The qualities of a great artist, I suppose, are always up for discussion in the art world.  For intellectuals, a great work might be one that elevates the mind or translates an idea. For those who covet the superficial, the captivation of the eye does the trick.  Maybe an artist or academician would analyze the work for technical skill: the balance of the composition, manipulation of materials and process, and its maker’s use of color and line, before declaring it great.  There are also those who believe in the ability of art to alter the spirit, so for them a demand of another kind is expected.  They search for meaning and the piece’s accessibility to the esoteric.  Marina Abramovich, the iconic performance artist, takes this notion one step further.  She recently said that only those who suffer for their work are truly great, and art of any significance must come with sacrifice. 

All of these views are valid when considered independently, but what happens when our expectations encompass the whole and we demand more of our artists? As a society (and an artistic community) have we come to expect so little of those around us?  Do we settle for good when we should be expecting great? In my humble opinion, yes, but I’ll let you be the judge.    

Jerome Soimaud is an artist who actively enters the world of his subjects, places most dare not to go, especially not All-American looking French artists who hail from Paris.  He has traveled to the jungles of Columbia, not with ammunition or a machete, but with camera equipment on his hip.  Most recently he has devoted himself to capturing the underbelly of Miami, a side of the city rarely embraced and showcased.  And this latest body of work is about to be displayed by Yeelen Gallery in a new and stunning 10,000 square foot space on 54th Street.  Formerly a non-for-profit, Yeelen is ready to take on the market by exhibiting highly talented artists with a story to tell and a mission for change. It’s beginning by giving Soimaud his largest and most comprehensive show to date, bringing to the forefront the communities and people in Miami left destitute and abandoned, often forced to leave their homes and turning to a life of crime, as a consequence of gentrification.   

Jerome Soimaud, Keystone, 2009, charcoal and graphite on canvas, 60 x 60 in.; 
© Jerome Soimaud/Courtesy Yeelen Art Gallery, Miami. 

Soimaud uses three predominate media, drawing, photography, and painting, to capture the humanity and culture at the heart of neglected and tradition rich areas like Liberty City and Little Haiti.   In B-Sides, a series of black and white works in charcoal and pencil, Soimaud adeptally sketches detailed images of decaying neighborhoods and the people who inhabit them.  Murky, nondescript patches of black and white function as telling signs of the unsettling tension now present in these once prosperous locales.  In some, they stir to combine as ominous stormy skies ready to engulf the landscape at any moment.   In other works in the series, like Vagabond and Keystone, both from 2009, where the viewer is permitted access to the city’s occupants from a more intimate perspective, the clouds are no longer present, however energetic patterns and shapes of black and white still loom and agitate the surface. They morph to resemble the camouflaged designs of fatigues or possibly blankets of cancerous cells, waiting to devour what’s underneath.  In B-Sides, Soimaud invites his viewer to be voyeur, allowing them to silently hover from above or to crouch in secret spaces below.  His work says: “Look what’s become of us. Look who we’ve left behind.” 

Jerome Soimaud, Zoe Pound, 2009, pigment on glossy photo paper, 50 x 33 in.; 
© Jerome Soimaud/Courtesy Yeelen Art Gallery, Miami. 

In his series Around Jenin’s, photographs are used to document the cast of characters in the sordid world to which the artist was granted access.  Prostitutes, drug dealers, and savants, to name a few, serve as subjects.   The neon colors and bright lights of Miami are purposefully reflected in the pictures, but the luminous hotels, multimillion dollar homes, and fashionistas that act as a decadent veneer for the spaces most wish not to see, are nowhere to be found.  In Zoe Pound (2012), skinny streams of light zigzag below the bare shoulders of a gang member but fail to reach the heights of his tattooed announcement.  Here, the gritty urban streets of Miami are given the spotlight, but, just as in life, the colors and energetic movement often associated with its electronic music scene and the neon lights of Ocean Drive serve as a welcome distraction for those who choose to remain in the dark.

Jerome Soimaud, Dansi, 2012, acrylic and oil on canvas, 60 x 60 in.; © Jerome Soimaud/Courtesy Yeelen Art Gallery, Miami. 


Soimaud utilizes his creations as a means to transmit the ethereal and laces them with symbolism.  Much of his work records the Voodoo ceremonies that take place in the Haitian culture and, in his paintings, a group of works called Genesis, he intentionally inserts ancient markings and religious signs in an effort to channel mysticism and the energetic presence of source energy or God.  The artist pushes the paint, activating the surface with thickened swirling layers of rich color.  The abstract backdrop communicates with a distinct and static image that lies near the center of the picture plane.   The interplay between the two forges the never-ending, fluid link between mortality and the infinite: particles vibrate and combine to create recognizable images, ones easily understood and deciphered, while giving way to the unseen, magnetic presence of creativity and the essence of a higher power.  

Soimaud has committed his life’s work to a people; not only to a group, but to humanity.  His bravery in entering these communities as an unfamiliar outsider shows belief and trust in the human spirit and its ability to embrace differences when tested.  When treated with respect and sensitivity, art has the capacity to create harmony and unite us.  Anything is possible.  Soimaud is proof that an artist need not be limited to an idea, esthetics, proficiency in the manipulation of a media, or even, as ambitious as it may be, to art that serves as a vehicle for consciousness.  He can challenge himself and go beyond what’s expected, producing art that is its best self, a perfect integration of all that we seek and are.  Soimaud shows us that, when pushed, our art and our artists can be great.  We can all be. 


Jerome Soimaud’s Miami B-Side exhibition opens this summer at Yeelen Art Gallery, 294 NW 54th Street. Watch for it and visit this magnificent new gallery space in Miami, Fl.



 
 
Contemporary art has been stuck, locked in a frozen space that began somewhere around the moment that Andy Warhol capitalized on capitalism.  It’s gigantic.  It’s grotesquely commercial.  It’s elitist and cold.  And, guess what, it’s dead.  I know, I know, there are a few of you who want us to stay trapped in this era, mostly commodities traders that claim to be collectors or those who love the idea of dismissing beauty and emotion as insignificant notions of the uneducated.  But let me encourage you to let go.  Give up your resistance.   A Jeff Koon’s sculpture can still be placed near the swimming pool if you so desire.  The rest of us are ready to feel something and move on.  We need air.  We yearn for more…something else.  So let me be one of the first to say, “I see light.”  And much of it is coming from Miami. 

This month, in a small space downtown, there is an exhibition I bet you’ve never heard of by an artist that I’m sure you don’t know, and it’s phenomenal.  It’s moving, intimate, inspiring, and soulful.  It’s a diamond in the rough and is the first exhibition by a humble Columbian artist named Cesar Rey.  The show, “Lightness,” is an installation of the same name and is created from the heart.  It is an experience that can be likened to meditation, where one travels to a watery dreamlike world occupied by peaceful, levitating beings that have condensed from the energy of their human counterparts.    Soft music fills the air and shadows dance across the walls, invoking the same gentle, safe calm experienced by newborns or toddlers as they lay down to sleep.  

