Spring/Break Art Show: Tough Issues Tackled Through Art

Artists tackle big issues like global warming, gun violence and the political struggles currently being fought over the world’s resources.

This past weekend was the Armory Arts Week in New York, an event centered around the Armory Show, an international art fair that featured over 200 galleries from 30 countries in huge abandoned warehouses on the far West Side of Manhattan. In response to the perceived stodginess of the main event—booths at the Armory cost $30,000, a prohibitively expensive price for emerging gallerists and artists—a number of satellite fairs opened concurrently around the city. One such fair was the Spring/Break Art Show, a conceptual, curator-driven exhibition that showcased over 70 artists many of whom tackled big issues like global warming, gun violence, and the political struggles currently being fought over the world’s natural resources.

Spread out over three floors of an old school building, in the hallways and classrooms—and even, in the case of one site-specific installation, the latrine—the show was centered around the theme of New Mysticism. For many of the artists, mysticism was understood as the end result of an art-induced hallucination. In alonetogether, an installation by Juliana Cerqueira Leite, Grace Villamil and Myla Dalbesio, guests entered a room covered floor-to-ceiling with crinkled Teflon, ornamented with fuzzy, brightly colored images. The effect was something like walking into cave full of rock crystals—or, although I can’t speak from experience—taking LSD in an elevator.

But more than just exploring the paranormal and spiritual aspects of life, the artists responded to the world around them. They did this by utilizing new, technologically advanced mediums—digital large-scale printers, Internet videos, mash-ups of computer programs—but also by addressing the sorts of issues that socially conscious Americans are concerned with. In a first floor room, the artist Adam Ianniello, whose practice is concerned with collapsing landscapes, presented two photographs of detritus-littered scenes. In the foreground of one was a ladder lying on a bank of rocks—in the background, there was a glacier. It was an acute reminder of how quickly our world is changing thanks to global warming—in one hundred years, the swath of rocks will have swallowed the whole expanse of white snow and ice behind it.

Out in the courtyard, the environmental artist Lita Albuquerque installed a blue sphere in the center of a white triangle of salt. Part of a larger work that Albuquerque will later stage in the sand flats of Bolivia, the work is inspired by two things. First, by the artist’s interest in combining simple materials—salt—with simple forms—triangles and sphere—which she feels causes a alchemical reaction in a human body. The second is to comment on the wars currently going on over the world’s salt flats—Bolivia being one such place—as well as the changing state of the oceans that, of course, are filled with salt.

On the second floor, prints of Albuquerque’s earlier works—which resemble Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty—are hung in a hallway that lead to a room containing Winchester Redux, a mixed media work by Jeremy Blake. It consisted of a projection of appropriated images of the extravagant Victorian mansion built by Sara Winchester, the heiress to the Winchester firearms fortune, for the victims of those killed by her family’s merchandise. It was the only work I saw during Armory Week that even obliquely referenced the issue of gun control in the United States.


In some dictionaries, mysticism is defined as the pursuit of conscious awareness of the ultimate reality. One way to explore this is, of course through art, a medium into which the world is processed and then presented to a captive audience. The ultimate reality it relays is not always the same—nor should it be. But it was reassuring to see that at Spring/Break, at least a handful of the artists and curators were interested in a reality that addressed pressing issues like global warming and gun control, while their peers at the Armory seemed concerned mostly with selling expensive pieces to rich collectors.

Images courtesy of Spring/Break Art Show


The global climate change strikes on Friday are said to have been the largest protest for climate change in history. An estimated four million people participated in 2,500 events across 163 countries on all seven continents. That included an estimated 300,000 Australians, but a total of zero were in Hyde Park in Sydney, despite a viral photo that claims otherwise.

Australian Youth Coal Coalition, a pro-coal Facebook page, posted a photo showing trash strewn across a park after what appears to have been a large event. "Look at the mess today's climate protesters left behind in beautiful Hyde Park," the photo was captioned. "So much plastic. So much landfill. So sad." The only problem is, the photo wasn't taken after a climate change protest. It wasn't even taken in Australia.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
via GOOD / YouTube

Last Friday, millions of people in 150 countries across the globe took to the streets to urge world leaders to enact dramatic solutions to combat climate change.

The Climate Strike was inspired, in part, by Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old girl from Sweden who has captured worldwide attention for her tireless work to hold lawmakers responsible for the climate crisis.

The strike gave people across the planet the opportunity to make their voices heard before the U.N. General Assembly Climate Summit in New York City on Monday.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
Photo by Casey Horner on Unsplash

As world leaders meet to discuss new ways to tackle climate change at the U.N. Climate Action Summit, they might miss one very big part of healing nature – nature. In a new short film, youth climate change activist Greta Thunberg and George Monbiot, a writer for the Guardian, talked about how we need to use nature as a solution to climate change.

There's a huge push to curb emissions, but it's not the be all end all of handling climate change; we also need to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. While we don't have technology to do that for us, there is another solution. "There is a magic machine that sucks carbon out of the air, costs very little, and builds itself. It's called a tree," Monboit says in the film. Researchers found that we could get rid of two-thirds of the carbon dioxide that we've emitted during the industrial era just by growing trees. That amounts to 205 billion tons of carbon. Right now, deforestation of tropical forests is responsible for 20% of current greenhouse emissions.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
Climate Action Tracker

In 2016, 196 countries signed the Paris Agreement, pledging to combat climate change by taking action to curb the increase in global temperatures. The Paris Agreement requires countries to report on their emissions and what steps they're taking to implement those plans. Now that the countries are coming together again for the U.N. Climate Action Summit in New York City, it's worth taking a look at what kind of progress they've made.

The Climate Action Trackerkeeps tabs on what each country is doing to limit warming, and if they're meeting their self-set goals. Countries are graded based on whether or not their actions would help limit warming to 1.5 degrees C.

According to a recent article from National Geographic, The Gambia, Morocco, and India are at the head of the class. "Even though carbon emissions in The Gambia, Morocco, and India are expected to rise, they'll fall short of exceeding the 1.5-degree Celsius limit," the article reads. Saudi Arabia, Russia and the United States, on the other hand, get a big fat F. "Projected emissions in Saudi Arabia, Russia, and the United States are far greater than what it would take to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius."

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
Screenshot via (left) Wikimedia Commons (right)

Greta Thunberg has been dubbed the "Joan of Arc of climate change" for good reason. The 16-year-old activist embodies the courage and conviction of the unlikely underdog heroine, as well as the seemingly innate ability to lead a movement.

Thunberg has dedicated her young life to waking up the world to the climate crisis we face and cutting the crap that gets in the way of fixing it. Her speeches are a unique blend of calm rationality and no-holds-barred bluntness. She speaks truth to power, dispassionately and unflinchingly, and it is glorious.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet