Will Rockel, You think you are an orange and begin to peel yourself, 2013;
 ©Will Rockel/Courtesy Hunter Braithwaite    
Friday night’s gallery opening at Michael Jon Gallery sparked seedy flashbacks of my trips to New York's Lower East Side, where my friends and I would hit gallery after gallery in search of the next great artist.  Unlike its more grown-up sister, Chelsea, where established artists are backed by gallery owners with deep pockets and large spaces, the Lower East Side offered us chance meetings with gifted unknowns while we all rubbed elbows---often literally. (These spaces could be pretty tiny.) 
Pictured with works by Cole Sayer, gallery owner Michael Jon Radziewicz (far left) and curator Hunter Braithwaite (far right) converse with patrons; Photo by Seanica Howe.
Enter Michael Jon Radziewicz, owner of Michael Jon Gallery; curator Hunter Braithwaite; and one very intimate space in Miami’s newest art destination: downtown.  Michael Jon begins its stint in its new location (it was briefly in the Design District) with an exhibition called “Gattaca,” and it’s going to throw you for a loop.  Why?  Due to the limited number of examples by each artist and lack of grounded text, it’s difficult to relate the works to one another and there is little to go on in the mode of esthetics.   But not so fast, people.  It's also a collection of work by little-known artists who have massive potential.  Art consultant pro tip: If you have dreams of starting your own art collection, "Gattaca" is a great place to start.

“Gattaca” is made up of artists that newly minted collectors dream of.   They are young, virtually unknown, and have bios that give their work considerable weight.  The show is composed of four artists: Ethan Greenbaum, Hayal Pozanti, Will Rockel, and Cole Sayer.  Two of the four, Greenbaum and Pozanti, received MFA degrees from Yale---that’s serious.  And Rockel boasts recent participation in a group exhibition at the New Museum in New York City.  Due to his current involvement with the Venice Biennale, any mention of the New Museum’s director, Massimiliano Gioni, makes fine art lovers everywhere weep and salivate, so Rockel gains street cred by mere association.

You would never know it by seeing one or two pieces extracted from their larger body of works, but if you do your homework you’ll quickly realize that each of these emerging artists are part of important conversations in the forward progression of art, as well as its relationship to theory, process, and materials.  In elitist art world brouhaha that means: “We think your art is valuable.”  Get the picture?  Good.

Ethan Greenbaum, Weep Space, 2013; Photo by Seanica Howe.
Since you’re likely to leave this exhibition scratching your head, let me explain just what these artists are up to. Greenbaum, the show’s standout, uses, as his subject, building materials, principle units of architecture that we generally disregard when visually consuming our physically constructed environments.  In Weep Space (2013), he layers photographic images of wood and formica to create a stand alone sculpture of printed acrylic panels.  

Hayal Pozanti, This Week Last Year, 2013; Photo by Seanica Howe.
Pozanti, who initially worked in graphic design, abandoned her roots and got back to basics through painting.  The medium allows her a more personal connection with her abstractions, those born from indefinable shapes she originally created via computerized collage.    

 Will Rockel, Cold Opening, 2013; Photo by Seanica Howe.
Through digital photography, Rockel toys with fetishism and irony while exploring sexuality and culture and how our minds react to such through images.   In Cold Opening (2013), Rockel accentuates a man’s shirt and tie with clear fluid to create a sterile image, one that also conjures up stories of political sexcapades.   

And Cole Sayer probes the variable exchange of the insubstantial with that of physicality.  He injects his work with strange, new, and unexpected materials in the same way that sports figures up the ante with steroids and public relations.

Gallerists and curators like Michael Jon Radziewicz and Hunter Braithwaite are essential for the continued artistic evolution of Miami and its leverage in the art world.   These young guys, relatively new to the art scene, have focused their energy on up-and-coming artists from outside the city limits; dialing us in, both nationally and internationally, to academic circles, critics, and hot new artists and shows that mediate the dialogue of emerging trends in the arts, ones that collectively reflect zeitgeists and result in movements.   Sound important?  It is.  This later translates into significant museum exhibitions and recognition on the secondary art market. 