Cesar Rey, Detail of “Lightness,” 2013; © Cesar Rey/Photo by Marcello Ibanez.

The exhibition features seven twisted and contorted works titled according to number.  All of the pieces within it are recycled from used materials, mostly plastic and metal, that hang from a ceiling covered in white fabric panels.  Rey has created a space that can be viewed in two separate settings: one light and airy, the other, dark, where pieces are illuminated with glowing color.   Each environment creates a different experience, but in both instances ghostly reflections haunt the works, magnifying their ethereality.  No one piece within the installation is the same.  And the artist purposefully designs each with ambiguity, allowing their physical associations to be worked through in the mind of the viewer.   However, each inherently embodies extensions of the spirit, where notions of balance, evolution, and transcendence are considered.   Through each structure and the interplay of the sculptures within the space, Rey explores the unification of man and woman, the delicate exchange of feminine and masculine, and the contrasting necessity of positive and negative, as well as light and dark. 

Cesar Rey, Variation 77, 2011, plastic and wire, 85 X 122 X 65 in.; © Cesar Rey/Photo by Marcello Ibanez.

In Variation 67 (2011), vaginal and phallic forms on opposite poles work in concert.  As they reach towards each other, they join, blending and bending as the work expands and grows in the center where it naturally becomes more complex.   Compressed and woven wire occasionally sprouts small plantlike bunches of transparent plastic, signaling points in a timeline where stages of growth for the being may have occurred or challenges might have been met. 

Cesar Rey pictured with his sculpture Variation 8, 2012; © Cesar Rey/Photo by Marcello Ibanez.

In Variation 8 (2012), the sculpture winds in a different way.  Here, the male and female projections have been eliminated and the being morphs into a circular creature devoid of a point of departure.    It spirals and shifts with no beginning or end.  It is whole and complete.  

Some people choose to remain as they are.  The place they occupy feels comfortable and easy.  Fear creeps in and they are unable to move.  But it’s all that lies on the other side of that fear that shapes and molds, elevating us to new heights.  When we are stripped of our comforts, we evolve.  Our suffering becomes our salvation, for without it we could not reignite and empower ourselves within, leaving our inner spirit stronger than ever.  This is what Rey and his artwork encourage.  “Lightness” speaks and tells us to seek harmony, to float above, and to release what is heavy.  It is a reminder that each and every one of us are magnificent points of light.   We are all the same.  We are all valuable.  Even wire, once disposed of, can function as art.  Seeing it as such only requires a shift in perception.  Whether it is in this lifetime or the next, the light within us will never stop searching for perfection and peace within, because it knows, with absolute certainty, love begins and ends there.  There is no stopping it.  So release your grip, flow, and invite the scary shift.  If we’re lucky, there will always be a Warhol on view or the possibility of catching a balloon sculpture (if you don’t have room for one near your pool) at Versailles to remind us from where we came.         


“Lightness” is open to the public until May 11th at the Aluna Art Foundation, 172 West Flagler, Miami, FL.  Please call ahead for times.  


For a video preview of the exhibition go to http://vimeo.com/65702731.

A special thank you to Marcello Ibanez for his generous contribution to this article.


 
 
Occasionally we cross paths with others whose energy and nature is unfathomable.  How many people can we say live in pure alignment, fully devoted to the very essence from which they came and not deviating from this truth?   Look around. There are few.  For them their commitment to love isn’t a crusade, it’s a way of being that they’ve chosen never to ignore.  On the other hand, for many of us, understanding who we are and who we want to be can take decades.  I know that I fell into the latter, so being invited into the home of a man whose very being has been art from before he could speak was nothing short of a gift.  An even greater gift was being shown that there are true, open, trusting people who are willing to share their stories and a part of themselves with no reservation.  This is how I came to know Mark T. Smith, an artist whose process knows no bounds and a man whose creativity could be likened to a horn of plenty, bearing unpredictable fruit never in short supply.

Mark T. Smith in the living room of his home.  Works by the artist from left to right: Guilt on Parade, 2010, mixed media on canvas, 30 X 30 in.; Bull, 2010, ink on paper, 22 X 30 in.; Flesh and Blood Builds an Empire, 2010, acrylic, charcoal, graphite, ink, color pencil, and paint pen on canvas, 36 X 48 in.; © Mark T. Smith/ Photo by Seanica Howe.


Smith grew up in the Northeastern United States and spent much of his life, including his training, in New York.  The city’s liveliness is reflected in all of his work but most notably in his paintings, where Smith packs every nook and cranny of his canvases with heavy strokes of bold color anchored with blacks and whites.   The highly active rhythm of most all his creations are reminiscent of the overwhelming sensations of experiencing Times Square for the first time, before one has learned to tune out the zingy noise of the streets and its people, or the intensity of a lightshow or fireworks in the dead of night.   Early in his career he created video games and graphics, so the quick movement and robotic features of those interests are present.  Signs and religious icons have crept in as well.  Madonna, the bull, and the rabbit are frequently seen in his creations and often function as central figures, serving as a point of entry or the assigned guide for grounding each piece and placating the mind while it explores each detail and chapter of the pictorial novel Smith densely construes.  

Mark T. Smith, Surreal Madonna with Rabbit, Part 2, 2010, acrylic paint, oil bar, color pencil, graphite, charcoal, and spray paint on canvas, 36 X 60 in.; © Mark T. Smith/Courtesy of the artist’s studio, Miami.


Like many great artists who came a lifetime before him, the lifeblood of all that Smith creates has been a consequence of the figure.  His version of abstract surrealism may fail to so much as resemble the body from which Smith studied, but without its complete understanding he could not exorcise its demons, capture its meaning from within and without, toil with its existence, and force his viewer to delve into the supernatural.  His paintings and drawings are laden with symbols and invite the audience to contemplate for hours, or maybe a lifetime, the underpinnings and meaning behind the fragmented visual storyboards he creates.  Smith himself says that once he truly understands a painting, its value is lost.  It’s the work’s ability to challenge the viewer, to consistently function as a riddle never to be understood, that tests its validity and sustainability as art.  

Mark T. Smith, Charlatan Map with Lesson, 2010, mixed media on paper, 43 X 58 in.; © Mark T. Smith/Courtesy of the artist’s studio, Miami.


