A real Titian at Art Miami? The Barons in Wynwood
November 30 to December 4, 2011
at the Art Miami Pavilion, Wynwood, Miami, Florida
Once again, in our opinion, Art Miami proved the strongest satellite fair this year. Now in its twenty-second year and Miami’s longest running art fair, Art Miami attracted some 50,000 visitors to over 110 galleries (22 first time) from 18 countries in Europe, Latin America, India, the Middle East and the United States. With works that ranged from Titian to Pop to cutting edge contemporary, Art Miami offered many surprises and unexpected pleasures.
A real Titian at Art Miami? His St. Sebastian, dated to 1530, at Edelman Arts (NYC) was the centerpiece of a smart thematic show of more than a dozen painters and sculptors, including Red Grooms and Carlos Betancourt who used images of the androgynous saint in their work. Further proof that powerful portrait painting thrives came in the form of Captain, by David Bates, at Arthur Roger Gallery (New Orleans).
Among the strong examples of familiar American artists was a quintessential Milton Avery painting at Lewallyn Gallery (Santa Fe), Chinese Checkers (March Avery with Vincenzo Spagna), circa 1941, with his characteristic muted colors and quirky rendering of figures that bordered on folk art. At Antoine Helwaser Gallery (NYC), an impressive early Olitski with a large red orb and a small green one was one of many Olitskis and Kenneth Nolands at this fair, as at Art Basel/Miami Beach, suggesting a resurgence of interest in Color Field painting. Helwaser also displayed several Abstract Expressionist works including a red and black Adolf Gottlieb sunburst painting and a Robert Motherwell collage painting. His reclining nude painting by Tom Wesselman was one of many Pop artists in evidence at the fair with a suite of Andy Warhol’s Marilyns at Arcature Fine Art (Palm Beach, FL), a brawny Alan D’Arcangelo highway painting from 1964 at Mark Borghi (NYC), and several Robert Indiana sculptures, including Hope and its Hebrew counterpart, Tikvah, both at Rosenbaum Contemporary (Boca Raton, FL). There were artists who bridged a number of styles including the still underappreciated Jack Tworkov who was represented by a second-generation Abstract Expressionist work from his Barrier Series (1963) at Mark Borghi (NYC) and a geometric work from his Knight series (1976) at Hollis Taggart (NYC). Other artists’ artists from the 1950s and 1960s who do not fall easily into a single style included Perle Fine at Spanierman Modern (NYC) and Ward Jackson at David Richard Contemporary (Santa Fe, NM). It was also a treat to see an uncharacteristic one-foot square monochrome painting from 1960 in by the sculptor, John Chamberlain using automobile lacquer and a square metal template.
Several examples of Los Angeles artists currently featured in Pacific Standard Time, the Getty Museum’s initiative of more than 60 museums between Santa Barbara and San Diego (read our review here) were also in evidence at Art Miami. Scott White (La Jolla) brought numerous examples of De Wain Valentine’s light and space sculpture including two knockouts–the massive Column Mauve from 1968 and the exquisite Circle Blue-Magenta Flow from 1970. Charlotte Jackson (Santa Fe) exhibited some recent Ron Davis two-tone red paintings, David Richards Contemporary (Santa Fe) displayed a lively geometric abstract painting, Apertures-Eyesights from 2000 by Roland Reiss and Leslie Sacks Contemporary (Santa Monica, CA), featured two crisp red and black striped acrylic paintings (2011) by Charles Christopher Hill.
Not surprisingly, there were several first-rate examples of Latin American art including Jesus de Soto’s geometric optical constructions at Leon Tovar (NYC) and Victor Lugo’s figurative paintings at the Ginocchio Gallery (Mexico City) including a smart diptych with a landscape painting that appeared to be cut from its frame alongside a trompe l’oeil painting of the frame and stretcher supports from which it had been cut.
A new art medium that emerged this year at the fair is the use of fiber optics in tapestry. The Catherine Clark Gallery (San Francisco, CA) displayed 50 Different Minds by Nora Ligorano and Marshall Reese that used hand-woven fiber-optic thread, custom electronics and software, and RGB full-spectrum LED lights. Connected to the Internet, the colors in the nine squares of the weaving changed continuously according to the real-time content of Twitter messages. There were two other notable examples of woven fiber-optic art in Miami Beach—one by Daniel Buren, Two Rectangles of Electric Light: white and blue situated work, 2011 using LED at the Lisson Gallery (London) at AB/MB and the other at Design Miami at Galerie Maria Wettergren (Paris) who showcased the seductive floor to ceiling fiber-optic textile draperies of Astrid Krogh of Denmark that continuously changed color.
There was a lot of buzz around a relatively small Gerhard Richter painting, Abtraktus Bild, 2001 at the Michael Schultz Gallery (Berlin, Seoul, Beijing) when it was reported sold for $1.6m. Seeing the new intimate documentary film, Gerhard Richter Painting by filmmaker Corinna Belz at Art Basel gave us a deeper appreciation for the arduous and self-critical process Richter uses in making one of these paintings. Another German booth, Galerie Renate Bender (Munich) was particularly appealing with intricately folded felt sculptures by Peter Weber, new monochromatic abstract paintings by Matt McClune, and ambitious amoeboid wall sculptures by Bill Thompson, reminiscent of L.A. Finish Fetish sculptures. Also compelling at John Roger Gallery was Dawn DeDeaux’s plank leaning against the wall (reminiscent of John McCracken). Entitled 8 Feet of Water, it recorded the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in a digital transparency mounted on a tall narrow acrylic support.
Chul Hyun Ahn’s work presented by the C. Grimaldis Gallery (Baltimore, MD) was a showstopper. Using lights and mirrors, his works appear to recede indefinitely despite the fact that they are less than six inches deep. His 2011 Visual Echo Experiment placed in one of the large fair crosswalks was particularly arresting as was Forked, 2003 in the C. Grimaldis Gallery booth. An interesting complement to this western art of illusion was a refreshing variety of optical aboriginal painting from Australia at the Leslie Smith Gallery (Amsterdam).
Thanks to Julia Draganovic, the fair’s curator of six videos in the Persol Art Video and New Media Lounge, “ZOOOM! Decoding Common Practice”, we were treated to a trip along Beijing’s major east-west artery in Ai Weiwei’s 10-hour, 13 minute video, Chang’an Boulevard. All strata of the city’s society are depicted in riveting fashion in fixed, one-minute long segments, taken at intervals of 50 meters (approximately 164 feet).
The Richard Levy Gallery (Albuquerque, NM) exhibited Constance deJong’s intriguing bronze and wood wall sculpture, Section, 1991 highlighting an important aspect of this and the other satellite fairs—the opportunity to see regionally well-known artists receive the broader exposure they merit.
As we were leaving the fair, we spotted a vertical work at the Persol display by Chiara Moreschi and Rodger Stevens whose message took us a minute or so to decode but seemed very appropriate: “Beauty is never useless”.