A Moment of Concentration at Armory Arts Week

by Alex R. Travers

Carrie Schneider, Aura reading Maarit Verronen (Pimeästä Maasta, 1995) from the Reading Women series (2012-2013), C-print, 36 x 30 inches

There’s been a great deal of self-examination and reflection going on in the art world lately. In New York, for one, it seems that artists, curators, and gallerists have been asking themselves, How do we get noticed at art fairs and biennials? For gallerists, the answer is not showcasing a mélange of flagrant artworks or exhibiting artists they feel the need to promote, but creating a sense of unity and fun that connects audiences with art in a whole new fashion.

While discovering unknown artworks is one of the most exciting parts about visiting a fair, it’s also pleasing to find strong narratives. Museums and galleries are quite good at this; art fairs, usually, are not. But at the Armory Show this year, a few galleries are utilizing solo booths (an exhibition space dedicated solely to one artist) in ways that encourage visitors to step in and explore. At each booth, there’s individuality: a little corner that reveals a sculpture, say, or a small work on paper hidden next to a storage closet. Even if the booth is just a plain white square, some exhibitors have found ways to creatively transform their show spaces into something special.

Chicago’s moniquemeloche gallery, for instance, presents a series called “Reading Women” by the artist Carrie Schneider. Schneider’s work is a sequence of C-print photographs that features a few of her artist and writer friends reading novels in their homes. The photographs—equal in size—are evenly lined up in moniquemeloche’s Armory Show space. In many ways, the works could be simply be read as the pleasure of getting lost in our imaginations—the artist admits the photographs were taken while the sitters weren’t aware of the camera. It’s the passive nature of the pictures that makes them beautiful. Perhaps it’s the idea of capturing an almost motionless moment or the utter concentration of the readers that draws you in. What are they reading? What are they thinking? In a way, you become the subject you’re viewing, lost in your own thoughts. “There is something rare about the depth of concentration experienced while reading,” responds Schneider. “It’s this moment I’m after: when the sitter loses awareness of the camera—and any semblance of a pose—forgetting her cultural performance.”