There’s something wild and frustrating about Smith’s work and this is what lends it power, like Jackson Pollock’s drip paintings, the cubism of Pablo Picasso, or the mysterious language of Jean-Michel Basquiat.  As a viewer, instinctively one knows that somehow, someway, the chaos that’s been created makes sense, and you wait for it to lock into place, like the final twist of a Rubik’s Cube.  But oddly, it never does.  It leaves you wanting and searching for more.  His drawings and works in mixed media, like Charlatan Map with Lesson (2010), where Smith begs to question the current financial exploitation of the medical arts, follow the same notion but mercifully guide the viewer with words and signals, helping them down a more decipherable, less camouflaged road for understanding his message. 

                             Mark T. Smith, Magnetic, 2009, cast parian, 37 X 29 X 1.5 in.; © Mark T. Smith/Courtesy of the artist’s studio, Miami.


Oddly, the symbology Smith chooses is also the most accurate representation of his life and work.  Fertility is often associated with the hard-nosed bull and the leaping rabbit, animals that leave abundance in their wake.  Smith has entered into new endeavors over and over, watching them grow and then exiting when they become mundane and adequately structured, allowing himself to evolve and flow.  His life experiences are too numerous to mention but his innovative mind has reached into poster design for Walt Disney, the Olympics, and the U.S. Open, just to name a few.  And in 1996 his work was chosen for the highly coveted Absolute Vodka campaign.  His academic teaching roster runs up and down the East Coast, from Parsons School of Design and Pratt to as far south as the Miami Ad School.   And just as one media is abandoned, another is worked.  He jumps from painting to printmaking to sculpture and back again, never satisfied and ever searching for a way to properly explore his thoughts, questions, and visions. 

Truth be told, I’ve never met anyone quite like Smith.  Sure, I’ve known lots of people who say they are artists of one kind or another, but I’ve never met a being whose very motive is to get to the heart of his process---an exhaustive effort to peel the onion.   It’s reflected in every move he makes in his journey through life and it manifests in his physical creations.  The deeper the quest, the more densely layered he and his work become.  And when going deeper isn’t an option, a new direction is taken.  It’s an insatiable drive for process that owns him.  It IS him.  Sometimes it beats like a faint staccato on a snare drum.  On other days, it’s the loud, deliberate thud of a bass.  Either way, it beats---always in rhythm, never stopping.  The composition is infinite. We should all be so fearless.


Mark T. Smith is currently based in Miami, Fl, where he also teaches.  For more information about the artist and his work visit http://www.marktsmith.com.
 
 
As many are aware, I do my fair share of traveling: a few jaunts to Europe every year, flights to and from New York City are too numerous to count, and Chicago and Los Angeles are favorites too.  So I suppose I feel myself a bit of an authority on places to visit.  If you have never been to The Standard in Miami then you're missing out.  It is by far one of my favorite places on earth.  One of the secrets this delectable hotel and spa isn’t letting you in on is that a major reason it exudes breezy cool isn’t the wind coming in from Biscayne Bay.  It's from the people who work there.  While its guests are bathing in the sun and overindulging in signature drinks, artists of all kinds are circling.  So you may want to look around, get a name, and grab a pen before taking the first sip of that mojito.  I wouldn’t want you to miss out on an autograph and bragging to your friends in the future about how you “knew him way back when.”  Enter Marcello Ibanez and Nick Hyland, Standard employees.  One is a pool server, the other, a pool and wellness manager.  You might want to sit down.  When it comes to these two, there is much more than meets the eye.

Marcello Ibanez overseeing one of his chalkboard drawings from 2013; Photo by Seanica Howe.

Marcello Ibanez is a genuine character.  He is a bit of an icon at The Standard, and I consider myself one of his biggest fans.  He has that “je ne sais quoi” of a star.  Always sporting bold sunglasses and creating an air of South American zest wherever he goes, Ibanez has a way of flipping his external environment on its head, twirling and swirling words and images as if he spent hours behind the desk of a leading ad agency.  Except Ibanez doesn’t have a team of creative people behind him.  He's a one-man show.  And he freely shares his art, as well as his infectious personality, with vacationers and hangers-on at The Standard.   His chalkboard designs playfully announce the daily happenings of the hotel infusing humor and Miami flair. But before you assume this is another guy playing with chalk at a hip hotel, think again.  

Marcello Ibanez. A recent chalkboard design and announcement for The Standard, Miami;
 Photo by Seanica Howe.

Ibanez’s childlike perspective highlights the ridiculous.  His work organically vacillates between painterly illustration and the esthetic of Keith Haring.   Cartoon-like characters drawn with bold lines and bright colors take on local personality and send subtle messages about animal rights and the superficial nuances, ones we all love to hate, of Miami.  You might see a funky (literally) chicken frying up some eggs for breakfast, a sexy, leggy grape eyeing a jar of jelly in horror, or a puffy-lipped vixen balancing footballs on her chest in preparation for the Super Bowl.   What’s the greatest thing about Ibanez’s art and his creations?  It's all in good fun.  Just as he prods and pokes at the silliness of humanity, his art embraces its beauty and differences, encouraging us to go with the flow and have a ball.  Outside of The Standard his playful animal and doll photographs get widespread attention, and his art has been used for big name promotions like Evian water and Ford Motor Company.  Not bad for a guy taking your lunch order.

Seanica Howe and Nick Hyland in Page Two designs; Photo by Seanica Howe.

Do you know those people that just exude coolness?  Johnny Depp immediately comes to mind.  You know who I’m talking about…like if they walked around in a paper sack and talked about nothing but the sun, you would still be finding a way to hang with them.  That is Nick Hyland.   Blond ponytail, tattoos, ray-bans, and easily relatable, he captures your attention for hours and makes you feel at home.   He is an Arizona guy, from the school of hard-knocks, and is a total inspiration.  And lucky for us, he has found his way to Miami and is taking his eye for style to the streets with his clothing line apparel.  

A design from the Page Two 2013 collection; © Nick Hyland/Courtesy Nick Hyland and 
Page Two apparel, Miami.  

Hyland’s lifestyle brand, Page Two, infuses street art with his own personal images and is a reminder of how the most challenging moments in life can show us what we’re made of, spurring us to great things, if we let them.    The Page Two logo and its accompanying tagline, “on two the next one,” aren’t just catchy ways to encourage its wearers to move forward and grow.  “Page two” is used in the criminal justice system as a recall for those on their way out and can result in additional time.  It is proof that the cold and dark can ignite creativity and be the hunger behind the desire for beauty.  

Hyland’s brand is the fashion equivalent of the worlds he has inhabited, both past and present.  And it is the perfect integration of pop culture, urban gritty, and provocative femininity.  Faces and silhouettes of smoldering women sprinkled with a bit of Miami spice or delectable fruit mish-mash in and around Hyland’s trademark keyholes, reminiscent of the early Playboy covers.  I think if we could ask him, Eduardo Paolozzi, a major player in the formation of British Pop Art, would have been proud.  Paolozzi’s collaged blend of found images and magazine cut-outs may be in the Tate, but I wonder if he could have combined those with delicious fabrics that, in any size, flawlessly frame the body? I doubt it, and Hyland has mastered it.

