by Jane Simon

December 8, 2012

Miami Beyond Art Basel

Satellites: it’s getting awfully crowded out here in outer space. Nearly twenty “satellite” fairs have developed around the core of Art Basel Miami Beach, aka “the big fair.” So what happens when one exits the artificially-lit warren of booths in the Convention Center, leaving the insularity of planet Basel to explore the permutations in the surrounding atmosphere? At the NADA, Untitled, and Scope fairs, for example, representation of more diverse pockets of the art world—with a lot of energy but varied levels of quality—can be found. It’s a constellation where “fringe” phenomena sometimes prove to be just as compelling as what one sees at ABMB. And the presentation has a decidedly different flair.

NADA

For the past ten years, the New Art Dealers Alliance (NADA) has been the place to find emerging but not necessarily “hot” or “young” talent (read, substance over sex appeal… in Miami. Who would have thought?). For example, Kerry Schuss’s New York gallery showed several remarkable drawings by the late Tom Fairs (1925–2007), a professor of stained glass at London’s Central School of Art and Design, who only started making work earnestly and prolifically after he retired in 1987. A certain vibrancy pulses from the diminutive works, their quality far outshining some of the flashier fair offerings. Also worth a mention is the intergenerational pairing of works by Thomas Bayrle (born 1937, and a long-time professor at Frankfurt’s famed Städelschule art academy) from 1976 with new pieces and a site-specific intervention by younger artist Michael Riedel (born 1972) in the Bischoff Projects booth. Yet another example of older work that stood out at the fair can be found at Newman Popiashvili, where two photographic prints by Georgian artist Guram Tsibakhashvili from 1990 and 1991 are on view. Created with a camera that split 35mm film in two parts, rendering the juxtaposition of images out of the artist’s control, the hazy and slightly surreal results—underpinned with quotes from Alice in Wonderland—seem to hint at the wild transformations of post-Soviet life in Tbilisi, where the artist still works.

An indisputable gem within the NADA fair is Bureau gallery (run by former Swiss Institute curator Gabrielle Giattino). With such a formidably bureaucratic name, one immediately thinks of file cabinets and the buttoned-up clerks that rifle through them, but Giattino’s booth was filled with punk sensibility and wry humor. Vivienne Griffin’s drawings filled the back wall with muted abstraction that parlayed into portraits of Barbara Hepworth (picture a shapely woman, in Hepworth’s words “piercing the stone,” or Griffin’s own deadpan text, “Rich and dead,” “you pretty,” and my favorite, “Non-thinky”). Also in the same booth are works by the New York artist Erica Baum, who makes old books into seductive peek-a-boo objects. Baum’s tomes are portals into a bygone era, when windows were made of glass and books only made of paper.

To my mind other standouts included Nicole Klagsbrun’s booth, with works by, among others, Amy Granat, Mika Rottenberg, and Brie Ruais; and the new-to-me Temnikova & Kasela gallery from Tallinn, which presented a striking solo of Marko Mäetamm. Mäetamm’s work—loosely based on his own life—recreates the horrific dramas of the nuclear family. His complex installation of hand-painted porcelain plates, watercolor drawings, wallpaper, and a sculpture of man (supposedly the artist himself) wrapped in a faux Persian rug and cowering in a corner was a disturbing yet compelling constellation, to say the least. Funny and grotesque all at once, these works are reminiscent of the inner worlds of the late Mike Kelly.

Untitled

Untitled is the new fair on the scene this year. Housed in an impressive bespoke pavilion (by architecture firm K/R) right on the beach across from the Bentley Hotel on Ocean Drive, it was a curated fair, founded by New York-based independent curator Omar Lopez-Chahoud. Dancing around the market-based motivation for much of what goes on during this week, Lopez-Chahoud handpicked the participating galleries and curated nine individual projects that occupy the sleek tent structure. According to Lopez-Chahoud, he was interested in galleries who could show intergenerational pairings and non-figurative work with a conceptual bent. The results on the whole were a very mixed bag, although the initiative is admirable, and the location—airy and flooded with the natural light that Art Basel Miami Beach’s venue is so sorely lacking—was a big draw in and of itself. My favorite work in the project spaces was artist Coco Fusco’s The Empty Plaza/La Plaza Vacia, a new video from 2012. Filmed in Havana’s famous main square, the plaza’s contemporary emptiness is juxtaposed with archival images of the early days of the Cuban Revolution. In it, Fusco weaves the desolation of today’s Cuba—with its beleaguered economy and frustrated populace—with the romantic promises of the past.

