Archives: Visual Arts

In ‘Spirit in the Land’ at PAMM, Art is the Key to Climate Crisis

Written By Douglas Markowitz
April 4, 2024 at 7:49 PM

Marie Watt drew on indigenous poetry and knowledge to create her piece “Companion Species: Assembly (Guardian Tree),” part of the Pérez Art Museum Miami’s exhibition “Spirit of the Land” on view through Sunday, Sept. 8. (Photo courtesy of Douglas Markowitz)

Few museums in the world are as emblematic of their city’s relationship to nature as the Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM). The marine ecosystem of Biscayne Bay is just steps away from the PAMM’s waterfront complex. So are the skyscraper condos of downtown Miami and the roaring automobiles on the MacArthur Causeway. And just a few miles to the west, the vast wilderness of the Everglades unspools.

Installation view of “Spirit in the Land” at PAMM. Center: “House of the Historians” by Andrea Chung. (Photo courtesy of Douglas Markowitz)

It’s this stark contrast between nature and urban development that makes PAMM’s latest exhibition particularly apt. “Spirit in the Land,” which debuted on Wednesday, March 20 and is on view through Sunday, Sept. 8, examines humanity’s relationship with our planet through cultural practices. Exhibiting artwork in several mediums from a global crop of artists, including art world stars such as Terry Adkins, Hew Locke, Carrie Mae Weems, Firelei Báez, and Wangechi Mutu, the show attempts to illustrate how solutions to the human-made climate crisis may already exist in how different cultures relate to their environment.

Firelei Baez’s work in “Spirit in the Land.” (Photo courtesy of Douglas Markowitz)

“The way that the natural world – the lands, the water, flora, fauna – informs our sense of self and who we are,” says Trevor Schoonmaker, the show’s curator. “It shapes our identities, as individuals, as a community, as a culture, and in ways that sometimes we’re not even really conscious of. I mean, it just informs everything, our spiritual practices, our cuisine, our rituals, recreation. And so the goal, really, is to remind people that we are part of this larger ecosystem. It’s not separate from us, it’s not something out there. We’re not actually trying to save the Earth, the Earth is trying to save us.”

The show focuses particularly on artists and communities from the Americas and the Caribbean, examining how indigenous and formerly enslaved communities have existed within and alongside the lands they inhabit. South Carolina-born, Washington D.C.-based artist Sheldon Scott, for instance, excavates his own Gullah Geechee ancestry in his video piece “Portrait, number 1 man (day clean ta sun down).”

Two paintings by Hew Locke. The Guyanese-British artist drew upon imagery from his homeland to make these two paintings, “Tranquility Hall,” left, and “Mosquito Hall,” right. (Photo courtesy of Douglas Markowitz)

For over 12 hours, an entire workday for his enslaved ancestors, Scott filmed himself harvesting rice on the former Brookgreen Gardens plantation in South Carolina, painstakingly peeling each grain from its husk. A pile of the one-time cash crop, which was more valuable than cotton and much more labor-intensive to produce during the era of slavery, is neatly placed on a rectangular plinth under the screen, with each grain representing an “unknown, enslaved identity.”

The durational nature of the work, and Scott’s intense focus on the performance, led to some surprising moments, some of which didn’t become apparent until after filming had concluded. At certain points in the video, grasshoppers land on his shoulder, and a crane wanders through the background behind the artist.

“There were so many times where the human body just became a part of the natural landscape and was not disruptive,” says Scott, “and that was a very unique experience for me, being a human being walking into this space, and all of a sudden…”

Peter Williams draws on Afrofuturism in his painting “Birdland,” drawing the subject as an astronaut. Like the endangered birds surrounding him, he must also fly off in search of a better home. (Photo courtesy of Douglas Markowitz)

Some of the most affecting artworks in the show, rather than focusing on harmonious coexistence with nature, relate to the ways humanity has already irreparably damaged our home planet.

In North Carolina-based artist Mel Chin’s installation “Never Forever: The Cabinets of Conuropsis,” birdsong from the Carolina Parakeet (Conuropsis carolinensis) emanates from two specially built speakers painted to resemble the parrot’s plumage. But aside from a wax model, there’s no bird, and there hasn’t been for over a century. The last Carolina Parakeet died in 1918 after the species was hunted to extinction for its feathers, and no recordings exist of its song. Chin synthesized the sounds using research conducted by biologists on what the bird might have sounded like.

In Mel Chin’s “Never Forever” project, the artist explores the human effects on ecosystems by reviving extinct birds, recreating their physical appearances with wax models and synthesizing their songs based on available research. (Photo courtesy of Douglas Markowitz)

Schoonmaker organized the original version of the show at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, where he serves as director; the Miami version was organized by PAMM’s Jennifer Inacio with assistance from the Nasher Museum. According to Schoonmaker, PAMM, and Miami more broadly, is “the perfect context” for the show given the city’s status as a frontline for climate change.

Annalee Davis’ drawing series “From a Garden of Hope” is based on geological surveys of her homeland Barbados and native plants used in women’s reproductive medicine. (Photo courtesy of Douglas Markowitz)

“I think the exhibition addresses critical issues of climate change, issues of the entire environmental crisis, but it does it through a lens of connection to the earth,” says Schoonmaker.

“. . . If people can see, through these cultural connections, the relationship to the land, their relationship to nature in general, they’ll realize that, okay, yes, this is something that I’m a part of, this is something that I love. And if they’ve realized it’s a part of their every day, they’ll do a little bit more to care for it.”

WHAT: “Spirit in the Land”

WHEN: 11 a.m. to 9 .p.m. Thursday; 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday through Monday; closed Tuesday and Wednesday.

WHERE: Pérez Art Museum Miami, 1103 Biscayne Blvd., Miami

COST: $18 for adults; $14 for seniors (62 plus with ID), and students (with ID), and those 7 to 18 years old; free for children 6 and younger, museum members, active U.S. military and veterans (with ID), disabled visitors and caregivers, healthcare professionals and first responders (with ID), Florida educators (with ID).

 INFORMATION: 305-375-3000 and pamm.org.

 ArtburstMiami.com is a nonprofit media source for the arts featuring fresh and original stories by writers dedicated to theater, dance, visual arts, film, music, and more. Don’t miss a story at www.artburstmiami.com

 

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In ‘Multitudes’ at Frost Museum-FIU, Kacey Jeffers Captures Life on His Island Home

Written By Douglas Markowitz
March 22, 2024 at 8:27 AM

Kacey Jeffers, “Untitled (Ras Iroy’s protest),” from a commission for Time Magazine, “Scenes From Around the World in the Aftermath of Queen Elizabeth II’s Death.” Jeffers’ debut museum exhibition is at The Patricia and Philip Frost Art Museum at Florida International University. (Photo by Kacey Jeffers, courtesy of the artist and Frost Art Museum)

Kacey Jeffers describes Nevis, the Caribbean island where he grew up, as something like a small town. At only 93 square kilometers and a population of 12,000, it’s the smaller of the two islands that make up the former British colony of Saint Kitts and Nevis. It’s the kind of place where “you could go to town and leave your doors unlocked,” and the kind of place that, however idyllic your childhood may be, you know you’ll probably have to leave behind. Especially if you want to be an artist.

“It’s a good place to grow up, but it’s not a good place to be a young person. The opportunities are very limited.” he says. “There isn’t really an emphasis placed on creativity.”

Kacey Jeffers, “Juliska, 11, Ivor Walters Primary School,” from the series “Uniform.”  Jeffers says his “Uniform” series was the first time he thought to incorporate his “personal stories” into his photography practice. (Photo by Kacey Jeffers, courtesy of the artist and Frost Art Museum)

Jeffers, a photographer and one-time runway model, now lives in New York, but his frequent visits to his home island form the core of his work. Intimate portraits of neighbors and family, photos of local bars and of J’ouvert, the island’s Carnival celebration – it’s this body of work that has earned him a following within the art world, and of “Multitudes,” his debut museum exhibition at The Patricia and Philip Frost Art Museum at Florida International University (FIU).

Curator Yady Rivero says she chose to show Jeffers’ work to shed light on a country that’s “very underrepresented in the global art conversation.” The show, which debuted in January as part of the university’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day commemorations and runs through May 4, is also part of an effort to explore different perspectives of the Caribbean that aren’t usually  emphasized in Miami.

“It was important to highlight his work and also celebrate the Caribbean in a new way,” says Rivero, who is of Dominican heritage. “Usually here in Miami we have a lot of Caribbean art on view but it prioritizes the Hispanic Caribbean. And so for me, I thought it could be special to introduce a new voice to our audiences here.”

Kacey Jeffers, “Untitled (Jazzique and his family at the pool), Golden Rock Inn,” from the series “Postcards From The Future.” (Photo by Kacey Jeffers, courtesy of the artist and Frost Art Museum)

Two of Jeffers’ photo series in particular highlight the ways in which the island’s culture and economy have evolved as a result of British colonialism. The “Uniform” series depicts schoolchildren in their uniforms, analyzing how they attempt to resist an enforced conformity brought down upon them by authority figures. Though the country declared independence from the British in 1983, the uniforms remain as a remnant of colonial policy. The students’ modifications to them ultimately afford their gestures a deeper meaning of continued resistance.

“It was one of those projects where I started to think about using my own personal stories as a reference, as opposed to something external,” says the photographer. “It was 26 portraits of school kids in uniforms. That’s the basic idea of it. But it’s more so about looking at individuality and personality through the wearing of the uniforms, and looking at the ways in which people are able to have a sense of identity, a sense of individuality, even if you’re all wearing the same  outfits.”

Jeffers also returns to the subject of post-colonialism in a series of images commissioned by Time magazine upon the death of Queen Elizabeth II in 2022.

Kacey Jeffers, “Untitled (Mi tired),” from the J’ouvert series. (Photo by Kacey Jeffers, courtesy of the artist and Frost Art Museum)

The artist had been visiting home when the news broke and ended up finding a variety of reactions. “I was kind of like, ‘well, I don’t even care,’” he says. “So it was quite an interesting commission. And I really liked it because it just forced me to think really fast, on my feet.”