One of the most beautiful things about life is that it is full of surprises.  What you see isn’t always what you get and often we are fooled by the external, taking it as the whole truth.  What lies behind a door and below the surface can be the most deserving of our attention.  I could just write about fine art, but what fun would that be?  Art is everywhere.  It's in our streets, galleries, and inside the people we meet.  All we have to do is pause to see it.  When we are brave enough to take a risk and even share ourselves, the world becomes a very different place.  The guy at the pool is no longer the one bringing you a towel; he is now a man with a brand, contributing to the creative conscious, fashion, and design.    The one behind him, waiting with your next drink, actually holds an inner child capable of transforming the way you see your environment, all with a simple piece of chalk.  And, if you walk in and look closer, the little hotel away from the well-worn streets of Miami becomes an oasis…and a haven for those with a dream.


The Standard hotel and spa is located at 40 Island Avenue, Miami Beach, FL.  For more images and bio information on Marcello Ibanez, go to www.marcelloibanez.com. The designs of Nick Hyland can be purchased at The Standard boutique on premises.  For access to more of Hyland’s designs visit www.pagetwoapparel.com.


Bonus video footage of these artists speaking with the author can be accessed on YouTube via the following links: 
Ibanez on the evolution of his first Standard chalkboard   
http://youtu.be/QGhcaWuUcQM
Hyland discussing the Page Two logo and the use of his wife’s image for some of his creations 

http://youtu.be/zQMZU5RB0Yo




 
 
If there’s anything I’ve learned from seeing art and writing about it, it is that visual pleasure is best shared with friends (and occasionally lovers).  For a while now, I’ve lived and traveled between two cities, primarily New York and Miami, and, despite the exhaustion it sometimes brings, being a nomad definitely has its perks.  The best one of all is the people I’ve met and relationships I’ve built along the way.  Just like the places in which they reside, those I know and love in New York and Miami couldn’t be more different. Each possesses unique flavor and perspective.  New York is smart, sophisticated, and edgy.  Miami is warm and breezy with a hint of exotic. But whatever your preference, there’s never a dull moment in either; and this past weekend, in the city that never sleeps, was no exception.  

From Left to Right:  Sandra Enns-Arnell, Claire Shegog, and Seanica Howe with artwork from Aureus Contemporary’s “Victorious;” Photo by Seanica Howe.


The long weekend began with a trip to Chelsea with Cherise Gordon, entrepreneur and director of the newly forming Nu-Garde Gallery.   Watch for Cherise to be one of the leading dealers in new media and emerging artists.   She and I traveled to 520 W. 27th Street for the opening night of the pop-up exhibition, “Victorious,” curated by Kevin Havelton and Klaus-Peter Saltzmann of Aureus Contemporary.   While at “Victorious,” you can pick your poison: wily and devilishly handsome gallery director or art that ranges from new perspectives in painting to detailed intricacies in mixed media.  Aureus is full of secrets and surprises, so keep a third eye open at all times, you never know what you will hear or see and that’s only half the fun.   Claire Shegog, one of Aureus’s stars and whose work is one of the show’s many highlights, was in attendance and, lucky for me, I was allowed insight into the life, mind, and career of this wildly clever and down to earth artist.   Claire is often seen at one of the gallery’s many trips to a variety of art fairs, so if you happen to spot her don’t pass on a chance to meet.  You won’t be disappointed.  


Claire Shegog, Detail of Busby’s Chandelier, 2012, mixed media on mirror glass (framed), 16 X 16 in.; © Claire Shegog/Courtesy Aureus Contemporary, Providence.


Shegog is an artist with an intense curiosity for life and a fascinating background that has extended from a stint as a florist in Paris to house painting and design in the northeastern U.S.  The combination of her love for beauty and all things girly with an obsession for materials and attention to detail has translated into art that embodies basic femininity.   Whether it is the little ballerina you may have witnessed twirling in your jewelry box, the antique ceramics you coveted, or the unforgettable day you played dress-up with your best friend, this is art that is a cognizant reminder of the dreamy worlds that play in the minds of little girls, some boys, and women everywhere, where dolls, ball-gowns, and a desire for everything shiny border on mental insanity.   Tiny female figures, each identical in form and created with the machine-like precision of Shegog’s hand, are purposefully arranged to dance with the eye like dominos on a mirrored stage, where the slightest movement could topple the troupe.  Much like the woman who sits knitting for hours or the dressmaker who sews and ripples, Shegog uses methodical repetition to explore patterns and rhythmic arrangements that are dazzling, much like their creator.



From Left to Right: Paulette Tavormina and Clara Rodriguez with artwork by Tavormina; Photo by Seanica Howe.


Friday began with one of three trips to the AIPAD Photography Show at the Park Avenue Armory, the last of which I attended with Clara Rodriguez, former executive director of Art for Change, where we chatted it up with Amanda Langer, photography connoisseur and gallery assistant to Robert Mann.   The AIPAD would make a picture lover out of anyone, but it was Paulette Tavormina who stole the show. 

Paulette Tavormina. Peaches and Morning Glories, after G.G., 2010; Courtesy of the artist and Robert Klein Gallery, Boston.


Tavormina is beautiful and elegant and her photographs are the same.  At AIPAD, her creations were shown by Boston based Robert Klein Gallery.  At first glance, it is difficult to tell if her photographs are created with a camera or a brush because the idea of anything looking this perfectly staged, colored, and lit without being retouched is hard to fathom.  Her images are reminiscent of 17th century Old Master still life paintings, but are anything but static.  They take on a life of their own, capturing the exact moment when the new becomes old or the rare point in time when all is in balance: sweet with sour, life with death, full with empty.  Tavormina carefully crafts each composition by scouring markets, streets, and beaches for the exact item to fill her camera’s lens.   They are vibrant and exquisite. Straight photography doesn’t get any better than this.



Cartwheels in David Zwirner featuring works by Thomas Ruff; © Thomas Ruff/Photo by Seanica Howe.


