On Thursday, the Armory Show opened in its new home at New York’s Javits Center. With timed entries, proof of vaccination, and other pandemic restrictions in place, the mood at the fair on its VIP day was much more subdued than in past years. But that seemed to be to the fair’s benefit, allowing for a more relaxed way to visit over 150 booths in a spacious layout. In an interview on opening day, Armory Show executive director Nicole Berry said that galleries were reporting strong sales and that collectors were pleased by the fair, which is now taking place in the fall for the first time. “This is the start of a new chapter for the Armory Show,” Berry said. “This is an opportunity to take this fair to the next level. The fair’s new layout, by Frederick Fisher and Partners, is allowing the art to shine.”
Below a look at some of the best art at the fair, which runs through Sunday, September 12.
Tunga and Jaider Esbell at Galeria Millan
São Paulo’s Galeria Millan used its booth to showcase one of Brazil’s most famous artists, Tunga, and an emerging star, Jaider Esbell (Macuxi), whose work is currently on view as part of the Bienal de São Paulo. One of Tunga’s famed “Braids” works, featuring hundreds of leaded wire strands twisted to resemble a braid of hair, trailed from the booth’s floor to a wall mount. Nearby were Esbell’s ethereal paintings, in which he offers up radiating Indigenous cosmologies.
Wendy Red Star at Sargent’s Daughters
Image: Installation view of Sargent’s Daughters booth showing work by Wendy Red Star.
New York–based gallery handed over its booth to Portland-based Wendy Red Star (Apsáalooke/Crow). Titled “A Float for the Future,” the booth centers around a papier-mâché recreation of Red Star’s father’s pickup truck, the roof of which is adorned with a larger-than-life honor bonnet conceived of by the artist’s grand-uncle Clive Francis Dust, Sr., an Apsáalooke knowledge keeper. The truck was one of many that participates in the annual Crow Fair Parade on tribal lands in Montana. Surrounding Red Star’s sculpture are various collages of cut-out photos featuring automobiles that have participated in past Crow Fairs atop bright textiles—a gesture toward car fairs.
Joy Labinjo at Tiwani Contemporary
Image: Joy Labinjo, The Catch, 2021.
In her latest body of work, Joy Labinjo infuses her paintings with humor and clever wordplay to reflect her experience as a Black woman living in a white world. In Playing the Race Card, a Black man in a suit holds a royal flush while a white man looks at him angrily. Meanwhile, in The Catch, a white HR manager is caught mid-run holding a butterfly net with a tag that reads “Racism Catcher.” Both works consider how people of color, in particular Black people, are asked to prove the racism that they are experiencing or to counter the notion that they are reaping benefits by “playing the race card.” In a statement, the artist said the works are “slightly unnerving and uncomfortable as I feel that’s an apt reflection of the situation, we all collectively find ourselves in.”
Genevieve Gaignard at Vielmetter Los Angeles
Image: Installation view of work by Genevieve Gaignard at Vielmetter Los Angeles at the Armory Show 2021.
In February 2019, Genevieve Gaignard wore a shirt at Frieze Los Angeles that read “Sell to Black Collectors.” Now, the artist has transferred that text into a triangle-shaped canvas that hangs in the booth of Vielmetter Los Angeles, as well as one that reads “Black Is Excellence.” These two works hang above recent photocollages by the artist on which found images from magazines like Ebony and Life are transposed over vintage wallpaper, a recurring theme in her practice. Gaignard’s forceful call for visitors to an art fair to think about how Black artists, collectors, and dealers have historically been excluded from the art market—and often continue to be—was hard to miss.
Marcelo Cidade at Vermelho
Image: Marcelo Cidade, Untitled (backpack), 2020–21.
Included in the fair’s Focus section, São Paulo–based gallery Vermelho presented a two-person booth featuring work by Cinthinia Marcelle and Marcelo Cidade. A standout in the presentation was Cidade’s new piece Untitled (backpack), 2020–21, in which a cube of concrete has been fitted into an insulated backpack that could be used to deliver food. Among the most underrecognized essential workers during the pandemic are those who deliver our groceries and take-out orders from restaurants. This sculpture visualizes the weight carried by these workers.
Tsuyoshi Maekawa at Whitestone Gallery
Image: Tsuyoshi Maekawa, Untitled 170101, 2016.
Whitestone, one of Japan’s leading galleries, is offering a great overview of the work of Tsuyoshi Maekawa, one of the youngest members of the country’s influential postwar Gutai movement. One work from the 1960s, made from painted hemp affixed to canvas, evinces the frenetic energy used to create Maekawa’s abstract compositions. Beginning in the 1970s, the artist began to rely on a softer color palette. He continues to use these cooler hues, and his hemp is now sewn instead of torn.
Richard Mayhew at ACA Galleries
Image: Richard Mayhew, Above and Beyond, 2009.
One of the under-recognized powerhouses of abstraction is Richard Mayhew, 98, whose brightly colored abstracted landscapes—or “mindscapes” as he often calls them—are on view courtesy of New York’s ACA Galleries. Mayhew was set to have his first solo show with ACA in March 2020, timed to the release of a new monograph on his work, but the show was delayed until June of that year because of the pandemic. Seeing these works in person acts as a highlight for anyone who missed that exhibition or has yet to see the power of his work firsthand.
Dindga McCannon at Fridman Gallery
Image: Dindga McCannon, Bessie’s Song, 2003.
A cofounder of the “Where We At” Black Women Artists collective, Dindga McCannon is currently the subject of the first solo show of her career at New York’s Fridman Gallery. Her works were a memorable part of the groundbreaking 2017 exhibition “We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965–85” at the Brooklyn Museum. Among the best pieces on view is Bessie’s Song (2003), a quilted portrait of a seated woman whose gold lamé robe drapes out of the canvas and onto the floor.
Kyle Meyer at Yossi Milo
Image: A work from Kyle Meyer’s “Unidentified” series, 2021.
Born in Ohio and based in New York and eSwatini, Kyle Meyer commanded attention with his “Unidentified” series. Displayed at the booth of Yossi Milo and shown earlier this year at the gallery, Meyer’s woven photography pieces look at the ongoing HIV epidemic in eSwatini, which has one of the highest rates of any country in the world and where it is also illegal to be gay. Meyer photographs gay men he has met wearing a specially designed head wrap. Once the photographs are complete, Meyer shreds both the prints and fabric used in the head wrap, and then weaves them together as a way to obscure the identity of his sitters.
Adrienne Elise Tarver at Welancora
Image: Adrienne Elise Tarver, High Priestess, 2021.
In three beautiful tapestries displayed in the booth of Brooklyn’s Welancora, Adrienne Elise Tarver pushes back against the notion of the Black female seductress. High Priestess (2021) shows a Black woman with short natural hair that appears to go from mauve to lilac. Over her eyes is a rectangular pool of water dotted with golden eyes.