Street Aesthetics and Fine Art: UP Magazine’s Selection of Highlights from 2023 Armory Week

Written by Alexandria Deters

The fine art and street art world are more like distant cousins, interacting at family gatherings but not really in the same world. Yeah, in the last few years, I can say that the two worlds have merged and at this point maybe they’re kissing cousins, or that’s maybe the worst analogy, but anyway The Armory Show is starting to reflect the young collectors that are attending these fairs; and we see that with the artists, the work, and the art world.

Jo Smail, Crossed Legs with Daisy, 2017, Cardboard, acrylic and archival print on canvas,
60 x 70 inches Courtesy of Goya Contemporary Gallery

This is clearly seen with the amount of queer, artist of color, and Indigenous artists presented and represented. Whether it just be the well as overall aesthetic and materials in many of the high selling works (such as Jo Smail, Crossed Legs with Daisy, 2017, a large scale work using cardboard and vintage marketing imagery) it’s no longer about whether you’re the best oil painter or sculptor, or that you got your MFA at some Ivy  League.

It’s about what is your concept, what is your idea, what are you trying to say about our reality and the world that we are living, what are you doing to make a difference, what are we the viewers doing to make a difference? So many of the works are confrontational, just like how street art can be as it forces you to come to a decision the moment you see it in a public place.

Marie Watt, Companion Species (Source), 2023, Vintage Italian glass beads, industrial felt, thread, 74 × 98 inches, presented by Marc Straus, NY, NY, Image courtesy of the gallery.

This thought kept repeating in my head when looking at the political and personally charged works on display at The Armory Show. What else can one think when seeing painstaking beautiful work like, Barrier ( Glass bugle beads, tube beads, thread, and galvanized metal posts, 40 × 94 in, 2023) created by indigenous artist Nico Williams, literally taking an object that is used to create barriers between land/spaces and recreating it in delicate beads? Looking at Nico Williams’ works took my breath away, not just because of how beautiful they were, but what seeing them in The Armory Show meant, the mundane objects of the street being given reverence.

Nico Williams, Barrier, 2023 Courtesy of Blouin Division

I always get excited by Nicholas Galanin’s work and this year’s Armory Show did not disappoint. It was delicate creation in porcelain of objects known for their brutality that reminded me of the street. The danger that is always present, and no matter how beautifully displayed or seen, the true reality of certain objects will always be ominous and scary.

Nicholas Galanin, American Talking Stick, monochrome, 2023, presented by Peter Blum Gallery, NY, NY, The Armory Show 2023, photos by Alexandria Deters, Image courtesy of the gallery.

Then there is the pleasant, the community that can be built in your local space, such as a barbershop, where gossip and friendship can be found. I couldn’t help but imagine the types of witty individuals that visit and be customers at Devin Shimoyama’s barbershop, where queerness, masculinity, and femininity are celebrated and desired (Mighty Mighty (The Barbershop Project), 2019- Present).

Devin Shimoyama, Mighty, Mighty (The Barbershop Project) 2019-Present, Installation, presented by Kavi Gupta, Chicago, IL, The Armory Show 2023, NY, NY. Image courtesy of the gallery.

This year’s theme of !WILD CARD!‘ at the SPRING/BRAK artshow led to many wonderful (and occasionally cringe worthy, which is part of the beauty of S/B) displays and works.  I often saw works that felt like they could have been taken and created off the streets of NYC (such as Greg Haberny, Saint Sebastian, 2023) or literally inspired by street art found in NYC (Valeri Larko, Sign of the Times).

Greg Haberny, Saint Sebastian, 2023, Acrylic paint, vintage arrows, and toaster mounted on wood in an antique frame, 16 x 11 x 18 inches, Unique, Curated by Ambre Kelly + Andrew Gori as part of the Artist Spotlight, SPRING/BREAK Art Show 2023, Image Courtesy of the Artist


Valeri Larko, “Sign of the Times”2020-2023, Oil on panel, 10 x 10 inches – SPRING/BREAK Art Show Artist Spotlight Salon Show curated by Ambre Kelly + Andrew Gori, Image Courtesy of the Artist

This literal taking from the streets is something one comes to expect and executed in various degrees of success when walking the halls of SPRING/BREAK Art Show. I found it done well in Unlimited Supply curated by CH64 Gallery. The curation with the metal wall paneling brought the element of the street inside and brought the works by four different artists cohesively that I found mesmerizing.

Featuring artists Tiko Imnadze + Gvantsa Jishkariani + Sandro Pachuashvili + Mishiko Sulakauri SPRING/BREAK Art Show 2023, Opening Night, September 6 2023, Photos by Alexandria Deters

Featuring artists Tiko Imnadze + Gvantsa Jishkariani + Sandro Pachuashvili + Mishiko Sulakauri
SPRING/BREAK Art Show 2023, Opening Night, September 6 2023, Photos by Alexandria Deters

Featuring artists Tiko Imnadze + Gvantsa Jishkariani + Sandro Pachuashvili + Mishiko Sulakauri
SPRING/BREAK Art Show 2023, Opening Night, September 6 2023, Photos by Alexandria Deters

It was the display of the notions and thoughts of the quirky inhabitants that pass through the streets illustrated visually that pulled me in.  Like Paul Maloney clay vessels that when asked are partially inspired by still creating lyrics for songs but having no band(s) to tour so instead he decided to put those lyrics on clay. Or the dark and underground experiences shown for all the world to see. Or Max Schumann horrifying and grotesque paintings of imagined headlines.

Can Clay Carry Memory?: The Lyrical Vessels of Paul Maloney curated by Milly Cai + Madi Shenk
SPRING/BREAK Art Show 2023 , Opening Night, September 6 2023, Photo by Alexandria Deters

Max Schumann, Time to Shit Time to Play, 2004, Acrylic on cardboard, 29.4 x 24 inches. It’s the real thing. Curated by Dale Wittig, Image Courtesy of the Artist

In Emerald Rose Whipple’s ominous but delightfully pink oil painting drawn from one of her own photos of an underground rave during the year of the pandemic, forbidden and enchanting at the same time. It is putting these hidden moments on display that make art so important, engaging, and so necessary.

Emerald Rose Whipple, RENEGADE, KOSCIUSZKO BRIDGE, 2020, oil on canvas, 20 x 40 inches
“Apoca…” curated by Tara Francalossi and Thomas Lail, SPRING/BREAK Art Show 2023, NY, NY

While SPRING/BREAK Art Show has always been a place for the extraordinary in the ordinary, the uncomfortable celebrate, I was pleasantly surprised with how intensely I witnessed and felt these emotions while wandering THE Armory Show this year. Whether documenting what one person sees as the dangerously delicious moments, the often never-ending mundane, the uncomfortable and tragic, beautiful and inspiring; is what pushes me to keep going to art fairs, to keep exploring and willing to witness the new and previously undiscovered.

Alexandria Deters is a queer femme embroidery artist, researcher, activist, archivist, and writer based in the Bronx, NY. She received a BA in Art History and in Women and Gender Studies at San Francisco State University in 2015 and her MA in American Fine and Decorative Art at Sotheby’s Institute of Art, NY in 2016. Her writing and artwork are influenced by her belief that every human being is a ‘living archive’, a unique individual that has experiences and stories worth documenting and remembering.