Under new leadership, the ArtCenter/South Florida is making good on promises to change things up at the flagship contemporary center of Miami Beach. For its new show, Unpredictable Patterns of Behavior, a guest curator fills up not just the main space at 800 Lincoln Rd.—– the one most recognizable to the average street stroller — but also the formerly underutilized second floor of the building up the block. Some works are by artists associated with the ArtCenter and some not at all.
In the past, most artists featured in the group shows were either current residents of the center, which houses affordable studio spaces, or alumni. That’s not a problem in itself. But over the years, many artists remained the same, and a repetitiveness took hold. As the art hub of Miami migrated to Wynwood, the ArtCenter seemed to lose some of its relevance, a real shame for one of the most visible outlets for contemporary art in South Florida.
So it’s refreshing to see newly arrived curator Ombretta Agrò Androff (a recent transplant from New York) pick out a batch of 12 local and non-local artists for a thematic exhibit that deals with patterns, reflecting both man-made and natural environments.
This allows room, for instance, for one of the best pieces in the exhibit: the sound installation from the collaborative Punto (which includes new ArtCenter resident and long-time sound artist Gustavo Matamoros). Titled Flow, it emanates from under the outdoor awning of the 800 Lincoln Rd. space. You can hear it when entering, and ever so slightly while visiting. The almost-haunting, beautiful work mimics elements from nature at times, such as the sound of seagulls; at others moments, the sounds recall vague notes from bagpipes. These are patterns that you can only hear.
Inside, Felice Grodin has two stand-out pieces, one a sculpture hung on the wall, and another an ink-on-mylar drawing. Her excellent solo show last year at Diana Lowenstein Fine Arts highlighted Grodin’s explorations of architecture and mapping, and they are well represented here as well. The handsome yellow-and-black sculpture looks like a spire on a skyscraper but also has the tactile feel of a Lego creation. The drawing resembles a city map, or aerial snapshot of a busy, dense urban core. The abstract acrylics on paper from Sarah Walker, while swirling with much more color, leave the impression that we are studying some crazy cartography of a city as well.
The singular painting from ArtCenter alum Peter Hammar, Crude Geometry, is a nice work that crosses the line into sculpture, made from duct tape, spray paint and three canvases. The two paintings with distinct coloring and patterns from Ramon Bofill, a current ArtCenter inhabitant, titled Rhombi: Orange, Turquoise, White, Numbers 1 and 2, are simply lovely.
Upstairs in the 924 building, the atmosphere changes, with much bigger brawnier video, sculpture and installation. Matt Sheridan, out of Los Angeles, has taken over a room with lines and curves to show his “moving paintings,” as curator Agrò Androff calls them. The walls vibrate with black-and-white images that are like stop-gap animation of the making of a painting — brush strokes are visible, the forms are created as the video unspools. This is remarkable stuff, from someone who spent the spring in the Fountainhead Residency, one of the best incubators of talent in town.
Another recent Fountainhead alum, Ryan Roa, presents a very physical sculpture made from brown leather bungee cords, the one piece that is framed in the window facing out to the street and its Lincoln Road crowds. Roa, a New York-based artist, has attached some 160 of these chords from wall to floor, creating a sculpture visitors can walk around to observe the dimensions and geometry. In this case, Agrò Androff calls the work “drawing that comes to life,” an evocative way to think of this exploration of pattern and structure.
Next to it, an installation has been site-specifically created by local artist Temisan Okpaku, with brightly colored, geometric ink-jet prints intentionally tacked lightly to the walls, so the paper seems to continue to move or flap. It’s hard to detect at first the very thin, fluorescent colored threads that are stretched in front of the prints; the center installers decided to tape the piece off so that you don’t move through these threads. That’s fair enough, but it makes it lose some of its physicality.
In the final project space is a video from artist and Rhode Island School of Design professor Anne Spalter. Her kaleidoscopic aerial view of a traffic circle morphs into a blooming flower and a splintered geometric pattern, just like those kaleidoscopes we gazed into as children. This is likely the top crowd-pleaser of the exhibit, as its beauty and study of pattern are immediately apparent. But variety is what makes Unpredictable Patterns unpredictably interesting. Thankfully, it manages to offer up a diversity of forms and styles while sticking within a coherent theme, without being too messy.