In one scene Muffet, a local bar owner, and her customers toast the queen’s long life, albeit without much passion. Another shows activist Ras Iroy, standing next to a Rastafarian flag – a symbol of the faith borne out of resistance to British colonialism – and a sign demanding the newly-crowned King Charles III “Pay reparations now” and beseeching his fellow Nevisians “As you mourn the death of your oppressor…let us reflect upon the millions of our ancestors who were enslaved…raped…killed…and colonized to build the British Empire.”

Kacey Jeffers, “Brothers” by Kacey Jeffers, part of a series of portraits taken by the artist at home on Nevis. (Photo by Kacey Jeffers, courtesy of the artist and Frost Art Museum)

What may be his most insightful series however are a series of photos produced for the Golden Rock Hotel, a local resort owned by artists Helen and Brice Marden. Jeffers’ photos, shot in a style similar to commercial photography, feature Black patrons enjoying the resort in addition to white. Here, he calls into question the dynamics of the Caribbean tourist economy, where the mostly Black locals service a mostly white leisure class. Such an interrogation of the industry should resonate deeply in Miami, a place that is also dependent on vacationers, for better or worse.

WHAT: “Kacey Jeffers: Multitudes”

WHEN: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday; noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Through Saturday, May 4

WHERE: Patricia and Philip Frost Art Museum at Florida International University, 10975 SW 17th St., Miami

COST: Free

INFORMATION: 305-348-2890 and frost.fiu.edu

ArtburstMiami.com is a nonprofit media source for the arts featuring fresh and original stories by writers dedicated to theater, dance, visual arts, film, music, and more. Don’t miss a story at www.artburstmiami.com.

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March 21, 2024 at 12:31 PM

Yanira Collado’s “For those who transcend in the wind/ Ritmos para Oya” is the first art installation for the Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami’s Art on the Plaza series, which began in 2021. Collado’s work features wind-driven pinwheels in MOCA’s fountain. (Photo by Daniel Bock, courtesy of MOCA)

What started during the pandemic as a way to support artists is now a mainstay at the Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami.

Art On The Plaza (AOP), a series of public art installations that have been displayed on MOCA Plaza since 2021, continues this year with three exhibits exploring themes of spirituality, heritage, and transformation.

For three months, from March to September, the work of artists Yaniro Collado, Christopher Mitchell and Nicole Salcedo will be highlighted.

A photo by Christopher Mitchell whose portfolio serves as a tapestry of Haitian culture. His art installation will be revealed on June 26 on MOCA Plaza as the second in the Art on the Plaza series. (Photo courtesy of the artist)

Art on the Plaza was also a means for the museum to present work during the pandemic when being indoors wasn’t possible, according to Adeze Wilford, MOCA curator.

“We’ve seen an increase in the ambition of the projects and artists really pushing their ideas of what a public art installation can be,” says Wilford.

The North Miami public art series has become a platform for artists to experiment, challenge norms, and engage with the public in unconventional ways. Its success lies in its ability to adapt and respond to the changing dynamics of the world.

Reflecting on the selection process for this year’s artists, Wilford elaborates on the program’s commitment to diversity and creativity. “Every year, Art on the Plaza is selected via an open call with a jury. This year, we invited a past AOP artist to help with the selection process,” says Wilford. “We wanted to share a range of ideas as well as activating the sites of the plaza in creative ways.”

Wilford emphasizes the thematic threads that weave through this year’s artists’ work. The Art on the Plaza curator notes, “They each have considerations along lines of history and spirituality that engage with social and emotional change.”

Yanira Collado’s “For those who transcend in the wind/ Ritmos para Oya” marks the first art installation on the Plaza for this year. Unveiled on March 13, the public artwork features a collection of wind-driven pinwheels positioned within MOCA’s fountain. The pinwheels have patterns referencing symbols in historical African-American quilts, indicates Wilford.

Yanira Collado’s pinwheels have patterns that reference symbols in historical African-American quilts, according to curator Adeze Wilford. (Photo by Daniel Bock, courtesy of MOCA)

A multimedia artist with roots in both New York and Santo Domingo, Collado shares the inspiration behind her installation. “My practice considers concepts that allude to the restoration of histories once muted due to natural and human interventions,” explains Collado. “In this work, I want to evoke a sense of wonder and felicity for all that experience it and curiosity about the color choices and patterns.”

As Collado discusses the symbolism embedded in her installation, she emphasizes the importance of reclaiming ancestral narratives. “The patterns embedded within some of the pinwheels are markers of ancestral identities for many of us in the African Diaspora. I believe fostering culture comes from an internal starting point and it must be cultivated in order for it to contribute to any type of social development.”

“For those who transcend in the wind/ Ritmos para Oya” will close Sunday, June 16.

Christopher Mitchell’s “Haitian Mermaids” opens on Wednesday, June 26 and is on display through Sunday, Sept. 8. The photographic series presents portraits of community members transformed into life-sized mermaids, adorned in vibrant Kanaval-style costumes.

With a dedication to documenting stories of Haiti, the Haitian-American photographer and director shares his perspective on his photographic series. “The museum (MOCA) is nestled within a vibrant Haitian community, which lends a unique cultural backdrop,” says Mitchell. “Had it been situated in Jacmel, Haiti, local lore might have spun tales of mermaids seen in the central fountain, infusing the place with an air of mystery and enchantment.”

The Haitian-American photographer and director Christopher Mitchell has dedicated his practice to documenting Haiti in all its dimensions since the mid-1990s (Photo courtesy of the artist)

Mitchell navigates the complex emotions surrounding mermaids in Haitian folklore, blending admiration with cautionary tales. “The allure of mermaids lies not just in their breathtaking beauty and enigmatic mystique but also in the peril that accompanies their legend,” he elaborates. “While their enchanting narratives and mystical aura captivate many, they also serve as a reminder of the treacherous, cautionary tales woven into their lore.”

In discussing the technical process behind his life-sized mermaid portraits, the photographer emphasizes the fusion of reality with artisan craftsmanship. “Each portrait features a human subject captured in the upper portion with meticulous attention to detail, while the lower half is intricately crafted using artisan materials to evoke a distinct aquatic aesthetic,” says Mitchell. “The fusion of real-life and imaginative elements brings forth a captivating and surreal experience in each portrait.”

On Wednesday, Sept. 18, the third and final installment of Art on the Plaza will be displayed. Crafted by Nicole Salcedo and titled “Earth Gate,” this installation invites visitors to pass through “a threshold between the mundane and the sacred.”

Nicole Salcedo, a multidisciplinary artist known for her immersive experiences, will be displaying her work on MOCA Plaza starting Sept. 18. (Photo courtesy of the artist)

Salcedo, a multidisciplinary artist known for her immersive experiences, offers insights into her artwork. “This installation emerged from a deep reverence for our planet and a desire to create a space where visitors could experience a connection with the Earth through the imagination,” explains Salcedo. “I wanted to translate that feeling into a structure that is familiar, a gate, a threshold where people could symbolically pass from one state of being to another, acknowledging our role as stewards of the Earth.”

The artist integrates diverse elements, including botany, fractals, electromagnetic physics, and animistic spirituality, to convey her artistic message. “Botany represents the physical manifestation of life, while fractals symbolize the underlying patterns and interconnectedness found in nature,” says Salcedo. “Electromagnetic physics speaks to the invisible forces that bind us to the Earth, while animistic spirituality acknowledges the inherent consciousness and spirit within all living things.”

The final Art on the Plaza of the season closes on Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2025.

Through the diverse perspectives of Collado, Mitchell, and Salcedo, Art On The Plaza invites viewers to “explore unfamiliar narratives and spark meaningful conversations,” says Wilford.

“These installations contribute to the dialogue surrounding cultural identity and heritage within the South Florida arts community. Our goal is to create projects that will continue to have life long after the AOP season ends.”

WHAT: Art on the Plaza

WHERE:  Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami Plaza, 770 NE 125th St., North Miami

WHEN: Through Jan. 1, 2025.

COST:  Free

INFORMATION:  305-893-6211 or mocanomi.org

ArtburstMiami.com is a nonprofit media source for the arts featuring fresh and original stories by writers dedicated to theater, dance, visual arts, film, music, and more. Don’t miss a story at www.artburstmiami.com

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Miami MoCAAD museum sees the future as it unveils virtual reality work

Written By Sergy Odiduro
March 18, 2024 at 6:41 PM

Miami MoCAAD will unveil a Knight New Work piece at the Black Archives Historic Lyric Theater in Overtown on Thursday, March 21 as part of an event that features the “Strange Fruit” series by French Caribbean artist Marielle Plaisir. (Photo courtesy of Marielle Plaisir Studios)

Overtown. Coral Gables.

Everyone knows that the two neighborhoods are two worlds apart. Or are they?

A new virtual reality exhibit at the Miami Museum of Contemporary Art of the African Diaspora (Miami MoCAAD) seeks to answer this question.

In a Knight New Work piece entitled “The Day I Heard the Sounds of the World: ARt Connecting Communities-Overtown and Coral Gables,” French Caribbean artist Marielle Plaisir explores this connection.

Her piece will be unveiled at 7 p.m. on Thursday, March 21  at the Black Archives Historic Lyric Theater in Overtown as part of an event that includes eight pieces from her “Strange Fruits” exhibit.

The showing will also feature a documentary produced by five-time regional Emmy Award winner Michael Anderson, a fireside chat with Plaisir, and a performance by Emmy-nominated recording artist Alexander Star.

Following the premiere, Plaisir’s Knight New Work piece will join her ongoing exhibit on view at the Coral Gables Museum through Sunday, April 28.

Marilyn Holifield, Miami MoCAAD’s co-founder, said that the night will highlight an association between two locales that most wouldn’t think of.

