SPRING/BREAK Art Show: A Hunger for Beauty (and Tacos)

Feature

The day after the Oscars, as a guest at the colossal SPRING/BREAK Art Show, I found myself dressed up and wandering the unused offices above the Eighth Avenue general post office in one of the busiest corners of the world. I sipped a glass of prosecco and hoped the art would quell my stomach’s rumble. 

Office Door -- the YESNO show
Office door, The YESNO Show

SPRING/BREAK is certainly big enough to fill a mind; it’s hard to overstate its size. The building housing it spans a city block, and the small, individual shows it contains are located in old office rooms, whose doors are lettered with the names of previous occupants. Some shows, like A Storied Collective, a collection of found objects curated by Krista Saunders Scenna, engage deeply with the building’s history, creating a thrift store–cum–art show vibe. I lingered over Polaroids by Brendan Carroll, each one telling a tiny story.

Paul Rome and Roarke Menzie - Sculpture by Leah Dixon
Paul Rome and Roarke Menzies, sculpture by Leah Dixon

But in this small city unto itself, it was imperative that I keep moving. Another amazing show was only 10 feet away! And another show was only another 10! And another! Across the hall at MA (curated by Katherine Aungier, Alta Bunden and Steve Mykietyn), I paused to hear author Paul Rome read “1200px,” a short story depicting technological anxieties, in which photos of a stranger mysteriously appear on a man’s laptop. But in this world of multiplicity, Rome’s reading was also a collaborative performance with sound artist Roarke Menzies, whose installation was entitled Permeate/Permutate.

Rome was surrounded by paintings by Christopher Dunlap and Michael Childress, and earlier I had overheard some artists joking about how few paintings there were in the show (SPRING/BREAK is heavier on other objects and media). These pieces fit thematically with Rome’s work, or maybe Rome’s work led me to look at their paintings differently. In Dunlap’s, small squares explode out into space like text bubbles, violent and bright (see feature photo, at top), while Childress’s lines sing like electrical wires, communicating across time and space.

Robin Kang Spring Break
Tapestry by Robin Kang

Down the hall, I also thought of technology at Knife Hits, curated by Rachel Phillips, where Robin Kang’s woven tapestries featured neon imagery of early computer chips. “I just went for it,” she explained about the color choice. In her hands, the chip design seems delicate, intricate, like the tapestry itself. A few feet away, dry ice smoked into the air around a sculpture by Elizabeth Ferry.

Full of art, I figured it was time to fill my stomach. Downstairs and still inside this sprawling art fair, I found a taco stand. (It had been next to the bar the whole time!) Through the open windows, Penn Station suddenly didn’t seem so monstrous: Blue and orange light, for a hockey game at Madison Square Garden, filled the sky. Behind me, Amedeo Pace from Blonde Redhead disassembled his sonic installation.

As I ate—finally—I felt joy in the work, from the curators who drive this art show; the artists here, who aren’t always represented by galleries; and the transformation of the space itself, the neon lights inside reflected by the neon lights outside. We were celebrating, all of us. It really was spring.

SPRING/BREAK Art Show, at the Skylight at Moynihan Station, closes tonight, March 7.

Monica Wendel is author of the new book of poems English Kills.

Photos by Monica Wendel