Saturday was a fast-paced blur that started with gymnastics in the colossal David Zwirner where giant size photographs, some of which require 3D glasses, by Thomas Ruff are currently on display.  My friend Kirsten Nichols and I decided that the giant space Zwirner built should in no way be limited to merely showcasing works of art.  Who said art lovers are elitist and no fun?  We decided that Zwirner’s massive cube is surely designed for cartwheels and good times, so Kirsten took to the concrete to demonstrate her skills.  We’re not sure if the people at Zwirner agree that the art mogul’s monstrosity should be treated as a playground, but I’m sure anyone can appreciate a pic so I’ve included one here.   Our personal tour through Chelsea included the following highlights that warrant a taxi ride and being snubbed by the gallerists manning the desks: Gladstone Gallery’s Miroslaw Balka’s The Order of Things, an installation of steel vats, streaming colored water, and all-around Zen goodness; Mike Weiss Gallery’s “Another Shit Show,” Will Kurtz’s paper mache puppy party complete with (you guessed it) shit; and Sonnebend Gallery’s current solo show of Rona Pondick’s metallic sculptures that morph from anemic tree to creepy human head. 

Vittorio Calabrese of Bosi Contemporary pictured with works by Chuck Kelton from his series Night after Night; © Chuck Kelton/Photo by Seanica Howe.  


Next stop was 48 Orchard Street in LES to see Vittorio Calabrese at Bosi Contemporary where “New Photogenic Drawings” by Chuck Kelton and Eric William Carroll are being shown until April 21st.  The exhibition is curated by Allison Bradley and creates an engaging dialogue between very different and unlikely forms of photography, diazotype and photogram.  Vittorio, too, is an art form all his own, so a visit to his gallery will certainly insure an enlightening conversation with one of the most lovely and interesting Italians you will ever meet.  But be forewarned, after hearing Vittorio poetically speak about the art and artists at Bosi, you likely won’t leave empty handed so invite your art handler to accompany you.  

My weekend ended with a Mexican dinner and mango margaritas with Paddle8 auction manager, Gabriel Butu.  Ladies, Gabriel is smart, gorgeous, AND British.  I would post a photo here but I don’t have time to manage the requests for his phone number.  This was followed by a morning jaunt to Brooklyn after a last minute invite to the studio of the hugely talented Miriam Cabessa.  I may have been having an out of body experience at Cabessa’s…hopefully she didn’t notice.  While being in the presence of greatness, it’s difficult to keep one’s feet on the ground.

It’s a rough life hanging with beautiful and talented people and seeing art in the greatest city in the world, but, hey, somebody’s gotta do it.  I’m just grateful that some of the most spectacular creatures on this planet indulge me and share their air. Oh, and also that I'm permitted to return to Miami to digest the weekend’s happenings in the warm sun while drowning in Cuban coffee.  Ciao New York…until we meet again. 

 
 
Recently, I overheard a good friend of mine say: “There’s no need to look for love;  the perfect one is always right in front of your face.”  Do you know why people say such things?  Because they are true…in life, in love, and in art.   Here in Miami we have one of the greatest art collections in the universe.  Yes, I just wrote universe, because that’s how good it is.  And when the most fabulous contemporary art currently known to man is just outside your door, there is no longer an excuse not to see it.  I had been to the Rubell Family Collection a few years ago, but what’s going on in that inconspicuous, vine-covered warehouse at this very moment is nothing short of mind blowing.  Someone go get the curator and give him a big kiss, because I just found yet another reason to be in Miami.

DUE TO "ADULT CONTENT" THIS IMAGE WAS FORCED TO BE REMOVED:
OPPOSE CENSORSHIP AND SUPPORT FREEDOM IN THE ARTS
Charles Ray, Oh! Charley, Charley, Charley… (1992), Eight painted cast fiberglass mannequins with wigs, 72 X 180 X 180 in. (182.9 X 457.2 X 457.2 cm), Rubell Family Collection, Miami; © Charles Ray, Photo credit: Seanica Howe.


Did I also mention there is something a bit seedy, dark, and, dare I say, sexual going on with this exhibition that makes it almost impossible to leave?   Apparently, the Rubells have been sneaking around their privately owned space setting up highbrow visual playgrounds for adults, so unless you are planning on explaining why artist Charles Ray is giving himself fellatio and sucking his own toes, I think it best you leave the kids at home.   After that teaser, I know you don’t need another reason to go to the Rubell’s current show, “Alone Together,” but I’ve got two more big ones: Jason Rhoades and Ryan Trecartin.

Jason Rhoades. Untitled (Chandelier) and Untitled (Chandelier) (2004), Glass, wire, neon, Plexiglas, fabric and plastic,
Variable dimensions,
Rubell Family Collection, Miami; © Jason Rhoades.  Photo credit: Seanica Howe.

Rhoades’s dancing installation of dual Chandelier(s) from 2004, on display on the first floor, screams of all that is wrong (or right, depending who you are) in the world we live in.  It’s messy, complicated, and downright nasty.  Wagon wheels levitate, suspended in midair by a streaming maze of orange electrical cords that weave like spaghetti, lending support to a nest of brightly illuminating neon words.  It’s a red-light district of linguistic proportions exploded, condensed, and then reworked by Rhoades’s discombobulated and imaginative brain. 

Jason Rhoades. Detail of Untitled (Chandelier) (2004), Glass, wire, neon, Plexiglas, fabric and plastic,
Variable dimensions,
Rubell Family Collection, Miami; © Jason Rhoades.  Photo credit: Seanica Howe.

Phallic vegetables dripping in a white semen-like substance sit perched atop the circles of wood like vultures, peering indulgently over dangling twisted metaphors and lace that stream from below.   The frenetic work is grounded by a neatly, isolated bundle of linens wrapped in goo.  The words that surge and entice are not meaningless phrases or randomly chosen from Rhoades’s personal dictionary, but are synonymous for one of the most powerful words known to man and representative of female genitalia.  However derogatory, the humor and irony isn’t lost in this installation. Designed by a white male, one who places the representative womanly forms in electrically charged power positions that command the space and hover over lifeless and muted fabric left soiled by limp vegetation, is feminism at its best.  Yes, that's right, I just called Jason Rhoades a feminist, and I’m never taking it back.

Ryan Trecartin, General Park (2010), Mixed media and video installation, Variable dimensions, Rubell Family Collection, Miami; © Ryan Trecartin. Photo courtesy of the Rubell Family Collection.

I have a beautiful, very brilliant friend who wrote her master’s thesis on Trecartin.  She would go on for hours…something about him being one of the most important artists of all time, or was it “our” time? The details escape me.  I would sit smiling, pretending to listen and occasionally yawning, secretly wondering where she had lost her mind.  I could never, for the life of me, understand her obsession with this over-the-top, in-your-face, cartoon-like video artist….until now.    Ladies and gentlemen, this isn’t just video art.  This is your teenager and twenty-something on societally induced, self-centered crack.  This is their deranged, freaky, egocentric worlds colliding at warp-like speeds.  This is the Internet, Skype, and Facebook reincarnated into strange characters you’ve likely never seen but who you’re certain you know. This is drug culture, media hype, and celebrity obsession all colorfully wrapped into one and, at Rubell, it’s all staged in a run-down beach scene complete with heat-lamps and sand, known as General Park (2010), that could be Miami but probably isn’t.