“Until I started getting involved in this project, I did not connect the dots between Coral Gables and Overtown,” Holifield admits.
She is far from alone.

“I would have never thought of the two communities,” agrees Dr. Dorothy Fields, a local historian. “I mean, this was Marilyn’s genius.”

Since teaming up with Fields, a colorful view of Miami’s history has emerged, one that weaves two communities together in a patchwork quilt trimmed with an unscrutinized past. To sew these pieces together Holified knew Fields was the perfect person to ask.

“7 The doll” will be featured in Miami MoCAAD’s virtual reality exhibit. The event explores the overlooked relationship between Overtown and Coral Gables. (Photo Courtesy of Marielle Plaisir Studios)

“From the very beginning, I knew that Dr. Fields had to be a part of the project and I knew that she could be an anchor for contextualizing the theme of art connecting community: Overtown and Coral Gables. And even in the course of our informal conversations, it’s been such a learning experience to hear her talk about the development of these two communities and their interdependence.”

When approached to assist in the project, Fields jumped at the opportunity.

“I had a chance to learn a good bit about Coral Gables through my early work in 1974, to 1976 at the Historical Museum of Southern Florida now known as History Miami . . . so when this project came up, and I was asked to participate. I was very excited about it. And still am.”

Once they both took a closer look, the connections were clear.

“Black laborers were the primary workforce in Miami for the first 50 years of the city's existence. And of course, as a result of my research, we know that a third of the men who stood for the incorporation of the city of Miami were black,” says Fields.

“And so they went to work in the Gables during the week, five days a week. but in the evenings, and on weekends, they built their own community. And so at the same time that they were building these historic structures in the Gables they were building historic structures in Overtown.”

Longshoremen, in particular, were crucial to this process.

“In the early days, they did the dirtiest jobs, the hardest jobs, but they were very important jobs,” says Holifield. “They were essential jobs. And sometimes it is staring you right in the face but you don’t realize the contribution that Black people have made historically, not only in Miami, but in the entire United States.”

Commissioning a piece that would serve as an artistic mouthpiece for this discovery, bubbled up during a collaborative effort between Holifield and Elvis Fuentes, who serves as executive director at the Coral Gables Museum.

The duo worked hand in hand to petition the Knight Foundation but ultimately Holifield served as their lead.

“It was decided that Miami MoCAAD would formally submit the application because the new art was to incorporate technology and we’ve been working to inspire interest in art through technology,” says Holifield.

Once Miami MoCAAD won the award, they then tapped Miami-based Xennial Digital, an augmented and virtual reality tech firm, to provide the logistics for the exhibition.

Meanwhile, Plaisir focused on using virtual reality to bring their discoveries to life. “First of all, I am a painter,” says Plaisir. “So I see the world as a painting. Everything I create is a painting even if I’m using virtual reality. Modulating the painting in VR is absolutely the same. It’s just the medium that I am changing. But my intention has always been to make immersive work. But the virtual reality process allows me to touch more deeply this immersive process.”

The advantages of using it are clear. Art is not merely seen but it is transformed into an experience for the viewer.

“The Divine comedy II” by Marielle Plaisir. The French Caribbean painter utilizes virtual reality as a way to connect with the viewer through their senses. (Photo Courtesy of Marielle Plaisir Studios)

“Virtual reality allows me to have the psychological effect of the senses. That means you are seeing and feeling one thing while your brain is trying to override this and tell you something else. The process not only gives more emotion than a painting but you
can touch these emotions. You are inside. You are in the middle of the painting. You can touch everything. For example, there are some butterflies and you can almost touch them. In one of the virtual reality projects the palm trees are falling. You can feel the
disorder. You can feel the chaos. and that’s just amazing. That means that the message I’m going to send will be much more powerful because your body is going to feel everything.”

This is why Holifield views the medium as a hotbed of opportunity.

Since this will be the second time the museum is having a virtual reality exhibit, she envisions using it as a catalyst in forging strategic partnerships with technological firms, for potential revenue streams, developing apps for museum patrons and exposing youth to art-based technology.

“In my mind, if we can popularize art through virtual reality, then we’re on to something and we can perhaps inspire young people to be interested in science, technology, engineering and math through art, because we’re blending the technology with the art,” says Holifield. “ . . . We’re doing something that no one else is doing with Black art.”

WHAT: “The Day I Heard the Sounds of the World: ARt Connecting Communities-Overtown and Coral
Gables”

WHERE: Black Archives Historic Lyric Theater, 819 Northwest 2nd Ave., Miami

WHEN: 7 p.m., Thursday, March 21. The Knight New Work piece will be on view after the premiere through Sunday, April 28 at the Coral Gables Museum.

COST: Free with RSVP. Attend virtually or in person.

INFORMATION: Miami MoCAAD

ArtburstMiami.com is a nonprofit media source for the arts featuring fresh and original stories by writers dedicated to theater, dance, visual arts, film, music and more. Dont miss a story at www.artburstmiami.com.

latest posts

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At Artechouse, computer code becomes poetry

Written By Jonel Juste
March 14, 2024 at 12:12 PM

The cinematic compilation (“Sketches”) combines Zach Lieberman’s edited sketches with music from Jemapur, Daito Manabe, and Nahre Sol in “Future Sketches / Code Poems” at Artechouse, Miami Beach, through May 27. (Photo courtesy of Artechouse)

Artechouse, nestled amid the cultural scene of Miami Beach, is a place where art and technology come together. With its latest exhibition, “Future Sketches / Code Poems,” Zach Lieberman’s work explores the transformative potential of technology on human expression and poetry in particular.

“Future Sketches / Code Poems” invites visitors to explore what coding feels like, what it looks like, and how they can get creative with it.

“Most people think of computer code as sort of soul-less and logical, and that makes sense, since it’s a technical medium based on math. But also, there’s such beauty that you can find in math, and I personally try to find in my work organic, playful and engaging forms that talk more about what it means to be human and what it means to be alive,” says the artist and curator of the exhibit.

An artistic rendition of a portrait of Zach Lieberman, the driving force behind the exhibit “Future Sketches / Code Poems.” (Photo courtesy of Artechouse)

Lieberman offers insights into the exhibition’s inspiration and thematic element and explains his creation process.

“I am an artist who works with code, but I strive to create organic, natural, and playful pieces. I thoroughly enjoy sketching and crafting within this medium, and I aim to provide people with an opportunity to experience the sensation of almost living within my sketchbook.”

The tech-poet explains that “Poetry is a medium of words where you try to use the right words in the right order to express something hard to express about the world.  In code, you also have to use precise words in the precise order, but in this case to tell the computer to do something.”

“Future Sketches / Code Poems” is presented as a love letter to animation, interaction, and computation, with a focus on creating immersive and engaging experiences for visitors. The exhibition features different sections, each allowing viewers to engage with the artwork, from the “Daily Sketches” showcasing evolving artistic expressions to the “Re-Coded” section, where visitors can interact with recreated artworks using code.

“In this exhibit, there’s a variety of experiences — from more passive works, which are kind of ‘lean back and use your imagination,’ to ‘lean forward’ works where you bring your voice, your body, your face and your input to bring the work to life. In all cases (except for some prints) the works are moving, and the goal is to create a playful, engaging and inspiring experience.”

A visitor interacts with the artwork “Re-Coded,” which is an homage to innovators such as Vera Molnar and Muriel Cooper, whose work exists in the space between art and technology. (Photo courtesy of Artechouse)

The inclusion of musical pieces curated by artist Daito Manabe adds another layer of depth to the exhibit, enhancing the overall sensory experience.

“I am primarily a visual artist,” says Lieberman, “but I thought the exhibit could be too quiet if the work was 100 percent visual. “Manabe helped produce the music for this show.   He has an organic style but also a feeling of computation comes through.”

The exhibit is touted as both immersive and interactive, encouraging museum-goers to actively engage with the artwork, blurring the lines between observer and creator.

“You know when you go to a museum and you see signs that say, ‘Don’t touch the art.’   Basically, immersive work is the opposite of that,” says Lieberman.  “The work is there to explore. Your interaction, your presence helps complete the work,” he adds.

An adjunct associate professor of Media Arts and Sciences at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), he says that he was delight to incorporate the work of his students into the exhibition. He also collaborated with other artists on the exhibition.

“This allows you to see what the next generation of computational creators is working on,” he says.

“Reflection Studies” is an interactive work based on software explorations of light behavior. (Photo courtesy of Artechouse)

Sarah Howorka and Robby Kraft, students from the School for Poetic Computation, created Average Face Mirror and Faces in Things. Re-Coded features sketches by school alumni exploring computer-based works through code. TMEMA, a group including Lieberman and Golan Levin, created the installation Manual Input Sessions. The artist and educator Molmol Kuo collaborated with Lieberman on Body Sketches and Más Que la Cara. The musical pieces “Exitisim – (A)” and “Particle and Fields” were brought by musician Jemapur, “What I Feel” by Daito Manabe, and improvised piano music by Nahre Sol can be heard in the main Sketch Lab.

“You can see their interests, such as knitted animations and visualizing the moment of light.   They learned so much installing in a venue like Artechouse, and seeing how work gets made — how an exhibit can go from a sketch to an empty room getting painted, into the final form.”

There’s also a creative team behind the works featured at Artechouse. Josh Feldman, director of marketing and sales at Artechouse, highlighted the museum’s collaborative spirit.

“Artechouse studio comprises engineers, coders, composers, those that are left-brained and those that are right-brained. And they work together to maximize their tools for creating these gorgeous worlds for our visitors, worlds that could be self-produced.”

He shed light on the museum’s founding principles and mission.

“Pitch Paint Revisited,” an interactive artwork, provides museum-goers with the opportunity to paint with their voice. (Photo courtesy of Artechouse)

“Artechouse got started in 2015 after its founders, Sandro Kereselidze and Tatiana Pastukhova, noticed a pattern while working with emerging artists who were using new forms of technology and innovative ways to tell stories. While participating in traditional and contemporary art through live event programs in Washington DC, they realized that there wasn’t really a home for artists who used technology to create.”

