Satirical art exposes brutal truths at New York’s Armory Show

Dotted amidst the standard gallery presentations are installations that use satire, caricature and the grotesque as tools for critiquing today's troubled society.

5 March 2020
Reading Time
2 minute read


Opening today at New York’s Piers 90 and 94 is The Armory Show, this year boasting an exclusively female curatorial team and a spectrum of artworks by 183 exhibitors in its gallery presentations. Outside those boxes, however, exists a programme of large-scale and site-specific installations for the Platform series, curated by the executive director of LA’s Institute of Contemporary Art, Anne Ellegood, which provide something a little different and provocatively bizarre. Themed this year around satire, caricature and the grotesque, and titled Brutal Truths, the works hold a mirror up to society’s troubling current affairs and use humour and surrealism to provoke discussion.

“We are living in particularly complex times,” Ellegood tells It’s Nice That. “The United States has just been through an impeachment trial of the president; the deeply partisan political climate is having an enormous impact already on the what will surely be the least civil presidential campaign in American history; the world is witnessing unprecedented calamities related to climate change; and the impacts of continued discrimination against women, people of colour, and LGBTQ+ communities are felt every day. I was interested in how artists are today using the longstanding strategies of satire, caricature, the grotesque, and humour more broadly to address important social issues and topical political subject matter – how these strategies seduce the viewer into engaging with the work, while also allowing artists to be critical and argue for the need for genuine engagement with these topics.”

Offering interludes to the rest of the show are artists including Charlie Billingham, Nathalie Djurberg and Hans Berg, Edward and Nancy Kienholz, Christine Wang, Marnie Weber, Summer Wheat and Trulee Hall. Hall’s two works stand out particularly; titled SexyTime Rock Variations and Eves’ Mime Ménage, the artist uses claymation, CGI and live action film alongside painting and sculpture. “[Hall’s work] explores gender roles and the kinds of ludicrous expectations that are still placed upon women in our society,” Ellegood explains. “Using a visual language that embraces absurdity, fantasy, and the uncanny, her videos, paintings, and sculpture included in Platform specifically address how representations of women are often hyper-sexualized.”

As is the case with most mass group shows and gallery presentations, often the in-between installations and public works are seen by the biggest crowd. This consideration played into Ellegood’s curatorial approach, as well as her desire to build a group impact, despite their geographical spread. “I definitely wanted there to be some large-scale works in the Platform section so that the projects would have some visibility. Because the works are not grouped together in a physical section of the fair, they need to stand on their own, while also having an impact cumulatively, as viewers see the Platform works as they move around the piers.”

The Armory Show opens from 5-8 March at Piers 90 and 94, New York.

GalleryPlatform at The Armory Show


Nathalie Djurberg and Hans Berg: This Is Heaven. Courtesy Tanya Bonakdar.


Summer Wheat: Shallow Water II. Courtesy Shulamit Nazarian.


Edward & Nancy Kienholz: The Caddy Court. Courtesy L.A. Louver. Copyright Estate of Nancy Reddin Kienholz.


Edward & Nancy Kienholz: The Caddy Court. Courtesy L.A. Louver. Copyright Estate of Nancy Reddin Kienholz.

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Trulee Hall: Eves' Mime Ménage (painting). Courtesy Maccarone West.

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About the Author

Jenny Brewer

Jenny joined the editorial team as It’s Nice That’s first news editor in April 2016. Having studied 3D Design, she has spent over a decade working in design journalism. Contact her with news stories relating to the creative industries on

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