How does he do it?  According to Trecartin, very carefully.  The characters he creates, along with another well-known video artist, Lizze Fitch, are scripted and directed down to the very last hand gesture, hair-flip and eye-roll.   In Rubell, Trecartin’s Tril-ogy Comp (2009) features a group of three videos called Sibling Topics, K-Corea INC. K, and Popular S.ky.  They are a series of scenes ranging from close-up car make-outs and transgendered bedroom conversation to boy talk between girlfriends that captivate and render transfixed all who watch.   I dare you to look away. 

The show doesn’t stop there.  The ultimate art world prankster, Maurizio Cattelan, has silly little pigeons stooped on the rafters and Yoshitomo Nara has…well, you get the drift, it’s great.


“Alone Together” is currently on view at the Rubell Family Collection, 95 NW 29th Street, Miami, Fl., until August, 2, 2013.  Go see it.

 
 
Sitting down to write about two of my favorite artists in Miami proved a difficult task.  Sometimes when we go about our daily routines, ones where we function on automatic pilot, we fail to question our actions.  Today, as I started to write, I began to ask myself: why does anyone write about art?  Why do I write about art?  The best I could come up with (because, no, contrary to what many in the art world would have you believe, you don’t need to be told what you love or why) is that there are those of us who wish to share what we’ve seen, and how we see it, with the world.  We hope, down to the very core of our being, that we will convince you to see and to savor art as much as we do.  

The best way we writers communicate is through the written word, in my case, the English language.  But I can assure you, after experiencing beloved art with a humble artist at one’s side, there is no way possible to assign nouns, verbs, or adjectives for what she has to offer.   This is why, dear reader, you must look!  The writer is left a prisoner of her words when it comes to art, but still, this is what I have in my arsenal and this is the weapon for which I reach.  So, if that introduction doesn’t get you out of your chair and over to the Bakehouse Art Complex to see the works of Toa Castellanos and Tina Salvesen, I don’t know what will….don’t make me come over there.

Toa Castellanos is a solo artist but is also a member of one of the few female collectives in Miami, W-10, where her mind and creativity melt and mix unselfishly with the ideas and gifts of other like-minded artists. She is the mother you never had: sweet, articulate, understated, and warm.  So it may come as a bit of a shock to discover that this unassuming Cuban woman creates edgy, fashion-infused collage. But just like a mom, if she is a good one, Castellanos encourages each of us to embrace who we are and to get comfortable in our own bodies; except, she speaks, indirectly, through her art.  If you’re a fashion buff, the use of magazine clippings of designer bags and shoes are visual hooks; however, it’s the disproportionate body parts and lack of continuity within the figures themselves that will stimulate your brain cells to ask: “Wait, where have I seen this before?”  And you have, right here in Miami: at the beach, while you’re having your morning coffee at one of many local cafes, or during the occasional stroll through Bal Harbour.  

Toa Castellanos, The whole is not always equal to the sum of its parts (2009), Collage, mixed media, 48 X 36 in.; © Toa Castellanos.

Just like the plastic surgeon down the street, Castellanos peels, dissects, layers, and pastes.  Her work, similar to the cartoon-like women they represent, is a reminder of the pressures faced in a society that has grown to embrace perfection at any cost, even if that result is grotesque. In The whole is not always equal to the sum of its parts (2009) from her Faux Perfection series, overblown red lips and coconut shaped breasts function as fresh, glossy substitutes for the aging female form, sketched and left to serve as a backdrop for newer, more eye catching alternatives.  A Louis Vuitton bag stands front and center and overshadows the woman in the middle, disguising a body and person all but forgotten.  Castellanos’s latest body of work, Fashion Dream (2012), is more forceful and makes heavy use of charcoal drawings and photomechanical reproduction to create flat, seamless renditions of modified portraiture in which tiny, taunting cut-out dolls sit atop the shoulders of magnified heads, mostly sketched, waiting to be converted and upgraded to their more ideal, glamorized selves. 

Tina Salvesen, The Flight of Time (2012), Dyes, ink, acrylic, charcoal, and earth on paper buried for seven days, 51 X 50.5 in.; © Tina Salvesen.

Tina Salvesen is, quite possibly, from another dimension.   And if Salvesen and her work are any sign of what is being discussed and created in this other world, then sign me up as the next visitor.   Her pieces are ethereal. Period.  She buries the paper for days, sometimes weeks, and what results, after the artist’s magical touch, are painted works on paper that appear decayed, fragile, delicate, organic, and mystical.   She uses a plethora of symbolism, some of which she has invented herself, to convey her message.  In The Flight of Time (2012), an eerie transformation takes place.  Black ravens support a yellowing skeleton before it vanishes and becomes a cloud of murky nothingness.  Any remnant of flesh has disappeared; however, the sheer white sleeves that adorn the once living remains serve as a cradling support for the figure and hint at the past presence of a woman.  A single leaf is entangled in the left phalanges.  In folklore and mythology the raven is often seen as an omen, as well as a bird representative of birth and death.  It is a shapeshifting creature, one whose force applies the laws of spirituality to the physical plane.  With nothing more than a few figures in place, Salvesen uses the art of the visual to portray a fleeting life while also relaying the constant interplay and exchange of earth, body, and spirit.

Tina Salvesen, Detail of Star Map #3 (2013), Dyes, ink, acrylic, charcoal, and earth on paper buried for two weeks, Dimensions of entire work: 31 X 28 in.; © Tina Salvesen.

The work Salvesen has revisited of late, where she moves from organic forms back to otherworld topography, will certainly have you questioning your existence, so you’ve been warned.  She is currently creating a series of maps, ones where she uses shapes, colors, and her own markings as a guide for souls from here to beyond. Searching for the map’s legend will prove futile, so allow the mind to wonder.   Some, like Star Map #3 (2013), are sparse, with the textures, tones, and alterations of the paper, along with the occasional grouping of symbols, serving as a guide.  In others, she uses wispy and delicate strokes to create lines that weave a webbed network of what might be pulses, energy, or externally transmitted brainwaves.  Salvesen may be channeling her information, but when she speaks of her work, it is grounded and accessible, proving that spirituality need not be esoteric.  This work is a far cry from the over-sized, gaudy, superficial contemporary art of late.  It’s back to basics, making use of a media that is more than a thousand years old, manipulated by a master draftsman, to translate ideas that reach far beyond this life and into another.   