This was catalyst for the creation of Artechouse, with its inaugural location opening in Washington D.C., followed by expansions to Miami Beach in 2018 and New York City’s Chelsea Market in 2019.

Feldman emphasized the museum’s commitment to providing a platform for digital artists to showcase their work.

“It’s a space where creatives can roll up their sleeves and experiment things, a place where their work can be showcased and celebrated.” Also, he adds, “we’re trying to educate, inspire, and empower our visitors, show them there’s limitless potential creativity at the intersection of art, science, and technology.”

WHAT: “Future Sketches / Code Poems”

WHERE:  Artechouse, 736 Collins Ave., Miami Beach

WHEN: 1 to 8 p.m., Thursday through Monday. Through Monday, May 27.

COST:  $25, general admission; $20, students, seniors (65 and older), and Florida residents, $15, children, 4 to 15 years old, children under 4 admitted free.

INFORMATION:   Artechouse.com

ArtburstMiami.com is a nonprofit media source for the arts featuring fresh and original stories by writers dedicated to theater, dance, visual arts, film, music, and more. Don’t miss a story at www.artburstmiami.com

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The genius of Leonardo da Vinci on display in downtown Miami

Written By Jean Blackwell Font
March 13, 2024 at 4:16 PM

A view of the “Da Vinci: Machines and Robotics”  at a museum in Auckland, New Zealand. Miami audiences can view the exhibition at the Security Building through Sunday, March 24. (Photo courtesy of the Artisans of Florence and JB Contemporary)

On a Friday night, in the heart of downtown Miami, a different kind of cultural event took place – it was a marriage of art and science, which welcomed visitors to explore a unique world from another century.

On loan from the Museum of Leonardo da Vinci in Florence, Italy is the exhibition “Da Vinci: Machines and Robotics” at the historic Security Building on NE 1st Avenue and it’s there through Sunday, March 24.

At the VIP opening on Friday, Feb. 2, a replica of Leonardo da Vinci’s mural, “The Last Supper,” was spread across a wall in the main lobby area. Another renowned da Vinci, a copy of the Mona Lisa, rested on a column — without the interference of a layer of bulletproof glass, which protects the masterpiece at its home in Paris’ Louvre Museum.

“Da Vinci: Machine and Robotics”  connects the past and the future with more than 60 displays, including robots, war machines, flying contraptions, and civil and hydraulic inventions, alongside an extensive art gallery of reproduced masterpieces revealing da Vinci’s hand-drawn notes and designs.

The exhibition offers drawings, information, and, above, a hand-built machine in one place in a way that helps to understand the development of an invention from start to finish. (Photo courtesy of the Artisans of Florence and JB Contemporary)

Thomas Rizzo, director of traveling exhibitions for Artisans of Florence, is one of only a handful of people allowed to review the original 500-year-old drawings of Leonardo da Vinci and attempt to build his inventions and machines. More than 20 years ago, Rizzo was introduced to the Niccolai Group, three generations of artisans in Florence, Italy. That introduction was the beginning of an apprenticeship that continues today; he will become a master only when he finds an apprentice to pass on the craftsmanship he has learned.

There are currently 250 machines decoded from the master’s 1,500 original designs, several of which are on display as part of the exhibition. Many of these items, such as the flying machines and robots, were never built before despite the designs in existence for over five centuries.

As Rizzo explains, “da Vinci was very concerned about people stealing his ideas. To protect his inventions, da Vinci not only wrote backward and in reverse, but he also never added the critical last step to any of his invention designs.”

The Artisans of Florence have spent generations studying da Vinci’s designs and unlocking the secrets of how to build the machines. As an apprentice, Rizzo has had the rare opportunity to read the ancient designs and, with the small group of artisans, figure out the complicated instructions for some of the inventions. The final step requires experimenting to find the final piece of the puzzle to each of the machines they have been able to complete.

The word genius is often used to describe someone ahead of his time; da Vinci was more than a genius. It is difficult to fully understand the depth and expanse of his intellect. The Artisans of Florence, Rizzo included, have dedicated their lives to deciphering his genius to build the inventions and designs of da Vinci.

A replica of one of the volumes of the Codex Atlanicus, a 12-volume bound set of drawings and writings by Leonardo da Vinci, are on view as part of the exhibition. The original volumes are stored at the Biblioteca Ambrosiana in Milan, Italy. (Photo courtesy of the Artisans of Florence and JB Contemporary)

Throughout the exhibit, it is apparent that the engineering and draftsmanship in da Vinci’s drawings are complex —step-by-step plans to creating machines to simplify the difficult life of Europe’s Middle Ages. It is a marvel to see how many inventions da Vinci developed that are still used today:  ball bearings, bicycles, hang gliders and helicopters (what he called an “airscrew”), and, as the exhibition title suggests, robots.

While the information comes from a genius, you don’t have to be a genius to enjoy the objects on display. Unlike many museum exhibits where visitors are asked not to touch, there are several items that encourage the viewer to touch “with care.”

The designs are created with the same materials that da Vinci would have had available during his time, primarily wood, canvas, and rope. Each of the items on view includes a brief explanation as well as original drawings. The exhibition is intelligent and provocative but succeeds at not being over-your-head academic.

Several guests in attendance commented that the da Vinci exhibit brings a sense of history, curiosity, and culture to Miami. Guest Luca Artioli was born in Milan and now lives in Miami. He grew up in an ancient city, he says, where centuries of cultural history make for a rich and soulful life and the original drawings and paintings of da Vinci fill the city.

Visitors are encouraged to touch some areas of the exhibition to explore the machines of Leonard da Vinci using small cranks, pulleys, and handles. (Photo courtesy of the Artisans of Florence and JB Contemporary)

Entering the space, he says, the space felt like returning home.

Rizzo hails from Australia and has a lilting Aussie accent that disappeared when he addressed the audience in Italian. He has an easy demeanor as we discuss his relationship with the Nicolai family in Milan and his 20-plus year apprenticeship as part of the Artisans of Florence, a dedicated group of people working to preserve and create the fantastic inventions of Leonardo da Vinci.

Rizzo points out that the exhibition offers a rare opportunity for people outside of Italy to experience the vision of this man who was both artist and scientist. Rizzo explained, “There is a false dichotomy between being an artist or a scientist. What we need to understand is that you need to be both to be successful. Architecture is probably one of the few professions today that clearly embraces the importance of both.”

Josephine Bodogh of JB Contemporary in North Miami is the driving force behind bringing the exhibition to Miami. Bodogh has spent the last seven years creating and promoting traveling exhibitions of various artists. Part of her mission is to introduce European artists to the United States art community. She remembers seeing a work by da Vinci in a museum in Venice while growing up in Hungary and says she has been committed to the work of the master ever since.

Airscrew designed by da Vinci and crafted by the Artisans of Florence. (Photo courtesy of the Artisans of Florence and JB Contemporary)

The exhibit was already being shown in Australia and Europe, and, after a visit to the da Vinci Museum in Milan, Bodogh approached the Artisans of Florence with a proposal for a joint venture to share the exhibit on a larger scale.

With the help of the Artisans of Florence and the Niccolai Group, she has been able to share the drawings and paintings, as well as the inventions and machines of Leonardo da Vinci with museums around the world. This is the first time the exhibit is being presented in its museum-quality presentation in a public venue outside of a museum.

“Everyone knows a little about the art of da Vinci, but no one knows this side of him,” she says. “He was thinking about how to create a scuba mask 500 years ago. Who thinks like that?” muses Bodogh.

WHAT:  Da Vinci: Machines & Robotics Exhibition

 WHEN: Wednesday through Sunday. Through April 7,  2024

 WHERE: Security Building, 117 NE 1st Avenue, Miami

COST:  $22 (ages 14 and above), $18 children over 7 and seniors over 65.

INFORMATION:  Tickets and details at feverup.com

ArtburstMiami.com is a nonprofit media source for the arts featuring fresh and original stories by writers dedicated to theater, dance, visual arts, film, music, and more. Don’t miss a story at www.artburstmiami.com.

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Legendary Cuban Printmaker Belkis Ayón Finally Gets Miami Debut

Written By Douglas Markowitz
March 4, 2024 at 3:40 PM

Belkis Ayón, “Sin titulo” (“Untitled”), is one of the works on display in an exhibition of the late Cuban printmaker’s work at Miami’s David Castillo Gallery through Thursday, April 25 (Photo by Jose Figueroa, courtesy Belkis Ayón Estate & David Castillo)

Few artists have a style as distinctive as the late Cuban printmaker Belkis Ayón. In her stark, monochromatic images, figures are featureless, black-and-white silhouettes, devoid of any facial features save for snakelike eyes. They look like aliens or otherworldly beings. In fact, they are spirits, and Ayón drew from a unique, Afro-Cuban mythology to create them.

Ayón’s work is the result of painstaking research into the Abakuá, an Afro-Cuban secret society open only to men. Their complex system of rituals, myths, and iconography was extensive, but little visual representation of it existed, giving the artist license to develop her own interpretation. As a result, a dense web of mysterious symbology – snakes and crosses, goats held like babies and shadowy figures wearing leopard skins and fish scale armor – weaves through the artist’s work, corresponding to, but not fully analogizing, the Abakuá mythology. Characters such as Sikán, a princess sacrificed for revealing Abakuá secrets, and Abasí, a creator god, reoccur.

Belkis Ayón, “Ya estamos aquí” (“We Are Here”) (Photo by Sebastiaan Hanekroot, courtesy Belkis Ayón Estate & David Castillo)

“My goal is to synthesize the aesthetic, visual, and poetic details that I find in Abakuá mythology and to add my own vision,” Ayón, who died by suicide at 32 in 1999, said in a 1993 interview, “which is, of course, simply the vision of an individual observing all this great mythology, which I treat with enormous respect and care.”

Respect and care have been crucial to preserving Ayón’s legacy, according to Miami-based art gallerist David Castillo.

