The Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami is a favorite and familiar stop for art lovers in South Florida. Under the direction of Bonnie Clearwater, it has introduced The Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami is a favorite and familiar stop for art lovers in South Florida. Under the direction of Bonnie Clearwater, it has introduced all strains of contemporary art to a burgeoning and still growing art scene. Clearwater recently departed to take the helm at the Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale and has been replaced by a young New York curator and art critic, Alex Gartenfeld.
Because of the importance MOCA plays in our art community, the unveiling of Gartenfeld’s first show, the just-opened Love of Technology, carried extra weight. Would he be able to continue a well-regarded track regard, while at the same time reveal a new vision? Love of Technology suggests a resounding yes.
From the moment they enter, MOCA regulars will find a new approach — literally. The huge front desk and crowded store are gone. In its place is a sparse, open space with subdued lighting; the white ceiling panels have been removed to expose the gray grids of the roof, adding even more space. The store is still there, but it has been pared down and includes some beautiful lamps from artist Jorge Pardo hanging from the ceiling.
The first part of the exhibition is set up in the lobby. A black metal architect’s desk sits against a wall, with blueprints hanging above it. The desk is connected by a cable that snakes across the ceiling to a fishing boat shrink-wrapped in white that takes up most of the next room and resembles a model. From New York artist Ben Schumacher and Miami architect John Keenan, the installation feels very rudimentary, not “high-tech” at all. We know that most blueprints exist on computer screens these days, as do the 3-D models; they rarely are physical anymore.
In the gallery next door, a beautiful “tapestry” hangs on the wall, made out of tempura-fried flowers and Plexiglas, from New Yorker Anicka Yi. These flowers, which look like they are in a state of decay, rather than growth, were created by a group of craftspeople here in the museum in the weeks before the show opened. The technique is very modern, the overall design of the wall hanging timeless.
In the same room an older work from an Italian artist who died in 2011, Luis Fernando Benedit, stands in the middle. White Mice Labyrinth is a sculpture referencing an old-fashioned lab experiment that includes live mice in their artificial environment. The artist also created two sets of drawings that initially look like old scientific drafts and notes from a laboratory but are in fact fantastical imagery with weird bugs and mechanical contraptions.
It slowly starts to dawn on you that this is a cleverly titled exhibit. While we as a society have become obsessed with the latest technology in our computers, smartphones and iPads, we are also repelled by it. We don’t necessarily “love” technology anymore, in the way we did when man first went to the moon and even when the Internet first arrived. In fact, the love of technology can almost seem like a quaint, 20th century notion. We can’t live without it, but somehow basics haven’t changed; we are still imperfect and fundamentally organic.
Berlin-based duo Calla Henkel and Max Pitegoff, however, jump right in to the “post” tech world with a series tacked onto one wall that documents the highly mobile, creative community that has arisen from our wireless, mobile capacity. They followed members of the young, mobile community of Berlin, who often need only a cafe to set up their “start-up” company, with portable devices that can be carried in a bag or even a pocket as the only office equipment.. All over Berlin, little companies set up, impromptu, in coffee shops and bars, to exist maybe for that afternoon. For the exhibit, they have printed documentation that includes the text messages that enable such a gathering — “meet on Oranienstrasse” — on metal plates that stick out from the wall. One page informs us that 1,300 Internet start-ups have been founded in Berlin since 2008 alone. “All Berlin knows is change and disruption … there’s nobody defining what the city should be.”