Galleries are the plankton of the art world — feeding museum shows, auctions and the frenzy of the art market.
And throughout South Florida, galleries are stepping up to the aesthetic plate. Many of the exhibitions currently on view are resolutely conceptual, dense and/or impenetrable, though they all have visual rewards and, here and there, a chuckle or two.
Fort Lauderdale’s 1310 Gallery is in the Sailboat Bend Artist Lofts, a live/work studio complex for artists. The 1310 Gallery is a three-story artist-run gallery, providing ample breathing room for some 44 artists with a bent for exploring gender and identity within the show Appropriated Gender.
Curated by Lisa Rockford, the show addresses issues of objectification, domestic life, sexual stereotypes and even castration: It’s a Trap by Randy Burman consists of 100 mousetraps spread on the floor, each equipped with a tiny plastic penis as bait. Marina Font’s triptych, Domesticated, entails three photographs of a nameless, faceless woman dressed in black, holding domestic standbys like brooms and babies in front of her face.
Carrie Sieh, a resident artist at the Bakehouse Art Complex who is currently exhibiting a piece in the Natural Curiosities show at Miami International Airport, has contributed a photograph of two people of ambiguous sexuality embracing, with embroidered patterns sewn through the paper. She also uses gender-rooted blots of invisible ink — rendered from words like “Woman” and “Father” — to lure viewers into her interactive installation. Gallery-goers can pin their own written thoughts on cards, created by Sieh and opening night visitors, to a diagram of neuron cells, interspersed with gender-specific images of high heels and cowboys. It’s an unusual exploration of gender roles.
In Miami, Wynwood’s Gallery Diet has a penchant for the deeply theoretical, and the newest show there — Surface Tension — has all kinds of things going on. The artist, Emmett Moore, has a BFA in furniture design from the Rhode Island School of Design. His work examines the process of construction, the play between surface and structure. Formica and plywood is cut on a slant, revealing layers in the material. Birch plywood panels have acid-trip imagery digitally printed on the surface. A Platonic Coffee Table (Large) is made of Sapele plywood, glass and mirror: the bottom of the diamond-shaped table is open and reveals the floor. On a tour of Surface Tension, Moore pointed to several pieces and noted, “These are exquisite corpses of materials. I don’t know if there’s a connection, but I think they could be friends.”
In the Projects Room at Diet, Moore collaborated with two friends — Chris Johnson, based in London, and Conor Klein, of Brooklyn — on a whimsical show. It includes objects that were created in Miami, such as a cafeteria tray with faux food of Styrofoam, crystals and rubber. For other pieces, such as collages made from magazine ads, the artists mailed materials back and forth to one another, each artist adding something to the work.
Moore seems to be everywhere lately: He does art direction at The Standard Miami and will be working with the hotel on a series of pop-up exhibitions during Art Basel Miami Beach. And, along with artist Consuelo Castaneda, he is creating an environment for Miami Art Museum’s New Work Miami 2013 exhibition, launching during this year’s Art Basel.
To Moore, his work on the New Work Miami exhibition is a way to keep the show rooted in Miami. ”We haven’t really figured it all out yet, but this will be a way to establish situations and context between the artists in the New Work show, as well as work with the abstracted vernacular of Miami, such as glass brick, plants and Miami baroque-mansions architecture.”
In the Design District, Locust Projects has the first Miami solo exhibition by New York-based Adam Putnam, a veteran of the 2008 Whitney Biennial. Putnam is interested in the thresholds between inside and outside spaces, and the main gallery of Locust has been darkened — with the installation featuring photos, film projections and fragments of objects.
From plywood and cardboard, Putnam has built pillars and other architectural elements, a cross between gothic vaults, Romanesque abbeys and crypts. It’s meant to explore memory and perspective. Video cameras tape viewers, with the resulting footage played back on spooky surfaces: Viewers can see themselves in a real-time film, looking either confused or intrigued.
In the smaller Project Room, Locust and the curatorial group Site95 are presenting the first installment of the roving City Limits exhibition. Washington-based artist John James Anderson, who has shown at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, leads off with Maintenance Required. For the piece, Anderson charted broken D.C. fire hydrants on maps, motivated by the hydrant failures that occurred in the 2007 Eastern Market fires. The Project Room installation has sculptures of fire hydrants. Images of hydrants are also featured on more than 30 bus shelters around Miami, part of Locust Projects’ Out of the Box public art initiative.
In the performance piece JOB Creation Process, Anderson hands out flyers around D.C., with each containing historical insights into the role of money and commerce. For his Hours of Labor installation, Anderson hired day laborers to help him create objects, forging some interesting cultural exchanges with the laborers.
To hire day laborers, Anderson would show up at the local Home Depot, where he would encounter a wide range of Central and South Americans looking for work. The wall text for Hours of Labor whimsically declares that “Bolivians don’t play golf,” and the rage for golf among tourists and the upper classes has not made some native Bolivians happy. One Bolivian outside Home Depot, identified only as Mauricio, was particularly emphatic to Anderson: “Mauricio tells me that capitalist enterprise has turned Bolivia into nothing but golf courses.”