“It’s paper, so it has to rest,” he says. “The works have to go through periods where they’re not shown, they’re not exposed to light, they’re packed safely.”

Indeed, Ayón’s embrace of the collagraph, a unique form of printmaking that few other artists have utilized extensively, is also part of what makes her work unique. And as work on paper, it also presents distinct challenges. Unlike other printmaking processes like lithography that can produce multiple copies of the same image, a collagraph print is always one of one, each imbued with unique qualities from the temporary materials used in the printing process. Ayón would use found objects to enhance these unique prints, a task that was compounded in difficulty by the deprivations of life in Cuba after the fall of the Soviet Union.

Belkis Ayón, “Abasí, sálvanos” (“Abasi, Save Us”) (Photo by Sebastiaan Hanekroot, courtesy Belkis Ayón Estate & David Castillo)

“It was a period of enormous scarcity in Cuba, so she had to be very resourceful with what inks she had access to, what materials. So, she used everything from vegetable peels, found materials, to create the textures and gradations in her collagraphs. I would say that’s a very significant thing for why the artist has continued to be so important to contemporary art conversations 25 years after her death, and why there are younger artists who devote the research within their own practice to her work.”

Surprisingly, such an important Cuban artist has never had a solo show in Miami, inarguably the heart of the Cuban diaspora. Ayón’s work has been featured in group shows around the city recently, including the Museum of Art and Design at Miami-Dade College’s well-regarded “Where the Oceans Meet,” and Castillo brought a group of her collagraphs to Art Basel Miami Beach in 2021. Her work is also held in the Pérez Art Museum Miami.

That’s finally changed thanks to a show currently at David Castillo Gallery through Thursday, April 25.  It shows some of the artist’s finest works and compiles them in a monograph published by local bookmaker [NAME] Publications featuring two archival interviews. Two of the prints on display have been picked up by major museums: “Resurrección” (“Resurrection”) will go to the Museum of Modern Art in New York, while the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. acquired “Untitled (Woman in Fetal Position).”

An exhibition of late Cuban printmaker Belkis Ayón’s work is at Miami’s David Castillo Gallery through Thursday, April 25 (Photo by Zach Balber, courtesy Belkis Ayón Estate & David Castillo)

It’s the culmination of a multi-year strategy from Castillo, working with Ayón’s estate, to expand her reputation within the U.S. and internationally. “I’ve been working with the estate for nearly 10 years, and they release very few works for sale at a time,” he says. “And so my role, when I came on board with the estate, has been to place the work with institutions. Because the work is rare, because there’s not a lot remaining, it’s not just up for sale to people with money, necessarily. It really is important to preserve the artist’s legacy.”

Starting in 2017, the estate organized a series of museum solo shows, starting at the Fowler Museum at UCLA in Los Angeles. That show, titled “Nkame: A Retrospective of Cuban Printmaker Belkis Ayón” traveled to El Museo del Barrio in New York as well as institutions in Scottsdale, Houston, and Kansas City, and led to Ayón’s first retrospective in Europe, a 2021 show at Spain’s Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia. More shows are planned, including one at Modern Art Oxford in England, according to Castillo.

Belkis Ayón, “Vamos” (“Let’s Go”) (Photo by Sebastiaan Hanekroot, courtesy Belkis Ayón Estate & David Castillo)

During her lifetime, Ayón was one of Cuba’s most celebrated artists, both on the island and internationally. She participated in biennials, including Venice in 1993, won the Cuban Prize for National Cultural Distinction in 1996, and held several residencies within America. Her death in 1999 slowed her recognition as a major artist, as her estate launched a multi-year effort to study and catalog her work. But did not stop it entirely, according to Castillo.

“I don’t think there’s been a period where curators were not interested in her work, or where people were not writing about her work, or where artists were not researching her work to make work about her work,” he says. “I do believe that her ascendancy would have continued unbroken, had she not died 25 years ago.”

WHAT: “Belkis Ayón”

WHEN: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. Through Thursday, April 25

WHERE: David Castillo, 3930 NE 2nd Ave., Miami

COST: Free

INFORMATION: 305-573-8110 and davidcastillogallery.com

ArtburstMiami.com is a nonprofit source of theater, dance, visual arts, music and performing arts news. Sign up for our newsletter and never miss a story.

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Photographer Zachary Balber Haunts Wealthy Homes in ‘Intimate Stranger’

Written By Douglas Markowitz
February 25, 2024 at 10:21 PM

“Whistling in the Dark to Keep Up My Spirits”  is one of the photographs in Zachary Balber’s gallery exhibition “Intimate Stranger” at artmedia GALLERY, 350 NE 75th St., Miami. (Photo courtesy of Zachary Balber)

Zachary Balber, known across Miami for photographing the city’s museum and gallery shows, took almost a decade to assemble his gallery exhibition “Intimate Stranger.” It wasn’t because the photos took ten years to make – according to the artist, if he had showed them sooner, he probably would have been “buried in lawsuits.”

“I thought to myself, am I gonna risk my place in Miami?” he says. “Everything is very small. Everybody knows everybody. Many artists said to me, ‘Zach, you got to be careful.’ This is like a breach of trust.”

But what makes these photos so dangerous? Put simply, Balber took them surreptitiously, without permission, in various private homes around Miami. In some, he’s partially or fully nude.

“Bathing in Mapplethorpe” (Photo courtesy of Zachary Balber)

“Intimate Stranger,” completed during Balber’s time as a real estate photographer, puts the artist in plenty of compromising positions. He makes himself at home everywhere he goes, lounging in children’s bedrooms (“Desperately Seeking Susan”) and in soaking tubs (“Bathing in Mapplethorpe”). In others he’s on a vintage Terrazza sofa in a red, ‘70s-inspired home theater watching “Austin Powers” (“Whistling in the Dark to Keep Up My Spirits”) and stands at the top of a stark white staircase as nude as Michelangelo’s “David” (“Crush On You”). He haunts these wealthy spaces like a mischievous gremlin, a surreal, Lynchian figure like the Mystery Man from “Lost Highway.” He’s at your house. You invited him. It is not my custom to go where he is not wanted.

The photos in “Intimate Stranger” imitate the glossy, space-enhancing style favored by real estate photography, which Balber started doing for a Chicago-based firm to make ends meet. “I learned about, you know, basically bad real estate photography across the United States and how much money it generates. And I was in shock. It generates, like $10 or 15 million a month, and you guys edit photos that look like crap!”

Nevertheless, his work gained him access to some of the most valuable properties in Miami, palatial estates and condos with bay views. As he photographed their interiors for listings, he would get asked by real estate agents, assistants, even architects for photos of them in the expensive houses. Or he would watch them take selfies in front of the homes for social media, all to create the illusion that they actually inhabited those posh homes. That got him thinking.

“Don Bailey Special” (Photo courtesy of Zachary Balber)

“We all live in this sort of fake identity world now where all of us are promoting this idealized version of us that’s not really true. And I thought this is a brilliant idea for a photo series. I could use all these people’s interiors, and I could do the same thing.”

The risqué quality of many shots extends to the titles. In “Showing Ass,” he boldly displays his own behind next to a tower of pelvic ceramics, and in the suggestive, yet ultimately tame “Don Bailey Special,” referencing the iconic local carpet salesman’s nude advertising, although Balber wears clothes in his imitation. Balber was very aware that the owners of these houses might not take kindly to him swanning around their homes in the buck, which is why he consulted the likes of Richard Prince’s lawyer in New York.

“The attorney told me you have to wait at least five years. Because usually at the five-year mark, all the people who are touching these homes, or are in association with them, have been overturned,” he says. “I waited another couple of years just to make sure, because my objective was not to harm the people who gave me the opportunity to be in these places.”

Indeed, Balber describes “Intimate Stranger” as a therapeutic project, a way to make sense of the contradictions in his life. There was the element of class and aspirational living: Balber grew up working class in Pittsburgh before moving to Miami when he was 14, and his father, who Balber says served prison time for financial crimes, would tour him around wealthy areas like Aventura and Golden Beach to see the types of homes he would eventually photograph. Then there was the immense personal tragedy he faced at the time. All three of his immediate family members died during the making of the series: his mother from cancer, his father from hepatitis C, and his sister from a drug overdose.

“Golden Child” (Photo courtesy of Zachary Balber)

“My mother was simultaneously going through cancer treatments during part of this,” he recalls. “I would go to the hospital, and then the next day, I’d go back to another $10 million house. So I think the split between going to the hospital and seeing my life, and then going to see how everyone else lives, was pretty jarring.”

But it was the support of Miami’s art community that saw Balber through and friends like Loriel Beltran whom he met while attending the New World School of the Arts on scholarship. He began photographing art while working as a gallery assistant for New World professor and art dealer Fredric Snitzer. At the gallery, watching the boss pay expensive photographers with lots of lights and equipment to shoot his artists’ work, he realized he could create images of the same, or better, quality with the help of digital software – and he could do it cheaper.

“I thought this was a great idea,” he recalls. “I can take their images and make them look like (mega-gallery) Hauser and Wirth or some of the big guys. I would edit them so that they looked perfect.”

“Booties and Astro Turf to Walk on the Moon” (Photo courtesy of Zach Balber)

Since then Balber has become a fixture of Miami’s art world over the last ten years, though not necessarily for his own work. Instead, he’s celebrated as a photographer of other people’s art, shooting museum and gallery shows. I’ve run into him taking pictures at MoCA North Miami, the ICA, David Castillo Gallery, and other institutions around town.

“My art family saved me,” he says. “Sometimes, I could barely get up in the morning, but at least I could go to Loriel’s studio, photograph his new work and talk with him about artwork. And that was enough to get me going through the day. And eventually, it turned into taking portraits in people’s houses. But the art world really gave me my life back.”

WHAT: “Zachary Balber: Intimate Stranger”

 WHEN: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. Closing reception Thursday, March 14 from 6 to 9 p.m.

