MOCA North Miami makes its ‘Eternal Return’
At the center of the “The Eternal Return and The Obsidian Heart” exhibition is a life-sized carousel that circles endlessly in a performance of fantasy and delirium. (Photo courtesy of MOCA North Miami)
The Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami reopened its doors to the public with an exhibition whose title fits with the moment: “The Eternal Return and The Obsidian Heart.”
Created by Mexican-born artist Raúl de Nieves, the exhibition originally was scheduled to open in April but had to wait seven months to finally be installed in the museum. It “offers a holistic look at the ways in which Raúl de Nieves rejoins the spiritual with the material in contemporary consumer culture,” says curator Risa Puleo.
The exhibit features a 14-foot-tall by 50-foot-wide installation titled “Basilio,” representing cosmic time with its depictions of planets circling the sun. There’s also a working carousel, referencing the cyclical time of Eternal Return, or “the idea that time is composed of a limited number of events that endlessly recur in different sequences and combinations,” according to the museum.
“Raúl is a very young and very prolific artist,” says the museum’s executive director, Chana Budgazad Sheldon. “His large installations joining the spiritual with the material are quite magical.”
Born in 1983 in Michoacán, Mexico, and residing today in Brooklyn, the multimedia artist, performer and musician is inspired by childhood memories, growing up in a place where public religious rituals and private devotional acts involved costumes, performances and theatrical components.
“The exhibition is the first to consider the relationship between de Nieves’ sculptural work and his solo and collaborative performances, and in doing so, it also offers a comprehensive view of the artist’s practice,” Puleo says.
Safe reopening in 2020
To welcome back the community, MOCA North Miami had to comply with safety guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. The museum requires social distancing and face coverings, among other measures. It has placed signage and hand sanitizer throughout the museum and implemented enhanced cleaning and disinfection protocols.
Typically, a reception accompanies the museum’s vernissages, but not this time.
“There was nothing special, it was just about bringing the art back in the museum [and] opening our doors,” Sheldon says. “We just installed the artworks in a way everyone can socially distance and enjoy the exhibition.”
‘Art on the Plaza’
While closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, MOCA North Miami kept busy with an initiative known as “Art on the Plaza.”
From June 15 to Sept. 30, passersby had the opportunity to peruse a large, black-and-white photograph displayed at the museum’s outdoor plaza, accompanied by four simple words: “I Am A Man.” A work by Miami Herald photographer Carl Juste, the image showed Elmore Nickelberry, who was part of the Memphis sanitation workers’ strike of 1968, and his son, Terence, with a sign representative of those carried during the 65-day strike.
It was a powerful statement during a time of protests inspired by George Floyd, who was killed in May while being arrested by former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.
“It was a way for us to bring artwork safely to the public, engage in social conversation, and connect with the community,” Sheldon says. “We had a great response to having art outside.”
This new type of programming, created during the pandemic, is here to stay, Sheldon says: “It is something that we will continue early next year. We will be commissioning local artists to create temporary artwork on MOCA Plaza.”
To keep in touch with the North Miami community, the museum also turned to virtual activities such as exhibitions and conversations with artists.
“We immediately pivoted to online programming, as many museums did,” Sheldon says. “Our teen, youth and family programs went virtual. That’s the way we could stay connected with the community.”
One such program, “Corporal DADE,” was a virtual exhibition exploring Miami-Dade County’s dynamic makeup. It took place from May 29 through Aug. 31, presented by interdisciplinary Miami artists including Aurora Molina, Almaz Wilson, Laura Prada, Lucia Del Sanchez, Mateo Nava, Mateo Serna Zapata, Sonia Báez-Hernández, and Susan Feliciano.
Haitian art exhibit
Up next for the North Miami museum is “Life and Spirituality in Haitian Art,” with art from Haitian painters such as Hector Hyppolite, Jacques-Enguérrand Gourgue, and Célestin Faustin. This exhibit will precede Miami Art Week.
Both this exhibit and “The Eternal Return and The Obsidian Heart” will remain on display through March 2021.
During a time like this, showcasing art is more important than ever. “Museums are able to provide a sense of community. It’s a place to reflect, especially in the time that we are in. To be part of the healing process, the transformation,” Sheldon says.
“It is wonderful to open again and welcome the community back to the museum, and to be surrounded by art again.”
The Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami, at 770 NE 125th St., is open from noon to 7 p.m. Wednesdays and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays. It is closed on Mondays and major holidays. Cost is $10 for general admission; $3 for students and seniors; and free for children younger than 12, MOCA members, North Miami residents, city employees and veterans. For more information, visit Mocanomi.org or call 305-893-6211.