. I nodded my head in agreement. Yes, this is it. This is casual bathroom art. I put my hand to my chin, cocked my head, and brooded. I was starting to get the hang of this.
“This isn’t so hard after all,” I thought, as someone took a photo not so much of me as through me. And that’s when I found her. Mujer—”Mujer a Caballo.” Or, my spirit animal. I thanked the heavens for Fernando Botero Angulo, the Colombian figurative artist responsible for this joyful, bareback-riding lady, and forged on.
Things were certainly looking up. A U2 cover was playing, I checked out a poodle, and—for a fleeting moment—a man smiled. I was flush with excitement. Or was it just getting really hot? I caught a glimpse of myself in a Jeff Koons balloon, and the sweat mustache said it all. The lights began to dim, as the U2 cover was gradually drowned out by the faint buzz of neon lights. It was only when Kathryn found me having a staring contest with an infant that we decided to get some fresh air.
Revived, we advanced. Then, a gravitational pull. I instinctively hung a sharp left, then a right. I elbowed my way through a sea of painter’s overalls without a speck of paint on them and my nose brushed the brim of a bolero, but I made it. Oh, did I make it. “Art” it read. “So this is it,” I whispered. “This is art.” Kathryn pretended not to know me, and I pretended not to notice.
I stayed and mulled this over. I pondered and may have even pontificated! A work by Mary Bauermeister, aptly named “Art” and spelling out the word “ART” in various colored straws. Which reminded me: I was thirsty. For knowledge, yes, but also for some sugary cocktail. To the bamboo-ed lounge area!
Photography by Kathryn Chadason
For more info the works at the Armory Show, check out their site.
Stay tuned to Milk for more self-conscious art coverage.