Gallery exhibits across the county this spring give us a good feel for how far our visual arts scene has developed. The three highlighted here are just a sampling, serving to highlight the diversity of options in both genres and neighborhoods.
Let’s start on South Beach, at the David Castillo Gallery, one of the many galleries to have departed Wynwood several years ago. Cuban-born, Miami-based Glexis Novoa is one of our most prominent artists, his graphite on marble and canvas works instantly recognizable.
But these new works have a resonance that frankly, a year ago on this side of the Florida Straits, would not have provoked the same emotion. The beautifully composed cityscapes are stark barren worlds, devoid of humans but filled with missiles and monuments to totalitarian power. In muted gray, black and off-white coloring, numerous missiles are flying in all directions in one stunning, large-scale work. The current heightened tension on the Korean Peninsula, with North Korea launching frequent missile tests, makes this 2016 piece eerily prescient. And reference to one of the defining moments in the relationship between Cuba and the United States — the Cuban missile crisis — is obviously on the surface here as well.
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There is also no ambiguity in one of the show’s introductory pieces. On what could be a ship’s mast, several flags are flying and mechanical gadgets are attached; the post is topped by an eagle. Anyone familiar with Nazi symbolism will recognize this particular militaristic image, and because of that association the word spelled out below could be mistaken as “triumph.” But it reads “Trump.”
This new set of works is titled “Bad Niños.” They are all about a dystopian past, present and future. There are no human figures, aside from the occasional statue with arm raised in salute. Look closely at the image of a city on a bay. It is Havana — but it could be Miami in the future? At the edge of the water is an out-sized statue, as big as some of the monstrous buildings, pointing ominously out to sea. Some of the smaller pieces are drawn on marble, and the marked and scratched stone adds an unpredictable element to the scene.
The Puerto Rican painter Gamaliel Rodriguez has new works in the second exhibit here, “Greetings from the Abandoned Land.” His large-scale paintings, blurred in swirling purples, pinks and blues, depict modern buildings being subsumed by the natural environment — a kind of ashes-to-ashes, dust-to-dust inevitable ending to our overbuilt world.
The aura of deterioration extends across the bay to the Design District at Locust Projects, with the installation “Under Water.” It is a collaboration of three New York-based artists, all grads of the Rhode Island School of Design, a fact reflected in the almost bricks-and-mortar feel to the room they have redesigned.
Using tile, plywood, wallpaper, computer-generated textured imagery, the space is transformed, loosely, into a beach scene. An incline covered in various shades of blue tile suggests an incoming wave, created by David Scanavino. On the opposing wall, a repetitive image of artist David Kennedy Cutler is plastered across the surface, the images eventually being reduced to just heads. Michael Delucia has carved — almost gouged — another piece on top of the figures, a form representing the sun. The floor is covered with, again, repetitive images of decomposing gum packets. The whole thing has a strange harmony, with some feeling of doom.
In the back space is an interesting experiential installation, “Nice ‘n Easy,” from local artists Allison Matherly and Jeffrey Noble. Two videos on opposite walls show a man and a woman wading out into the ocean in soft light, while another source emits ambient blue and red light. In the middle are two lounge chairs made from white tile. One side of each chair reclines, the other side leans forward. The visitor can “relax” and watch the video alone, or sit forward and interact with another person, forcing a face-to-face experience.
These are the last exhibits under the direction of Chana Budgazad Sheldon, and reflect her aesthetic during her eight-year tenure. A former Miamian and a previous curator at what was then the Miami Art Museum, Lorie Mertes, will be taking the reins.
Up in North Miami, at the artist-run space Under the Bridge, Michael Vasquez has unveiled new works in “We’ll Weather the Storm Well.” Vasquez is hands-down one of Miami’s best local talents, having been recognized at an early age with exhibits with Fred Snitzer. But here he has added new dimensions to his usual powerful brushstrokes.
Vasquez is known for his portraits of street youth culture and urban settings. These collaged paintings are no exception, and together they tell a tale of an inner city neighborhood preparing for a lurking storm. Well, they are sort of preparing, but also goofing around. These are collaged images, so the perspective is skewed — the red gas jugs are unrealistically huge, as are the beer kegs, and the people tumble all over each other. There is also a weatherman, with storm-track projections zipping out of his fingertips.
Painted in brash colors in acrylic and spray paint, this is a wonderfully expressionistic, chaotic world. Yes, these characters will somehow survive.
As a great side item, little maquettes of these scenes fill up another room.
In established commercial galleries, nonprofit spaces and small artist-run rooms, Miami is lucky to have such an array of contemporary expression, both locally generated and from artists from all over the globe. Gallery exhibits are always free, so there really is no reason not to take a day and explore our increasingly fertile terrain.
IF YOU GO
“Bad Niños,” “Greetings from the Abandoned Land”
Through May 31
David Castillo Gallery, 420 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach; www.davidcastillogallery.com
Through June 10
Locust Projects, 3852 N. Miami Ave., Miami; www.locustprojects.org
“We’ll Weather the Storm Well”
Through May 21
12425 NE 13th Ave., #4; by appointment, call 305-987-4437.