So what say ye? Bring it on Michael Jon.

This article was originally written for publication with The Miami New Times Blog, Cultist.  This writing, as well as others by the author, can be accessed here:

Dina Mitrani, along with potential clients, reflected in the mirrored surface of a daguerrotype by photographer Curtis Wehrfritz.  The daguerreotype is created when a positive image is imprinted directly on its silvered surface; Photo by Seanica Howe.

Recently I had an artist, a very successful sculptor actually, sit me down and explain to me the loss of the ability to "do" in our society.   Do you know how to make your grandmother's best meal?  I don't either, but in the house in which I was raised, one set at the end of a dirt road in a tiny farming community, it was fried chicken and white gravy.  Every Sunday morning my mother would make this southern delicacy, one she learned from my grandmother.  The creation of the gravy, in particular, was a fine art. She had mastered it.  To this day I have never made that meal, and I am 37 years old.

And what about our grandfather's?  Do you know how to change the oil in your car, build a piece of furniture, or   ---other than yanking the chain a few times---repair the toilet?  Well, they do.  The years they spent learning a craft, whether it be cooking, building, or fixing, we spent on our cell phones and computers, limiting our knowledge of art forms that empower us with the ability to take care of ourselves.  

Rachel Phillips, Postal Violet, 11 X 14 in. framed, wet transfer pigment on to vintage envelope, one of several photographs utilizing alternative processes in the current exhibition at Dina Mitrani Gallery; Photo by Seanica Howe.

If we don't look to and understand our past, then how can we master our future?  Well, it would seem that Dina Mitrani agrees.  Through her show "Historic Process/Contemporary Visions," she is providing a rare opportunity for audiences in Miami to view a group of photographs that utilize lost techniques.

In it, contemporary artists explore alternative photographic processes, some more than 100 years old, and combine them with current topics and methods.  It's a small exhibition whose precious pictures demand your time and contemplation; it's educational; and---for lack of a better word---it's lovely, due mostly to the sensitivity of its curator, Dina Mitrani.  

Rafael Balcazar, Hollywood Dreams, 1999, platinum/palladium print from digital negative; Photo by Seanica Howe.

In Hollywood Dreams (1999), Rafael Balcazar utilizes an old film reel as his still subject, one whose image fades from right to left.  A figure that would normally lack dynamism takes on a life of its own due to the multitude of tones of black and white provided in his platinum print.  By abandoning the standard gelatin-silver or digital process, one whose appearance lacks the visual complexity and density to hold the eye, Balcazar produces a picture that invites the viewer to study and stare.  Black and white become a whole range of colors that your brain suddenly realizes it's been missing.  

Heidi Kirkpatrick, Party Dress Series, 2007, 8 X 8 in., cyanotype photograms on cotton made with sunlight; Photo by Seanica Howe.

In a grouping of cyanotype photograms titled Party Dress Series (2007), artist Heidi Kirkpatrick looks to an age-old photographic process, one that harkens back to the early nineteenth century, to subtly illuminate contemporary issues encountered by women.  Barbie doll dresses from her childhood leave ghostly reflections, captured in sunlight, of a little girl's playthings, ones destined to create a mental framework for idealistic notions of beauty. 

Early photographers didn't need automatic focus or a digital printer and often spent hours capturing a single image.  What can we learn from them?  Attention, tireless discipline, devotion, an intimate understanding of process....  Our artists are smart enough to move into the future while incorporating valuable lessons and techniques from the past, enriching their work and enhancing their wisdom.  So maybe it's time we all followed suit, photocopying grandma's recipe box or face-timing with dad for a lesson under the hood.  After all, knowledge is power.  And when our parents and our parents' parents are gone, we don't want to be left with knowing how to, not, "do."