 WHERE: artmedia GALLERY, 350 NE 75th St., Miami

 COST: Free

 INFORMATION: 305-318-8306 and artmedia.gallery

ArtburstMiami.com is a nonprofit media source for the arts featuring fresh and original stories by writers dedicated to theater, dance, visual arts, film, music and more. Don’t miss a story at www.artburstmiami.com

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Treasures from The Harlem Renaissance at Wolfsonian-FIU

Written By Sergy Odiduro
February 23, 2024 at 1:01 AM

“For Freedom,” illustrated by Aaron Douglas, with interior illustrations by Mabel Betsy Hill, is featured in the exhibition “Silhouettes: Image and Word in the Harlem Renaissance,” on view through Saturday, June 23 at The Wolfsonian-FIU, Miami Beach. (Photo courtesy of the Wolfsonian-FIU)

Most people would say that the Harlem Renaissance only took place in Harlem.

But Christopher Norwood,  a Miami-based collector and gallerist,  begs to differ.

He says that’s just part of the story.

“Many of the artists that are considered so-called Harlem Renaissance artists never lived in Harlem,” explains Norwood.

And other prominent contributors aren’t originally from there.

Robert Savon Pious created cartoons, portraits, and illustrations during the Harlem Renaissance including this poster for the American Negro Exposition of 1940 in Chicago. (Photo courtesy of the Wolfsonian-FIU)

Case in point: Leslie Garland Bolling.

“His work was shown in the Virginia Fine Arts Museum, the first Black artist shown in the fine arts museum in the 1930s,” says Norwood. “It was really only HBCU museums that kept a lot of this art alive.”

But in Miami Beach,  history buffs and art enthusiasts can see Bolling’s piece at a new exhibit at The Wolfsonian-FIU as part of “Silhouettes: Image and Word in the Harlem Renaissance,”  on view through Saturday, June 23.

“It’s a wooden sculpture made with a pocket knife of a bishop of the AME Church, which is arguably one of the oldest Black institutions in this country,” says Norwood.

Included in a section dedicated to Black spirituality and is just one of many items at the event including over 35 book covers and interior illustrations and more than 60 sculptures, paintings, photographs, and prints.

And when it comes to Norwood, the exhibit is just the latest in a fervent discussion that he has been having about the Harlem Renaissance.

This most recent dialogue began almost three years ago after he was encouraged to seek out the Wolfsonian to suss out whether there was an opportunity to collaborate. What he found was a treasure trove of documents and information.

“I met with them. I looked at their archive of artwork, particularly artwork that reflected Black themes, and I was really pleasantly surprised with what they had,” says Norwood.

What he found were photos taken by Carl Van Vechten.

Christopher Norwood curated “Silhouettes: Image and Word in the Harlem Renaissance” at The Wolfsonian-FIU. (Photo courtesy of Yvette N. Harris)

“He’s one of the primary patrons of the Harlem Renaissance,” explains Norwood. “He also was a photographer. He captured a lot of the intellectuals, entertainers and artists, and documented that period in portraits. (The Wolfsonian) had a small collection of original photos as well.”

As Norwood dug deeper, he realized he hit pay dirt. He encountered artwork within first edition books from the Harlem Renaissance that the Wolfsonian had recently acquired.

“The covers. The inside. And for me, I was always fascinated by that artwork because Black artists during this time period were not shown in galleries and museums. So their canvas, for many of these artists, were these books. This way they could actually be seen around the world and around the country.”

Ironically, his findings nearly dovetailed with an event that he was hosting himself.

Norwood is the founder and owner of Overtown based Hampton Art Lovers, a gallery specializing in African American Fine Arts.

At the time he was in the midst of presenting “One Way Ticket: Movement, Migration and Liberty.”

The cover for the Crisis magazine is an iconic example of the artwork produced by Aaron Douglas. (Photo courtesy of the Wolfsonian-FIU )

The show centered on a book of poetry by Langston Hughes’ which was published in 1949 and illustrated by Jacob Lawrence. It documented the experiences of African-Americans who sought an escape from oppression by relocating to the North during the Great Migration.

It was this exchange between Langston and Lawrence, coupled with Norwood’s new Wolfsonian findings which sparked a realization that something must be done.

“I was already in this sort of space where I was really impressed by these collaborations,” says Norwood.

“So when they said they had these collection of books, I was like, Oh, we’re going to do a show focused on these illustrations.’ And what I’ll do is I’ll curate artwork from these artists, but we’ve got to get them from various places.”

One of his first steps was to engage historically Black colleges.

“Fortunately, we have one here in Miami. We were able to have work loaned to us from Florida Memorial. We also had work loaned to us from Fisk University in Nashville, which is home of Aaron Douglas who was the principal artist of that time period, the father of Harlem Renaissance art. He taught there for many years. We also had the Aaron Douglas family loan us work directly.”

With added pieces from his private collection, he then sought (and eventually) received other contributors from various sources including Beth Rudin DeWoody, the Kenkeleba Gallery, and the Norton Museum of Art.

Shawn Christian, an English professor at Florida International University, and a staff member at the Wolfsonian, was brought on board to ensure appropriate attribution and placement.

“We recruited Shawn to be the curatorial consultant so that I could really make sure that I’m positioning the importance of these books in their proper context.”

For his part, Christian was delighted to be a part of the project.

“Being able to personally go back to the time period that I’ve been studying for most of my professional life, and re-enter it through the arts was really powerful because I’m a literary studies scholar,” says Christian.  “They were people coming with a different perspective about African American contributions and their role as citizens. And so to tap into that kind of Zeitgeist,in  that moment, was really cool.

And like Norwood, he too recognizes the beauty of those who used art to celebrate the set of ideals explored in the New Negro movement.

A College Lad” by German born Winold Reiss is just one example of the multiracial collaboration between artists during the Harlem Renaissance. (Photo courtesy of the Wolfsonian-FIU )

“It’s the idea that art can be transformative and socially powerful at this really interesting moment in African American history,” says Christian.

He mentions figures like Alain Locke, Aaron Douglas, Jessie Fauset, Zora Neale Hurston, and James Weldon Johnson, who, he says were encouraged and emboldened to create art, and understood the need to preserve what they were doing during such a transformative period.

“And for a lot of these artists, in addition to wanting to make a living and wanting to make great art they were hopeful that in by doing so, the racial animus of the country would dissipate, or just be removed altogether. It was a lofty, ambitious and arguably crazy goal that in some ways wasn’t realized, but (still) they created this body of work that persists and tells its own story, even to this day,” says Christian.

WHAT: “Silhouettes: Image and Word in the Harlem Renaissance”

WHEN:  10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday–Sunday. Until 9 p.m. Friday through Sunday, June 23

WHERE: The Wolfsonian–FIU, 1001 Washington Ave., Miami Beach

 COST: Free for members, Florida residents, visitors with disabilities and their accompanying caregiver  and children under six. Otherwise, $12 for adults, $8 for seniors, students and children 6-18.

 INFORMATION: 305-531-1001 or wolfsonian.org

ArtburstMiami.com is a nonprofit media source for the arts featuring fresh and original stories by writers dedicated to theater, dance, visual arts, film, music, and more. Don’t miss a story at www.artburstmiami.com.

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At LnS Gallery, an exhibition honors the legacy of Cuban-American artist Carlos Alfonzo

Written By Miguel Sirgado
February 22, 2024 at 11:07 AM

Installation view of project room in “Carlos Alfonzo: Legacy” at LnS Gallery, Coconut Grove,  Miami, through Saturday, April 13.  From left, “Head” (1989) welded steel with pain and poured concrete. (50½ x 35 x 12 inches) (128.3 x 88×9 x 30.5 cm.) “Untitled (from the Pulpo series), (1990), oil on linen, (84 x 84 inches) (213.6 x 213.6 cm.) (Photo by Sofia Guerra, courtesy of LnS Gallery)

Tony Montana, the protagonist of Brian de Palma’s famous film, “Scarface,”  is a Cuban immigrant who escapes from the island during 1980’s historic Mariel Boatlift. Once in Florida, the “marielito” of this story becomes a hired killer to obtain and pay for his green card. His ruthless and unscrupulous style quickly places Tony at the highest level of the cocaine mafia in Miami. Over the years he even becomes an iconic figure of American popular culture.

But the Tony Montana of 1983, embodied by Al Pacino, outraged many Cuban exiles who felt that the film portrayed a negative and one-sided image of their community. They had a point.

Not everyone from the “Mariel Generation” was a Tony Montana — 125,000 Cubans are estimated to have arrived via the Mariel-Havana Key West bridge, many of whom were everyday Cubans hoping to find freedom and reunite with their families in the United States. Others were citizens who utterly disagreed with the politics, the ideology and abuses of the Castro regime.

“Oyá,” (1987), acrylic on panel, 47 ½ x 36 inches (120.6 x 91.4 cm.) (Photo by Sofia Guerra, courtesy of LnS Gallery)

What came out of this was a greatly diverse group of exceptional creators in the fields of literature, visual arts, poetry, music, journalism, academia, and theater, known as the “Mariel Generation.” They encompassed an intellectual movement with very peculiar characteristics which is still being defined and studied to this day.

Artist Carlos Alfonzo is one of them.

Defying erasure and in the name of cultural justice, LnS Gallery in the Coconut Grove neighborhood of Miami is showing “Carlos Alfonzo: Legacy,”  an exhibition honoring the Cuban American artist as a towering figure within the history of post-revolutionary art from Cuba and its diaspora. Alfonzo, who was born in Cuba and fled the Castro regime in 1980, died of AIDS in 1991 when he was only 40 years old.

According to the gallery, among the works on display is “The City” (1989), a masterpiece by Alfonzo that is being shown for the first time in almost two decades. The exhibition is made up of more than 13 works that could be considered a comprehensive survey of the artist’s oeuvre.

Additionally, the show aims to celebrate the publication of a major monographic volume about the painter titled “Carlos Alfonzo: Late Paintings,” published by the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami (ICA) in conjunction with its exhibition at the Miami Design District museum between April and November 2022.