The work of Toa Castellanos and Tina Salvesen can be viewed and purchased at the phenomenal Bakehouse Artist Complex, located at 561 NW 32nd Street, Miami, FL.  Video footage of the artists discussing their work can be seen on YouTube via the following links: 

Toa Castellanos:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zNM8Wjczqm8

Tina Salvesen: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=adTRqFVaE7U


 
 
From Picasso to Koons: The Artist as Jeweler
Group Exhibition
Bass Museum of Art
2100 Collins Avenue , Miami Beach, FL 33139
March 15, 2013 - July 21, 2013


Occasionally we are given a glimpse into the artist as mere mortal.  The same men and women who produce art that is sold for millions at auction and are discussed and dissected for hours by scholars and the common man do, indeed, walk among us; and “From Picasso to Koons: The Artist as Jeweler” is proof.   The most admired and glorified modern and contemporary artists are also jewelers.  Who knew?  And this small, yet impressive, exhibition is a precious reminder that art need not take on static objectification. It also functions as a vehicle for personal expression and has the ability to accompany us, providing confidence and comfort, as we go about our day.  Creative people, perceived geniuses, are not bound to the large canvas or the 2000 pound object; they can lend their attention to something as simple as a broche or charm bracelet.  The ego is abandoned and yet another art form, as well as the creative process, is explored; such is the subtle power of art and its ability to transform those who observe and participate in its creation.

“From Picasso to Koons: The Artist as Jeweler” is curated by French curator and jewelry collector Diane Venet.  It is shown in three rooms, where pieces are placed in glass cases with subtle lighting.  Objects are grouped together according to movement, style, or materials, among others.   The thread created for each grouping by the curator can be perceived, for the most part, by simply using the eye and mind to connect the dots; however, it’s unfortunate that no literature or explanation is provided explaining each section of the exhibition or how these pieces might be seen as a distinct representation of the artist’s oeuvre.  Unfortunately, novices will likely walk away from this exhibition feeling as though they merely saw beautiful jewelry instead of having been given a deeper understanding of art or each artist.  Even for someone with expertise, the exhibition becomes a bit daunting due to the absence of labels.  Separate handouts with basic information about the pieces force the viewer to constantly shift his attention from page to artwork, matching the text to the numbered piece of interest, and serves as a distraction. However, for art history buffs, the show can be a fun way to test your knowledge, mentally questioning who the designer might be before taking a peek at the answer.


Nam June PaikSense Amplifier - Inhibit Driver (2012), Necklace, mixed metals and plastic, 35 cm X 11.5 cm (with chain), 13.5 cm X 11.5 cm (pendant); © Nam June Paik/ Courtesy the N. Seroussi Collection and Bass Museum of Art, Miami Beach/Photo by Philippe Gontier.


Practically each and every piece of jewelry in this exhibition is distinctive and surprising, so, despite its shortcomings, the show is worth seeing.  These aren’t items from obscure, unknown artists, but have been produced by well-known, heavy hitters in the art world:  Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, Louise Bourgeois, Damien Hirst, Yayoi Kusama…the list goes on.   Nam June Paik, a master of video art and savant manipulator of electronics, has work that can be seen in the first room.  Sense Amplifier – Inhibit Driver (2012), resembles a circuit board, one that may have resulted from the deconstruction of a computer.  The artist’s obsession with media, in this case, manifests itself on a large metal chain to be worn around the neck.  Frank Stella has an ornate treasure, also a necklace, but one crafted in a very different manner than Paik's, on display in the last and largest room.  His Untitled necklace (2008), takes on a winding and whimsical design, one that contrasts the work he is most commonly associated, the stripe paintings.  Instead, Untitled is reflective of his more current interest in spiraling, polymeric forms, those inspired by the music of Scarlatti and the late work of Kandinsky.


Frank StellaUntitled necklace (2008), Gold-painted titanium, unique, 11 X 2 in.; © Frank Stella/ Courtesy the D. Venet Collection and Bass Museum of Art, Miami Beach.


The purpose of the Bass Museum of Art, a jewel in its own right, is, according to its mission statement, to create a dynamic conversation by exploring connections within art history.  The current exhibition is an innovative way of extending the discussion of art beyond the works more commonly associated with the most popular artists of our time.  The museum is helping to lead the way in “tearing down the walls” created by curators, a cry that well-known art critic Roberta Smith recently made in the New York Times.  Breaking down the barriers between fine art and craft is no easy feat and occurs one exhibition at a time.  And here in Miami, via “From Picasso to Koons: The Artist as Jeweler,” is an institution that is moving this conversation in the right direction. Bravo.

 
 
Liber Insularum Knight Exhibition Series
Bill Viola
Museum of Contemporary Art - North Miami (MOCA NOMI)
770 NE 125 Street , North Miami, Florida 33161
December 5, 2012 - March 3, 2013


Bill Viola’s “Liber Insularum” is, in a word, powerful.  It brings to mind the transcendental power of Ann Hamilton’s recent Park Avenue Armory show, “The Event of a Thread,” where billowy white curtains coupled with pulley supported swings worked in concert with the monotonous readings of philosophical and spiritual prose.  Here, instead of integrating the viewer into a strange world created through participatory installation, Viola uses digital media as a tool to directly communicate with and even separate his audience from the artistic creation, giving them the space to observe and contemplate the world in which they live.  His work is a reminder to slow down, to see, and to breathe, as it calls into question all that is missed on the road traveled through life. 

Bill Viola, Film still of The Quintet of the Astonished (2000), Color video rear projection on screen mounted on wall in dark room, Projected image size: 55 X 94.5 in. room dimensions variable; © Bill Viola/ Courtesy Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami.


The Quintet of the Astonished (2000) is the first video encountered.  It is given its own room, just as many of the works.  Five people, one woman and four men, are huddled together against a dark backdrop but never face, and the scene is reminiscent of a biblical one.  Light shines upon them, and all but one appear to be suffering or concerned.  For most of the video, the central figure in the back possesses an expression that is relaxed and calm.  The fear present in the others' faces are missing in his.  This man embraces the moment.  Is he the only one at peace with his life and actions?  Is this a scene anticipating a world on the brink of its end?  Only the viewer knows, as he watches and mindfully digests the situation placed before him.  Initially the actors appear frozen, but after only a few moments, it becomes apparent that each one is in a slow and very deliberately held motion.  Their bodies and faces gradually shift and a tension is created.  Even though they are placed inches apart, the actors seem isolated and alone and the pain of human existence is revealed, one where the participants are connected but always separate, each confined to his or her body, thoughts, emotions, and impressions, never to be completely discovered by the other.  

