december 2009

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dispatches: Report from….Miami
Temperature Rising: The art fairs in Miami
A personal take on Fair Week in Miami by artist A.A. Rucci who was the subject of a solo show with Mixed Greens at PULSE

ART BASEL Miami Beach – The Convention Center

The consensus was that overall quality of work at Art Basel was better than last year, with fewer than normal instances of the same artists repeating from booth to booth, but the galleries played it very safebringing lots of B works by A artists.

Safety notwithstanding, the Gmurzynska Gallery, Zurich created a local media spectacle and hit a sour note with artworld insiderswith their inclusion of works by Sylvester Stallone (yes, he of Rocky and Rambo fame). Gallerists, curators and artists took turns throughout the week tossing about insult and profanity on this subject. I must confess that I passed by the booth without noticing the works. They obviously weren’t especially good nor horribly bad to attract a glance of attention. I’m interested to see what the curatorial decision-makers will do about the outrage during next year’s selection committee meetings. My guess is, nothing much.

There were however some community favorites: My hostess, Miami Art Advisor Kimberlee Cole, made certain that we stopped by Fredric Snitzer’s booth to check out Bert Rodriguez’s piece, In Your Own Image. The wit and genuine charm come through in this clever revisit of the painted-over photograph, as in the early works of Arnulf Rainer.

Bert Rodriguez In Your Own Image at Fredric Snitzer Gallery

Hans Peter Hoffman (seen pretending to talk on his cell phone) had a solo wall of acrylic paintings at Galerie Jamileh Weber, Zurich that was hard to miss, or dismiss. The booth’s wide-open design drew you in, and the work teased and dared you to try to break the code that may make their chatter understandable. A bit disorienting, like German grammar 101, each work is a word, a beginning of a complicated sentence, but offers little as to where the thought might end.

Hans Peter Hoffmann Untitled at Galerie Jamileh Weber

One of the simplest and most surprising booths came from the Turkish gallery, Galerist, Instanbul which paired the optically charged, and beautifully executed Almond Blossom diptych of Mustafa Hulusi with the floating Untitled abstracts of Haluk Akakçe. Both artists’ works emitted a visual hum of unknown cosmic origin, imposing a sense of gravity in opposition to their light, floating imagery.

Mustafa Hulusi Almond Blossom at Galerist, Instanbul

Installation view of Mustafa Hulusi, Almond Blossom and Haluk Akakçe, Untitled at Galerist, Istanbul

And Barrão’s reassembled crockery and kitsch at Laura Marsiaj Arte Contemporâneo, Rio de Janiero took the overplayed banal and equally overplayed sinister playfulness of childhood Frankenstein fantasies and constructed new domestically scaled sculptures that were familiar and delightfully smart.

Barrão Untitled at Laura Marsiaj Arte Contemporâneo, Rio de Janiero

THE SATELLITE FAIRS

Of the 3 major Satellite Fairs: NADA, PULSE and SCOPE; NADA got the most praise for it’s old-school Miami hotel location and it’s continuing hipness, PULSE for the hip and seriousness combined, and SCOPE for its beautifully constructed booths and modular flooring, though the art at SCOPE was simply not up to the standard of its setting. The most evident similarity of each fair was a return to obsessive, labor-intensive, small abstract works (mostly drawings) and the disappearance of Emo, or Goth-kid figuration. Pop surrealism and skater graffiti was negligible at the fairs but had returned to the facades of Miami in full force.

PULSE Art Fair - The Ice Palace Studios

One of the more elegant examples of the obsessive was found – at PULSE – in the impossibly perfect Agnes Martin-like watercolors by Nicole Phungrasamee Fein at Gallery Joe, Philadelphia. A little less obsessive, but nonetheless part of the well-crafted, small scale, made on the corner table of the studio were the quiet suburban landscapes of Chris Ballantyne at Hosfelt Gallery, New York. His black and white monochromes made one wish the booth had been dedicated solely to his works.

Painting and photography battled it out for medium dominance at PULSE, often side by side in the same booth. Although there was more than one booth that sold out their paintings, the sheer volume of photographic works undoubtedly generated higher sales figures. Mona Kuhn at M+B, Los Angeles, a personal favorite, showed her new portfolio, Native, taken in Brasil.

Mona Kuhn, Native at M+B, Los Angeles

The painters Neil Farber at Pippy Houldsworth, London and Markus Weggenmann at ftc, Berlin couldn’t be further apart from one another in style, but they are both young masters of their medium. Farber has a way of ensuring that globs and specs have personality and can generate a smile from a slap-dash drawing of two fellows drinking whiskey and vomiting. His childlike innocence reveals more about the American psyche than is comfortable. (He’s Canadian). Weggenmann’s intertwined honeycomb-like abstractions suck the light out of the air as the tempera surfaces assert a color spectrum of their own evolution.

 

Markus Weggenmann, Untitled (right) at ftc, Berlin

Glue Society, Sydney who showed in an unfortunate inbetween space an unforgettable eight monitor video piece, The Day The Dragon Ate The Sun, 2009. A fraction of a much larger work, it will be exciting to see if this multi-channel video recorded during 9 minutes of the Chinese solar eclipse can soon be fully and properly installed somewhere. Why not at PULSE New York this winter?

Glue Society, The Day The Dragon Ate The Sun, 2009

NADA Art Fair – Deauville Beach Resort

NADA took a gamble by moving their fair out of the popular and now very familiar Wynwood section to Miami Beach to a hotel a good 50 blocks north of the convention center area where Art Basel takes place. This is a move that would have been the demise of a lesser fair, but by all accounts  the move paid off. The venue was grand, comfortable and inviting. The division of the booths into two separate ballrooms even worked well, forcing a pause at the halfway point. My only complaint, a minor one really, is that the orientation of the aisles and booths was a little awkward. But artfair organizers are rarely good pedestrian traffic engineers. That didn’t detract too much from the work on view, it merely made it likely that someone was overlooked by a majority of the public.

Without a doubt painting reigned supreme at NADA.  There were multiple solo booths of rather unknown but terrific painters. Neon Parc, Melbourne showed a small group of magnificient Moya McKenna oils and Sunday LES showed the fresh mixed-media work of a Philip Guston-influenced, but still gratifying Kirk Hayes. Sidenote: David McKee Gallery, New York had a number of drool worthy Gustons on view at the Art Basel main fair.

Moya McKenna, Untitled at Neon Parc, Melbourne

Ellen Harvey has a knack of attracting critical attention for her ongoing commentary ‘on painting’ in the form of installation. She continued that with a solo booth at Stephan Stoyanov. However, as visually pleasing and clever as her work may be, she is convincing neither as a painter nor as debater. It’s not painting so much as installation lite. 

In the not-exclusively-painting-or-commentary-on-painting category, Eleven Rivington’s yellow, box-like booth was worthy of the main ART BASEL fair in its grandeur.  It caused one to pause and consider the show (booth) as a whole and the relationship between works, offering a momentary oasis of art in the otherwise tradeshow atmosphere that is any art fair.

Booth view of Eleven Rivington at NADA

SKIPPED FAIRS

At the advice of curators, collectors and artists whom I respect, I simply skipped Art Miami, Aqua, RedDot and Fountain. My apologies to the galleries that spent substantial time, effort and money on fairs that garnered little respect.  As to SCOPE and its sister fair, ART ASIA, lets hope their selection committees can pull off something better for New York’s Armory week.

 

 

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