A major monographic volume on the painter titled “Carlos Alfonzo: Late Paintings,” published by the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami (ICA) is available during the LnS Gallery exhibition. (Photo by Sofia Guerra, courtesy of LnS Gallery)

“I curated Carlos Alfonso’s show at ICA (in 2022),” says Gean Moreno, director of the Knight Foundation Art + Research Center at ICA Miami, and part of the institution’s curatorial team. “It was an exhibition that just displayed the paintings produced by Alfonzo in the last fourteen months of his life, before his passing in 1991 —sometimes they are called ‘the black paintings’ or ‘the black period’— and so, no work from before that (timeframe) was presented then,” says Moreno.

He says that the publication contains the black paintings and includes works from the rest of Alfonzo’s career: from drawings and sculptures he produced in Havana in the late 1970s to the dynamic compositions that brought him international recognition in the 1980s. According to Moreno, this is the first monograph dedicated to the artist in over 25 years. Its contents fill an art historical gap with newly commissioned scholarship, materials drawn from archives, and a comprehensive selection of paintings.

During the run of the show at LnS Gallery, “Carlos Alfonzo: Late Paintings,” will be for sale.

For LnS Gallery director Sergio Cernuda, his interest in Alfonzo’s work and his desire to better study his trajectory (and turn it into a historical archive) began a long time ago.

“Over the past twenty years, Carlos Alfonzo has become one of the most outstanding painters of the 1980s. In the short time that elapsed between his departure from Cuba during the Mariel exodus in 1980 and his premature death  . . . , he generated a body of work that evolved coherently and that made constant references to his various interests, such as his relationship with life and death, his spirituality and mysticism, his relationship with literature and history, his vision of the spiral of time,” explains Cernuda. “This project fully highlights Alfonzo’s work in all the media that fascinated him: painting, sculpture, and ceramics.”

Among the works on display are “The City,” (1989), oil on linen, three panels, 96 X 252 inches (243.8 X 640.1 cm.) The masterpiece by Alfonzo is being shown for the first time in two decades. (Photo by Sofia Guerra, courtesy of LnS Gallery)

The gallery owner says it is through the generosity of Alfonzo’s collectors and the interest of institutions such as ICA that helped realize the exhibition at LnS Gallery.

“Most of the paintings we are showing at LnS are from that period of the mid-1980s that we have been able to gather due to a collaborative interest in preserving his legacy,” says Cernuda.

On examining Alfonzo’s body of work in 2024, Moreno assures that the time was right.

“It’s been almost 25 years since the last time people (thought) about him in any serious way,” explains Moreno, “and it’s also a time when people are starting to think about the 1980s again. So it’d be nice to rethink the 1980s and make it a bigger picture since artists like Alfonzo were maybe on the periphery in the eighties. I think this is the time to do another rereading of his entire body of work.”

From the perspective of an Alfonzo appreciator, the work of this Cuban artist born in Havana in 1950, is an act of personal affection. Coral Gables art collector Jorge Pedroso says that in 1993 he organized and was part of the group of investors who bought the artist’s estate—with the idea of preserving the unity of the works that Alfonzo had left before his death.

“My wife and I had always been intrigued by Alfonzo’s work, but we didn’t know much about it,” explains Pedroso. “When I saw his work I was very impressed. I think (Alfonzo) is, in my humble opinion, one of the most complete and talented artists that Cuba has produced in the last fifty years.”

Installation view of “Carlos Alfonzo: Legacy” at LnS Gallery. At left, “Untitled [Head] Witness” (1990), oil on canvas, 36 x 30 inches (91.4 x 76.2 cm). At right, “Prayer 2” (1989) oil on canvas, 72 x 72 inches (182.9 x 182.9 cm). (Photo by Sofia Guerra, courtesy of LnS Gallery)

Pedroso says that for many years he had in his possession an Alfonzo piece titled “Santa Lucía.” It was especially significant to him because it bore the same name as the sugar mill owned by his mother’s family (but expropriated by Castro), in the province of Oriente, in Cuba. “It was a coincidence that that was one of Alfonzo’s favorite pieces, according to what Sena Toll Artigas told me. She is the mother of Carlos Artigas, who was the artist’s partner,” he explains.

For Cernuda, Alfonzo’s work is incredibly close to his own history. “I’m a first-generation Cuban American. Our gallery opened seven years ago, in February, the same month that Alfonzo passed away in 1991. Now, in 2024, his exhibition and the launch of his monograph is happening again in February. I think it’s not a coincidence that we are celebrating his life, his amazing work and our own gallery anniversary,” he says.

WHAT:  “Carlos Alfonzo: Legacy”

WHERE: LnS Gallery, 2610 SW 28th Lane, Miami

WHEN: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday, noon to 5 p.m., Sunday. By appointment Monday. Through Saturday, April 13. 

COST: Free

INFORMATION:  305-987-5642 or lnsgallery.com

ArtburstMiami.com is a nonprofit media source for the arts featuring fresh and original stories by writers dedicated to theater, dance, visual arts, film, music and more. Don’t miss a story at www.artburstmiami.com.

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‘From the Bronx to the Beach’ at The Art of Hip Hop Looks Beyond Music

Written By Jonel Juste
February 21, 2024 at 4:14 PM

Lisa Leone’s photograph of The Fugees’ Wyclef Jean and Lauryn Hill is on display at The Art of Hip Hop’s inaugural exhibition in Wynwood through Wednesday, Feb. 28. (Photo by Lisa Leone, Fugees. Courtesy of The Art of Hip Hop)

When people think of hip-hop, they often focus on rap music, breakdancing, deejays, and bling.  A new museum in Wynwood, The Art of Hip Hop, seeks to illuminate the lesser-known artistic dimensions of the genre on its 50th anniversary through its inaugural exhibit “From the Bronx to the Beach.” 

The showcase sheds light on the visual artists integral to the cultural movement since its inception in the early 1970s in the Bronx neighborhood of New York City.

“From the Bronx to the Beach” exhibition, which runs through Wednesday, Feb. 28, premiered at Miami Art Week in December. The former Museum of Graffiti building now accommodates The Art of Hip Hop, 299 NW 25th St., Miami. (The Museum of Graffiti relocated to 276 NW 26th St.)

The Art of Hip Hop, a new cultural hub dedicated to showcasing the visual arts of hip hop, located in the former Museum of Graffiti building in the Wynwood neighborhood of Miami. (Photo courtesy of The Art of Hip Hop)

Notably, both initiatives share a common thread as they were spearheaded by Alan Ket and Allison Freidin.

Freidin explains that hip-hop encompasses various elements beyond rap music, with graffiti being a significant aspect recognized by the founders of the Museum of Graffiti. “The Art of Hip Hop is a space dedicated to all visual artists of hip-hop culture who create masterpieces but are not receiving mainstream attention and accolades as artists,” says Freidin.

Echoing this sentiment, cofounder Ket emphasizes the importance of celebrating the behind-the-scenes creatives in hip-hop culture, such as photographers and designers, not just those out in front such as rappers and deejays.“These are important cultural contributors that make up the ecosystem and economy of hip-hop. I believe they deserve recognition and to be celebrated.” 

Ket, a graffiti artist, curator, photographer, and author of the book “The Wide World of Graffiti” believes that “The Art of Hip Hop” serves as another personal tribute to this genre, which he says he deeply admires.

A mural by Miami-based artist and illustrator Disem pays tribute to Clive Campbell, renowned by his stage name DJ Kool Herc, credited as one of the pioneers of hip-hop music. (Photo courtesy of The Art of Hip Hop)

“I have been an active member and a fan of hip-hop culture since I first encountered it in New York City in the early 1980s. I’ve always felt that it spoke to me and over the years I’ve sought to contribute,” says Ket. 

That’s why, he launched Stress, a magazine that celebrated hip hop in the 1990s, and in the 2000s, co-founded COMPLEX, a magazine that is still active today. In the 2010s, he went on to launch VIBE Magazine and took on various other projects. “Each was about celebrating street culture and hip-hop culture,” says Ket. 

In the heart of  The Art of Hip Hop are the visual artists themselves who, according to Freidin, former Miami prosecutor turned art businesswoman and co-owner of the new museum, “have shaped the visual identity of an entire global culture of hip hop and deserve a proper gallery space that is researching them, archiving artifacts, and exhibiting their work.”

Freidin believes that the inaugural exhibit accomplishes its  goal by presenting the works of old-school New York flyer designers like Phase 2 (Michael Lawrence Marrow), to local photographer Esdras T. Thelusma “who poses iconic hip hop musicians in a way that juxtaposes humble surroundings with symbols of opulence.”  Thelusma will be speaking about his work at the museum on Friday, Feb. 23 as part of its Black History Month programming. Doors open at 6 p.m. with the discussion starting at 7 p.m.

Visitors to The Art of Hip Hop museum look at the artworks of Miami-based visual artist Esdras  T. Thelusma, left in the background, and Martha Cooper, front right, an American photojournalist renowned for capturing the New York City graffiti scene during the 1970s and 1980s. (Photo courtesy of The Art of Hip Hop)

The new hip-hop space is designed to be both immersive and educational. “Our experience tells us that immersive moments make learning easier and more enjoyable,” says Freidin. Therefore, instead of just putting a bunch of record covers on the wall in frames as any other piece of art might be displayed, we recreated a record store where you can see famous album art, flip through the bins, and even play a record so you can see how the visual art correlates to the music.”

One immersive aspect of the museum is the creation of an old-school movie theater to screen “Wild Style,” a 1983 American hip-hop film directed and produced by Charlie Ahearn. Instead of a projection onto a white wall, visitors can lounge in vintage red theater seats surrounded by original vintage movie posters, creating an environment that transports them back to the time when the film was released. Freidin remarks, “It really sets the environment for taking in the information.”