Scope

In the past, Scope’s “Breeder Program” has given upstart galleries a chance to strut their stuff—the now well-known Peres Projects (which participated in 2002, and can now be found at NADA) is a good example. But this year Scope has also taken cues from the curated sections of Art Basel, and included several ambitious commissioned installations in the corridor around the fair. Frankly, I found these to be more interesting than the presentations in the fair booths, which had a slightly haphazard and hit-and-miss quality. For example, the comforting yet wholly out-of-place sound of crackling fire—emanating from an installation-cum-bonfire of old TV sets playing endless loops by artist Kevin Cooley—follows you as you come upon expansive installations like Lori Nozick’s anti-architectural folly of reclaimed lumber, glass, and neon lighting. It’s a rough-hewn lighthouse, a pavilion for unstructured thoughts, somewhat gangly but also colorful and fun.

Museum Highlights:

Bookending the mélange of hotel fairs, performances, and events too many to name that populate this week’s art binge are two amazing museum exhibitions (on view through March of next year). First up is Josiah McElheny’s film The Light Club of Vizcaya: A Woman’s Picture (2012), a newly commissioned work at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens. In it, McElheny imagines that the founder of the wondrous 100-year-old estate, James Deering and his artistic director, Paul Chalfin, had built an imaginary subterranean glass palace beneath it. A luscious collage of a film, it is narrated by artist Zoe Leonard (from a script by poet Rachel Zolf) and told with careful attention to photographer Mattie Edwards Hewitt. McElheny got his inspiration for the piece from years of reading the short stories of Paul Scheerbart (1863–1915), and the sun-soaked gardens of the villa give credence to Scheerbart’s utopic ideas of people bathing and learning from glowing light.

Also marrying fiction and myth, Eija-Liisa Ahtila’s film installation The Annunciation (2010) is being shown as a part of the Bass Museum of Art’s “The Endless Renaissance – Six Solo Artists Projects.” Ahtila is well known for creating lush, elegiac, surreal videos and here is no different, as she somewhat iconoclastically imagines the life of the Virgin Mary as a bohemian Finnish artist. Picture this: the angel Gabriel visits the artist in her studio. In lieu of a cloak, Mary dons a blue sports coat or maybe a pink hoodie, and her blonde mane consists of dreadlocks. Hilarious. Another contribution to the show, installed in the first-floor galleries, are the tongue-in-cheek works of Hans-Peter Feldmann that remake old master paintings with inserted clown noses or crossed eyes. Feldmann’s pictures draw curious attention to the Bass’s own collection of Renaissance paintings hung in the foyer. As powerful as the Rubens and Ghirlandaio may be, they still seem out of place in the sun and surf of Miami Beach. Confronted with Feldmann’s irreverent improvements, the contrast is elevated to a funny yet sharp take on how art can be contextualized—even via buffoonery. These contemporary reincarnations, reworked imaginings of old themes, are all the more reason why this week in Miami, again and again, is simply the place to be. Exhausting yes, but never dull. The “satellites” are here to stay and this galaxy is surprisingly full of stars.

Jane Simon is a curator at the University of South Florida Contemporary Art Museum, Tampa, where she also teaches in the Museum Studies Program. Her writing has appeared in The Exhibitionist and ARTnews, among others.

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View of NADA, 2012, Deauville Beach Resort, Miami 2012.

1View of NADA, 2012, Deauville Beach Resort, Miami 2012.

View of Tom Fairs, Untitled, 2002–2004, Kerry Schuss Gallery, NADA, 2012.

2View of Tom Fairs, Untitled, 2002–2004, Kerry Schuss Gallery, NADA, 2012.

View of Bischoff Projects, NADA, 2012.

3View of Bischoff Projects, NADA, 2012.

Guram Tsibakhashvili, from the “Alice in Wonderland” series, 1991 (top) and 1990 (bottom).

4Guram Tsibakhashvili, from the “Alice in Wonderland” series, 1991 (top) and 1990 (bottom).

View of Bureau, New York, NADA, 2012.

