The Armory Show
September 8-10, 2023
The Armory Show
For The Armory Show 2023, David Castillo presents a curated selection of works by gallery artists Sanford Biggers, Maria de los Angeles Rodriguez Jimenez, Pepe Mar, Glexis Novoa, Xaviera Simmons, Shinique Smith, Vaughn Spann, and Yesiyu Zhao.
Situating their practices in conversation with the broader histories of art, these artists each reexamine long standing conventions of representation, challenging artistic paradigms and claiming space for those who have long found themselves excluded from the field’s prevailing narratives. Deconstructing conceptual and iconographic frameworks, the works on view incisively question entrenched hierarchies that have historically perpetuated institutional exclusions. Through aesthetic interventions, the works contribute towards discourse that aims to rectify historical imbalances within the canon of art history.
Drawing reference to the American Civil War, Classical Antiquity, origami, and sacred geometry, Sanford Biggers’s quilt works form a tapestry of historical narratives and cultural symbolisms that meditate on the intricate interplay between identity, memory, and the enduring legacy of the past in shaping the present. The exhibited work is the first based on an antique quilt pattern made over several months in collaboration with master weavers.
Maria de los Angeles Rodriguez Jimenez’s works connect with concepts of the unknowable and the transcendent, alluding to her own ancestral traditions and spirituality to manifest subjects that appear to shift and transform within her compositions.
Pepe Mar’s highly textured assemblages draw together objects he collects from second-hand stores with ties to queer communities. These found artifacts, imbued by the experiences of those who once owned them, form the foundations of the artist’s practice in celebration of the resilience, history, and diversity of queer representation.
The real and speculative landscapes that rise from Glexis Novoa’s graphite drawings on marble point to the power of past, present, and future institutions. The roughly hewn edges of the marble slabs on which this work unfolds suggest the possibility for these structures and systems to crumble, corrupt, and decay, prompting the creation of renewed, adaptable frameworks.
Xaviera Simmons deconstructs the aesthetics and conventions of painting, deploying language that digresses and transgresses along thematic tropes to evoke—through words alone—the presence of a landscape, a scene, a memory, or an emotional state.
Shinique Smith’s fluid, swirling abstractions—with flourishes redolent of graffiti and calligraphy—are embedded with articles of clothing and fragments of fabric that suggest the presence of the body in its absence. These elements speak to resonances, memories, and histories that are expressed through gesture and fashioning.
Vaughn Spann’s painting practice contemplates the space between abstraction and figuration, serving to connect and disconnect symbols from their meanings. The X repeats throughout his practice as a pattern that speaks to personal histories, recurrent symbolisms, and the fluidity of meaning.
Amalgamating the visual tropes of American and Chinese genre painting, Yesiyu Zhao creates allegorical compositions where costumed heroes and hybrid creatures inhabit spaces between sexualities, genders, and nationalities.
Deploying materials and subjects in novel and unexpected capacities, the represented artists interrogate genre and form to reframe the art historical across highly personal evocations that re-envision the past as a strategy for understanding the present.
Vaughn Spann: MONUMENT
Platform is The Armory Show’s sector of large-scale and installation-based work. This year, Platform was curated by Eva Respini and the diverse projects on view are part of the curated program Rewriting Histories.
For The Armory Show 2023, David Castillo presents Vaughn Spann: MONUMENT.
MONUMENT is an immersive installation that treads in a space between figuration and abstraction, the real and the symbolic, and the personal and the collective, interrogating how, why, and for whom monuments are erected. Spann’s practice, ever prescient, ambitiously addresses themes of myth and meaning-making along the span of human history, honing in on identifiable icons of near-universal magnitude to audit the meanings imbued within them and pose questions about what they signify at present: What histories are consecrated therein? Who do they serve? And are they deserving of being passed forward through time?
The X is one of the familiar symbols at the center of Spann’s practice, his treatment of it mired in his own experience of moving through the world. It repeats throughout MONUMENT, engulfing the viewer in its potential meanings.
Dr. Lisa D. Freiman (Professor, Virginia Commonwealth University; 2011 Commissioner of the U.S. Pavilion of the Venice Biennale; and former Senior Curator and Department Chair of Contemporary Art at the Indianapolis Museum of Art) curated Spann’s solo exhibition at the Samek Art Museum (2021) and is working on a major forthcoming exhibition of the artist’s work. She has written extensively on Spann’s work, and on MONUMENT she writes:
Vaughn Spann’s work is often monumental in scale and thick with layers of textured paint of different densities and shapes so visceral that they almost appear to breathe. The unprecedented work here represents Spann’s most ambitious work to date to extend the practice of painting into a complete environment that envelops the viewer, suggesting the precedents of Rothko’s Chapel or Dubuffet’s Cave. The X paintings, which belong to Spann’s ‘Marked Man’ series, use a consistent formal structure that has unlimited potential for reinvention through repetition and the transformation of color, materiality, and scale. They are made from blended, viscous, grainy paint mixed with molding paste, sand, fibers, and pigment that he applies by hand, leaving behind traces of his personal gesture and bodily movements. Like Neo-Impressionist paintings, Spann’s works function on both a macro and micro level. From afar they are immediately recognizable as Xs, however, as viewers approach them, the X forms dissolve into densely tactile, layered abstract color fields that surround them.
Spann’s centralized X operates both as subject matter and methodology. As an indexical shifter its meaning changes depending on contexts, times, places, and people: it might evoke police brutality, a sign of negation, a designated location, or an allusion to Malcolm X. It also serves as an a priori shape used singularly, in sequence, or combined as a grid, becoming an endless expression of repetition and seriality that acknowledges modernist paintings, minimalist sculptures, or Warhol’s colorful Pop silkscreens. Spann’s painting practice refuses to privilege one aesthetic language over another and combines the nonrelational structure of hard-edge painting with the allover improvisation of gestural abstraction. Spann’s environment here offers a unique path to wholeness that convincingly combines the legacies of expressionism and conceptualism.
This X symbol evidences Spann’s individual experience and the collective one shared by others who have faced sanctioned mistreatment; the X both memorializes and plays witness to uncomfortable social and political realities that persist at this moment and often go unacknowledged. Spann charges the X with signification, acknowledging its broad capacity to contain a vast array of references and meanings legible across the human experience: A sign indicating negation, refusal, and error; a mark to make a selection or choice; an unknown variable; the chromosomes that carry humanity’s genetic material; and countless other implications. At once, the X contains all of this and none of it, and Spann treats the symbol as both a monument and an anti-monument in observance of humanity’s power to create, transform, and reinvent meaning.
David Castillo’s Galleries and Platform sector presentations can be reached most directly by entering the Javtis Center through the entrance of Hall 3B.