“From the Bronx to the Beach” emphasizes the cultural impact of visual pioneers within hip-hop, including the works of photographers, album cover artists, graffiti writers, logo designers, painters, authors, and fashion creators.

Among the photographers, Bronx-born Lisa Leone, whose work highlights artists such as The Fugees, Snoop Dogg, Grandmaster Flash, Fable, and Wiggles. Also on display, the work of the British-born photographer Janette Beckman. Titled “The Mashup,” it is a collection of images reinterpreted by graffiti artists such as Lady Pink who remixed Queen Latifa’s picture with a regal pop of color, Mode2 painting a stylistic De La Soul piece or CES giving Big Daddy Kane a special cut. 

Included in the exhibited paintings is “Truck Jewelry,” a joint effort by James Alicea (BlusterOne) and the online hoop earring platform Hoop88Dreams. The showcased artworks depict oversized earrings, rings, medallions, watches, and chains worn by hip-hop artists and hood celebrities. The collection also features pieces by Erni Vales, renowned for his mastery as a muralist, having painted walls across cities from New York to Chicago to Miami. 

The exhibition also features a variety of other mediums, including graphic design, fashion items such as custom-designed t-shirts and sneakers, movies, cassettes, magazines, and books such as “The History of Miami Hip Hop” authored by John Cordero. Cordero notably co-founded, edited, and published “The Cipher: Miami’s Hip Hop Newspaper” from 1998 to 2000. The independent monthly publication documented and chronicled the burgeoning hip-hop scene in South Florida at the time.

Other visual artists included in the exhibit: Eric Haze, Cey Adams, Erin Patrice O’Brien, Robert Michael Provenzano (CES), Martha Cooper, Mike Miller, Henry Chalfant, Matt Doyle, Joe Conzo, and Daniel Hastings.

Allison Freidin and Alan Ket, the co-founders of the Museum of Graffiti & Hip Hop Art. (Photo courtesy of The Art of Hip Hop)

The exhibition also pays tribute to its host city, Miami, where it has found its permanent home after being initially showcased in Austin, Texas, and Seoul, South Korea. “From the Bronx to the Beach,” delves into Miami’s hip-hop history, as captured by local historian and photographer Derick G. and photographer Esdras T. Thelusma. Derick G’s work notably features South Florida hip-hop artists like DJ Khaled, Dieuson Octave (Kodak Black), and Davidson Pierre (Black Dada).

Another standout contribution to the exhibition is the mural by Miami-based artist and illustrator Disem. The artwork pays tribute to Clive Campbell, renowned by his stage name DJ Kool Herc, credited as one of the pioneers of hip-hop music. 

“We wanted the creators from Miami’s own hip-hop scene to feel recognized as while hip-hop started in New York, it has now infiltrated every major metropolitan city in the world, paving a way for thousands of people in different regions to work and create . . . Shining a light on Miami’s own contributions to the bigger story has been very important,” says Freidin.

Freidin has a favorite Miami moment in the exhibition: “The wall with early rare photographs of Poison Clan and 2 Live Crew taken by famed UK photographer Janette Beckman. I really appreciate this because it demonstrates Miami Hip Hop entering the world stage, where these groups were just as important as Jannette’s other subjects like Slick Rick, De La Soul, Big Daddy Kane, Salt-N-Pepa and more.”  

Interactive vinyl wall, left, and works of photographer Janette Beckman, right, at The Art Of Hip Hop museum. (Photo courtesy of The Art of Hip Hop)

Commenting on the importance of a popular musical genre such as  hip-hop to have museums and galleries dedicated to them, Ket says: “Spaces like these can inspire the public to be creative and to recognize the value of this cultural movement.”

Freidin says there is also an element of art education that the spaces provide.

“We are able to get these historic works into important collections while also teaching art history to our daily visitors,” concludes Freidin.  

And, in keeping with that history, The Art of Hip Hop is hosting a panel discussion at 7 p.m., on Friday, March 15 in conjunction with Women’s History Month. The guests, Lucy Lopez, Supa Cindy and Stichiz, will discuss their success in a male-dominated industry and their significant impact on Miami’s music and hip-hop culture.

WHAT: “From the Bronx to the Beach” 

WHERE:  The Art of Hip Hop, 299 NW 25th St., Miami

WHEN: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Sunday through Wednesday, Feb. 28.

COST:  $12, general admission; $22 combo ticket, The Art of Hip Hop and The Museum of Graffiti, children under 13 admitted free. 

INFORMATION:   786-772-1604 or artofhiphop.com

ArtburstMiami.com is a nonprofit media source for the arts featuring fresh and original stories by writers dedicated to theater, dance, visual arts, film, music, and more. Don’t miss a story at www.artburstmiami.com.

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Art Wynwood likes being the only fair in town post Basel

Written By Douglas Markowitz
February 8, 2024 at 6:49 PM

The Art Wynwood art fair returns to Herald Plaza for four days from Wednesday, Feb. 14 to Sunday, Feb. 18 in downtown Miami. (Photo courtesy Art Wynwood)

Just when we thought we were out of the Miami art fair season, Art Wynwood is about to pull us back in.

Setting up shop in downtown Miami at Herald Plaza from Wednesday, Feb. 14 to Sunday, Feb. 18, the show of modern and contemporary art from dozens of local and international galleries offers another chance for art lovers and collectors to explore a bustling art market. More than 50 galleries and over 500 artists will be shown, according to organizers.

“We have galleries introducing post-war (art) for great prices,” says Julian Navarro, director of Art Wynwood. “You’re going to see Picassos, you’re going to see Miros, you’re going to see the good secondary market (artworks) from Latin America.”

With a little over 50 galleries showing at Art Wynwood, the art fair aims for a more intimate experience than Miami Art Week. (Photo courtesy of Art Wynwood)

Several galleries will be offering blue-chip art. New York-based Zeitz Contemporary Art will be showing works by such illustrious names as Henri Matisse, Andy Warhol, Alex Katz, and Jeff Koons – hopefully they’ll be able to avoid a repeat of last year, when a Koons “balloon dog” statue was accidentally shattered. Lesser known and international names are also represented: Kyiv-based Kedria Arts, which has a second location in Detroit, has work from five Ukrainian artists at their booth this year at Art Wynwood.

Locals will also have a strong presence. Adamar Fine Arts will feature work from famous contemporary artists such as Damien Hirst and Ugo Rondinone. Coral Gables-based Cernuda Arte will show Cuban modernist and contemporary artists including Wifredo Lam and José Bedia, while Imaginart, also based in the Gables, will have work by local artist Gloria Lorenzo. And artist Peter Tunney, still based in Wynwood after most local galleries have left the neighborhood, will receive the fair’s Lifetime Achievement Award. The artist has kept a gallery at the Wynwood Walls for the last eight years, and he’ll be at the fair with a special booth titled “Invincible Summer.”

Antonio Sannino, “Under Construction Sea VI,” is being shown at Art Wynwood by Liquid Art System. (Photo courtesy Liquid Art System)

“We decided to honor him not only for his work, but for his career as an entrepreneur, as an artist helping new emerging artists,” Navarro says of Tunney.

Some of the galleries in the show are transplants to Miami, part of a trend of international dealers moving into the city. Liquid Art System, originally based in Capri, Italy and with several locations in the Naples area, recently opened a Miami showroom on NE 4th Avenue in Little Haiti. They plan on using the fair to get closer to their American clients and show work by artists including Marco Grassi, Silvia Berton, and Filipo Tincolini.

“We have a lot of important American collectors and Art Art Wynwood is a way for us to be closer to (them),” says Franco Senesi, founder and CEO of Liquid Art System, adding that the gallery also shows at Art Miami. “For us, it’s a good opportunity.”

Marco Grassi’s “Pink experience n.731,” will be at Liquid Art System for this year’s Art Wynwood in downtown Miami. (Photo courtesy Liquid Art System)

The art fair takes place in tandem with the nearby and much bigger Miami International Boat Show, which is owned by the same parent company, Informa. The firm also runs the trifecta of Art Miami, Context, and Aqua during Miami Art Week and Palm Beach Modern + Contemporary in March and sees Art Wynwood as a way to take advantage of customers coming to the boat show.

But while last year’s edition benefitted from two satellite fairs – art-focused Superfine and the artist’s book fair Tropic Bound – both have taken this year off. Tropic Bound’s next edition won’t be until 2025, and Superfine appears to be focusing on other cities like San Francisco in March and New York City in May.

For Navarro, this doesn’t change much. He sees an advantage to being the only game in town for art collectors this weekend. For one, attendees aren’t wasting time trying to get to every other fair.

“(During Miami Art Week) it takes two hours just to cross the bridge, right? I think with Wynwood, it’s a good place,” he says. “The collectors are going to spend more time there. They don’t need to go to other places because there are no other places.”

Silvia Berton,“Petricore,” will be shown by Liquid Art System at this year’s Art Wynwood. (Photo courtesy Liquid Art System)

Navarro also feels the year will be better overall. The art market is cooling down after a brief post-pandemic boom, where business was frequently conducted online or over the phone. Now, collectors and gallerists alike are going into fairs to get facetime, and they’re being more intentional with what’s being bought and sold.

“Right now, I feel like the market is leveling up,” says Navarro. “You’re not going to see people coming to buy a lot of things without knowing (about the art). And I feel like collectors are being more responsible in how they support not only the galleries, but the artists.”

WHAT: Art Wynwood

WHEN:  VIP Preview 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 14, Regular viewing: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, Feb. 15 to 17, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 18.

WHERE: The Art Wynwood Pavilion, One Herald Plaza (Biscayne Bay & 14th St.), Miami

 COST: $38, one-day general admission; $28 for one-day senior and student (12 to 18); $68, multi-day pass; $230, VIP pass.

 INFORMATION: 305-517-7977 or artwynwood.com 

ArtburstMiami.com is a nonprofit media source for the arts featuring fresh and original stories by writers dedicated to theater, dance, visual arts, film, music, and more. Don’t miss a story at www.artburstmiami.com.

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