The Dina Mitrani Gallery is located at 2620 NW 2nd Ave, Miami, FL.  "Historic Process/Contemporary Visions" is on view through August 31.

This article was originally written for publication with The Miami New Times Blog, Cultist.  This writing, as well as others by the author, can be accessed here:
Inside CU-1 Gallery with three of its founders (from left to right): Marc Schmidt, Rober Weber, and Stephan Goettlicher; Photo by Seanica Howe.

Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink.  By water, I mean art, and by drink, well, let’s just say I haven’t been doing much.

Miami, leaving New York to come back to you was not an easy decision.  Are you aware of the number of mouth-watering Thai restaurants that exist in Manhattan?  When I traded them in for sugary coffee and guava pastries, I didn’t complain.  And seamless.com, my substitute boyfriend, available at all hours of the night---dropped him like a bad habit.  Sure, occasionally I still search the site, dreaming of ordering from five star restaurants and eating on my floor with no one knowing, but love takes compromise and sacrifice.  I thought you were worth it and, I’m sorry to say this, but you owe me.

I’ve been waiting for Miami to break away from the New York art scene and develop its own style.  We’re not the Big Apple and why should we be?  Do we really want to go on pretending that we still think conceptual art is actually interesting?  It’s been over fifty years since this overly cerebral, visually unappealing art reared its ugly head, so maybe it’s time for a new conversation.  You and I both saw that paper mache monstrosity at Locust Projects this year---need I say more?

Tina Luther, Love Hard II, 2010, c-print/lambda matte mounted on aludibond; ©Tina Luther/Courtesy CU-1 Gallery, Miami. 

We’re sexy.  We love fashion, whether it’s street or designer.  We’re taking our clothes off while our New York counterparts are throwing on another layer.  While they are sitting in boardrooms, missing out on life, we’re cruising around on boats, or chillin' at the beach, drinking rose until the sun goes down.  

Describe us in one word---hot.   Everything in Miami sizzles: our temperatures, our music, and our people (just ask Dwyane and LeBron); so why shouldn’t our art reflect who we are and do the same?  The Germans agree, and they’ve taken it upon themselves to move us in the right direction.

You want perfection Miami?  Well, here it is:  CU-1 gallery and its photographers.    It’s high fashion meets fine art, where even the smashed-up soda cans are provocative.  

Roger Weber, Window, 2012, c-print, lambda matte mounted on aludibond; ©Roger Weber/Courtesy CU-1 Gallery, Miami.

Roger Weber, my personal favorite and whose work is on display for the first time with CU-1 in their current show “Look at Me,” blends shapes and colors from daily life that result in sedate photographs glazed with understated glamour.  He masterfully manipulates natural light like a shaman, creating sophisticated images set in unassuming locales that are esthetically on par with favorite cinematic greats.    
1977 (left) and HSU (right) are one of many Billy & Hells photographs that hang in the gallery’s vault; Photo by Seanica Howe.

Anke Linz and Andreas Oettinger, the collective better known as Billy & Hells, are on view in the gallery’s not-so-secret, graffitied vault.  Their portrait 1977 (2011), from the series “the Astronaut’s Wife,” is weighted with a constrained, rose colored air reminiscent of Sylvia von Halle (1926), offering a contemporary take on the New Objectivity that put German artists like George Grosz and Otto Dix on the map.

An interior view of CU-1 Gallery in downtown Miami; Photo by Seanica Howe.

But the owners of CU-1 aren’t only interested in offering up refined images that eliminate the imaginary boundaries between commercial and high and low.  They have redefined the stale gallery space with lofty elegance and intend on using it as a platform for bringing together those who embrace art and life, a distinction that they see as one and the same. 

Thank you gentlemen.  Here in Miami, we couldn’t agree more.  And we spend every day proving it. 

CU-1 Gallery is located at 117 NE 1st Ave, Miami, FL.  “Look at Me” is on view until August 23, 2013.