In Catherine’s Room (2001), a color video polyptech on five LCD flat panels all mounted to a wall, a very different story is conveyed.  Here Buddhist principles of simplicity and mindfulness become apparent.  A female performer is shown in five separate scenes, all of the same size and set within the same room.  A single window exists in the upper right corner of the frame, which, in addition to the objects in the room, gives the viewer a reference point for the time of day, the cycle of life, or, if read from a more spiritual point of view, as one of the elements: earth, air, water, fire, and the esoteric.  In each scene the actor performs different functions from yoga, lighting candles, to sleeping.  The viewer is positioned as voyeur, able to observe an uneventful, yet very intentional life, one that might offer a counter to, or possibly a reinforcement of, his own.     

The quiet magnificence of this exhibition is due, in large part, to the way each of these videos is presented, mostly in dark or low-lit rooms with only a single or very few pieces in each, and the minimalist design and intimacy of the MOCA itself.   A small structure with few rooms and frills, if any, the space functions as merely a support or backdrop, barely noticed after entering the exhibition while transitioning through the space.  The fifteen works shown within “Liber Insularum” are most effective when given the attention and time to connect with each piece, and the exhibition’s curator, Roc Laseca, sets the stage for this to occur.  It is not an exhibition to be taken lightly or to be breezed through.  Viola’s work gets more powerful each second attention is paid, much like the message he constructs.  Whether or not you are a fan of video art is inconsequential; Viola’s sensitivity, the primary tool with which he accesses your psyche and speaks to your fears, is universally appreciable.  



 
 
All the world’s a stage and it’s not just the Oscars, but the contemporary art fairs of late, who are commanding it.   I, for one, have been a reluctant participant in this global drive for exposing contemporary art to the masses.  But thanks to Art Miami LLC and its director, Nick Korniloff, I too have become a member of the captivated audience of the art fair. Art Wynwood is its star and has given sunny Miami an event that lives up to the hype of its current art scene, one often written about but rarely experienced firsthand.  

Without a doubt, Art Basel put Miami on the map and elevated the city from one of vacation destination to cultural hotspot; however, Art Basel and the infinite number of fairs it anchors, have become a firestorm of exhibitions that leave the visual senses wanting, not to mention bombarded, and the newly minted collector gasping for air.  Unfortunately Art Basel, the same event that catapulted Miami into the narrow spotlight of the art world, is now metaphoric for the very reputation that Miami has fought to escape, one of superficiality and excess.   Enter Art Wynwood. And here are some of the reasons it wowed.  

First, there was consistent quality throughout the fair and regardless of the kind of art one prefers, Art Wynwood had it.  Galleries spanning the globe occupied the easily navigated space, and the significant number of local galleries chosen showed a variety of works easily on par with exhibitors from Manhattan’s Chelsea, as well as those from abroad. From a curatorial point of view, the amount of art and choice of works gave visitors an opportunity to fully digest the display and the ability to walk away with a grasp of the current mindset in contemporary art and the market.  

Quentin Shih, Stranger in the glass box No.5 (2008), Digital Chromogenic Print, 44 X 75 in.; © Quentin Shih/ Courtesy Art Lexing Gallery.

One Miami gallery worth mentioning is Art Lexing.  I was surprised to learn that Miami has a gallery specializing in emerging Asian artists, and this is one to note.  At the fair, Lexing featured works by photographer Quentin Shih from his Stranger in the glass box (2008) and Shangai dreamers (2010) series, which were commissioned by the French design house of Dior.  In these photos Shih forges images of Chinese society with fashion for the sake of political commentary.  What remains are exquisite renderings of pre-reform China infused with the dreamlike worlds of models and haute couture.  

A show-stopping exhibit that was not to be missed was New York’s Claire Oliver Gallery.  If you haven’t seen the work of Norwood Brunner, take that short flight to New York and go directly to Claire’s Gallery.  Brunner’s mirrored pieces combine Swarovski crystal and glass allowing the viewer to reflect on his or her own image.  Phrases like “imagine you are flawless” and “a smooth sea never makes a skillful sailor” are central to the artist’s work and create an active cognitive relationship with the viewer, revealing the beautiful possibilities of life. If delving into the depths of psychology is a bit much, these works still have something to offer.  They are nothing short of gorgeous to behold, not to mention an added bonus of visual decadence while admiring oneself. 

Without a doubt, one of the most impressive exhibitors was Victori Contemporary, a virtual gallery whose owners utilize fairs to further expose their artists to the market. Based out of New York, directors Ed Victori and John Haas clearly have a knack for choosing unrecognized, gifted artists with the credentials to back up their talents.  According to the gallery’s mission: “In the age of technology where overnight fame for talentless actions is commonplace, it becomes increasingly unfortunate to discover true artistic talents tucked away in the studios and corners of the world…” Gentlemen, I couldn’t agree more, and Victori Contemporary is a great example of what the general public and the art market are starved for, visual works with a clean esthetic that awaken the senses and ignite inner dialogue and conversation.  

Miriam CabessaBlack and White 1 (2008) and Black and White 3 (2008), Both oil on linen, 52 X 52 in. each; © Miriam Cabessa / Courtesy Victori Contemporary Gallery. 

A diptych on display by Victori’s Miriam Cabessa, Black and White 1 (2008) and Black and White 3 (2008), two oil on linen created by the fluid and rhythmic movements of Cabessa’s body, left me breathless.  The renderings result in vacillating forms that flow forth from the static picture plane. The abstractions present themselves in waves and can be seen as anything from fabric to seismic recordings.  The work of Gerhard Richter might be comparative, but even Richter’s omnipotent works don’t possess the meditative power of the symphonic vibrations created by Cabessa.  As a collector it’s also worth noting that this artist was chosen to represent Israel in the Venice Biennale and is still virtually unknown.

Yet another reason Art Wynwood hit the mark was the attention it gave to local graffiti art and the legacy of Tony Goldman and his Wynwood Walls.   Artists such as Ron English, RETNA, and Kenny Scharf were given a specially curated exhibit that weaved throughout the remainder of the fair.  The graffiti and street art of Miami is some of its most powerful and have made it a formidable force within the international artistic community.  Once seen as art that fell outside of the coveted category of fine, this edgy, smart, and thought-provoking work often forces the viewer to reflect upon life and societal concerns and is now being seen in well-respected collections and museums.  

Consider one of the major shows given by controversial director, creative genius, and entrepreneurial superstar Jeffrey Deitch at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.  “Art in the Streets” from 2011 was the museum’s most attended show in history and more than a third of the Wynwood Walls artists were featured.  Art Wynwood is proof that, like the separation between street and fine art, the line drawn between art and daily life is constantly being blurred.  Art is ever more accessible and resists containment.  And if the air of Art Wynwood is any example, even gallerists have fallen suit. Once unapproachable and opaque, these highly knowledgeable gatekeepers were friendly, open, and eager to share their talented artists with the world.  Thank you Art Miami LLC and Mr. Korniloff because the world is ready.