In this space Shabaka is tweaking and forming his wall mural, and continuing to add to his explorations of the ecological and botanical world of Florida, expressed in the plant-life cut-outs and silk works.
Next to Shabaka, Dona Altemus has also been working with various materials for the artworks on her walls, but she has also left some interestingly arranged detritus on the floor. At first it can look like the remains of a long art day — lumber, paint cans, rulers, scraps of paper. But look more closely and you will see that nothing is really out of place or random. The composition of the “junk” on the floor is an installation in itself. What’s amazing is that Altemus is a 2012 BFA graduate of the New World School of the Arts; the conceptual maturity of her room seems far beyond her years.
Clearwater first encountered a well-dressed Rick Ulysse in MOCA’s museum shop, and was impressed by the young artist’s composure. She would come to like his art just as much.
The native of Port au Prince, who recently moved to Miami from Philadelphia, comes across as sober and serious when talking about how he threw small balls of cloth on colorful mats to create these floor sculptures, and about his love of the Surrealist and Dada traditions. What is of most interest to him at the moment, however, is the chance to see all of his drawings — some of which are about the father of Haiti’s republic, Toussaint Louverture — hanging together in one place. His temporary MOCA home is bigger than anything he has had so far.
While there is a communal space where videos from all of the artists are showing, the real community center seems to be Sigurdarson’s studio. “Oh yes, I am literally on display here!” laughs the artist, as he explains that nothing will be static during his tenure.
“A piece of art never stops until you say so.” His infectious spirit clearly permeates the entire program. As Clearwater joins back in the conversation, she asks Sigurdarson if he has mentioned the little clay sculptures and the big choir he has planned for his finale. More surprises seem to be in store at Trading Places.
Back when Clearwater first came up with the idea, she says it was when Miami was just forming its arts community. The first edition included Frances Trombly, who physically weaves her “ready-made” works; the complex photography of Maria Martínez Cañas, and the brilliant paintings of the elusive Salvatore La Rosa. All of those artists have left a mark on Miami, and Clearwater believes this crop will too. But rather than being formative years, Clearwater thinks that the maturing art community is in need of some cohesion, that it is splintering and losing a vision. So bringing together artists and letting the community in on the trade is something that will benefit everyone, says Clearwater. But nothing is set in stone. “It’s a mystery how it will all end, what will be on display.”
That’s the essential spirit guiding Trading Places. There are no guarantees, and the artworks may not be as good — aesthetically and in quality — as a fully formed show. That’s the point. It isn’t every day you can stop by and chat about burial art, videos involving licking floors, Haitian heroes and a rotating chair all in one Trading Place.