Savannah Camastro

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Though it may feel like we’re in the dead of winter, Spring/Break Art Show kicks off this Wednesday at the United Nations Plaza in Midtown East. Spring/Break is the Armory Show’s edgier younger sister, focusing more on concepts and individual artists rather than market trends and gallerists.

The art show gives curators and artists a chance to explore new ideas while providing them with free exhibition space. Their mission is to show “Visionary perspectives both established and unknown that engage these areas under a unifying theme and push to extend the boundaries of typical market week practices, low overhead and shifting curatorial themes their assets to this end,” as stated on their website.

The theme of this year’s art fair is FACT AND FICTION, which calls artists and curators to  explore what’s perceived as real and what’s not in a world of fake news, corrupt government, and conspiracy theories.

One of the presented artists, is Bushwick-based Stella Zhong, and she is using her most recent works to create a fictional world, “Empty City,” that focuses on the “malleable nature of perception, offering a space for reconciliation.”

Curated by Wai Ying Zhao, the fictional metropolis is made up of Zhong’s geometric structural sculptures, unrendered videos of her own manipulations of water and air, and paintings that echo ambiguous planets and lands.

The “city” itself is vacant; the conversation takes place between illusion and tangibility as the life force, Zhong explained, “I used both domestic and digital forms. They’re forms people are familiar with, and ground themselves in.”

“When I heard the theme of the show, I thought Stella’s work would be perfect,” Zhao said. Zhong and Zhao are both originally from Shenzhen, China, but came to New York to pursue art. They met through a mutual friend and this is their second time working together.

As an independent curator, Zhao helps artists articulate concepts of their work, “None of the works for this show are made specifically for the fair. Instead, we used her [Stella’s] recent works to create this imaginative world.”

Despite the inevitable elicit of political responses FACT AND FICTION evokes, “Empty City” is not particularly political. “The exhibit focuses on the human experience in the moment,” Zhao said, “We often get caught up in the political world, trying to distinguish what’s true and what’s not. Instead, we wanted to provide a place where people can find their peace.”

Zhong is currently based in Bushwick and is co-founder and director of Unnamed, a gallery and art space that allows local artists and performers to collaborate and exhibit their work. “It’s a space where artists of all kinds can come show their work and learn from each other,” Zhong said.

Unnamed operates in two locations: the Cyclorama Studio  for photo and film and an exhibition space for events and artwork documentation. Since opening two years ago, Unnamed has introduced Zhong to all kinds of artists and artforms, expanding her own practice, “I’m meeting a lot of musicians and performers who are teaching me how to incorporate sound into my videos.” Having a space in Bushwick has also allowed Zhong to experiment with the scale of her works and pursue new concepts.

SPRING/BREAK Art Fair runs March 6 through March 11 2019.

All images courtesy of Stella Zhong.

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