5View of Bureau, New York, NADA, 2012.

View of Marko Mäetamm, Our Daddy Is a Hunter, 2011–2012.

6View of Marko Mäetamm, Our Daddy Is a Hunter, 2011–2012.

View of Untitled's beachfront pavilion, 2012.

7View of Untitled's beachfront pavilion, 2012.

View of Untitled, 2012.

8View of Untitled, 2012.

Coco Fusco, La Plaza Vacia, 2012.

9Coco Fusco, La Plaza Vacia, 2012.

Lori Nozick, Miami Lighthouse, 2012.

10Lori Nozick, Miami Lighthouse, 2012.

Josiah McElheny, movie poster from The Light Club of Vizcaya: A Women’s Picture, 2012; Logo by Conny Purtill and Josiah McElheny.

11Josiah McElheny, movie poster from The Light Club of Vizcaya: A Women’s Picture, 2012; Logo by Conny Purtill and Josiah McElheny.

Eija-Liisa Ahtila, Marian Ilmestys – The Annunciation, 2010. 3-image split screen film, 34:44 minutes.

12Eija-Liisa Ahtila, Marian Ilmestys – The Annunciation, 2010. 3-image split screen film, 34:44 minutes.

  • 1View of NADA, 2012, Deauville Beach Resort, Miami 2012. Photo by Jane Simon
  • 2View of Tom Fairs, Untitled, 2002–2004, Kerry Schuss Gallery, NADA, 2012. All works pencil on paper, 5 ½ x 4 ¼ inches. Courtesy of Kerry Schuss Gallery, New York. Photo by Jane Simon.
  • 3View of Bischoff Projects, NADA, 2012. Right: Michael Riedel, Untitled (doubleclick color) , 2012. Silkscreen on linen, 90 1/2 x 67 inches. Left: Thomas Bayrle, Untitled, 1976. Three works, all phototype on cardboard, varying dimensions. Courtesy of Bischoff Projects, Frankfurt. Photo by Jane Simon.
  • 4Guram Tsibakhashvili, from the “Alice in Wonderland” series, C-prints on photo paper with gouache, each 12 x 16 inches. Courtesy of Newman Popiashvili, New York. Photo by Jane Simon.
  • 5View of Bureau, New York, NADA, 2012. Foreground: Lionel Maunz, Filter, 2012. Iron, soil, gravel, wood, epoxy resin, epoxy clay, polyurethane resin, acrylic paint, and wood stain, 57 ½ x 25 x 23 inches. Background: Vivienne Griffin, Barbara Hepworth; Untitled; Real Real Real;Untitled; Raoisin Murphy; You Pretty; Untitled; Untitled; Nonthinky; Untitled; The Future is Out There; Dark Black; Untitled, I as in US; Untitled; Rich and Dead; Punk; Untitled, all works 2012. Ink on paper, 15 x 11 inches each. Courtesy of Bureau, New York. Photo by Jane Simon.
  • 6View of Marko Mäetamm, Our Daddy Is a Hunter, 2011–2012. Thirty drawings, watercolor on paper, each 7.9 x 11.8 inches. Courtesy of Temnikova & Kasela, Tallinn. Photo by Jane Simon.
  • 7View of Untitled's beachfront pavilion, 2012. Photo by Jane Simon.
  • 8View of Untitled, 2012. Photo by Jane Simon.
  • 9Coco Fusco, La Plaza Vacia, 2012. HD Video, 11 minutes. Courtesy of Untitled, 2012. Photo by Jane Simon.
  • 10Lori Nozick, Miami Lighthouse, 2012. Wood, fluorescent lighting, colored glass. Commission Scope Miami Sculpture Atrium. Courtesy of Scope. Photo by Jane Simon.
  • 11Josiah McElheny, movie poster from The Light Club of Vizcaya: A Women’s Picture, 2012; Logo by Conny Purtill and Josiah McElheny. Design by Josiah McElheny and Mark Shortliffe. Courtesy of Vizcaya Museum & Gardens, Miami.
  • 12Eija-Liisa Ahtila, Marian Ilmestys – The Annunciation, 2010. 3-image split screen film, 34:44 minutes. Copyright of Crystal Eye Ltd, Helsinki. Courtesy of Bass Museum of Art, Miami.
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