The curator of the exhibit “Residential Properties” has an interesting catch phrase describing this project: “dwelling on it.” Felice Grodin is an artist with a master of architecture degree from Harvard University who is now based in Miami and has been fascinated by the intersection of art and architecture in this city whose infrastructure and aesthetic identity seems to change by the day.
Grodin picked out a number of artists and arranged to have their work “dwell” in a residential property somewhere in Miami. The idea is to explore the physical and theoretical concepts behind what makes up a home, and the development, and re-development, of spaces. The title alludes as well to real-estate transactions, which power Miami’s economy. It’s a probing, dense conceptual show with some great art, as well.
To start, Grodin knew she needed a very specific property, and she found it in a Mid-Century Modern house in Morningside, which is also the home of the Fountainhead Residency, a place where artists from across the globe come to work in Miami for several-month stints courtesy of Fountainhead founders Kathryn and Dan Mikesell. According to Grodin, this was a perfect starting point: The house on the corner of a street in a central and notable neighborhood was already filled with artistic interventions, with distinctive corners and curves that contemporary properties have dispensed with. “I wanted a house with character,” she says.
The artists were then invited to intervene in the home, to play with the space, with the idea of home, or the commercial aspects of property.
In an abstract installation, Ernesto Oroza covered a wall with paper drawn over with squiggly red lines, like a very basic street map, which surround an electric meter. He is commenting on the notorious housing situation in Hialeah, where houses are divided up to fit many more people than are legal for a single abode — and the way authorities find out is by monitoring the electric meters.
Angela Valella, on the other hand, simply placed colored clear paper on the square front window, connecting the modern design to classic arched, stained-glass windows. George Sanchez-Calderon reworked the kitchen, adding his own Gobekli Teppe refrigerator magnets and a kitschy Urfa clock topped by a marlin.
Barron Sherer has set up a monitor that screens a 1970s promotional video selling a one-story ranch-style house, while Marcos Valella has placed a newspaper with doodles scribbled on it, another reference to days of slowly perusing the Sunday papers before the advent of the iPhone and laptop. Leyden Rodriguez-Casanova has made an architectural intervention, placing a wooden scaffolding on the living-room sofas — a structure that replicates the floor-to-ceiling back windows.
On top of a file cabinet, Gelpi Projects has crafted 3-D printed models of the house, in renovations that include redesigning the entire structure into more circular forms. Other rooms and the front yard are similarly reworked or reimagined with art.
The fact that the house is fully furnished — but “garnished” by all these new artworks — resembles that selling technique of an open house, where what you see is maybe not always what you get. Taken as a whole, the presentation underlines the core theme of the fluidity: home, and property, are defined by the holder.
Space and location are also at the heart of the truly moving exhibit in the pop-up space from the ArtCenter/South Florida in the mainland’s Little River neighborhood. While ArtCenter has kept a space on Lincoln Road in South Beach after closing its flagship building earlier in the year, it is setting up nomadic exhibitions to extend its reach throughout the county.
Nadie atraviesa la región sin ensuciarse, which translates as “nobody crosses the region without getting dirty,” would have been dramatic enough on its opening night earlier this month. Regina José Galindo is an internationally acclaimed, provocative performance artist from Guatemala — think Marina Abramovic with a more political edge — who was set to be buried in mud. In a commentary about the murky political landscape of Central America, and the muddy and dangerous pathways of migrants and drug dealers through her home region, she would be immersed in a gallery entirely layered in wet, sticky dirt. The audience members, too, could move around in the thick muck, with plastic covering their shoes or risking their footwear, as Galindo sank into a hole up to her head.
But just before the process began, the artist was informed of a massive landslide occurring in her homeland, with friends of hers rushing to dig people out of the mud that killed hundreds in the outskirts of Guatemala City. That was not performance art. It was real life.
There was a tragic symmetry to the night. Galindo was in fact trying to emphasize the precarious existence of life in Central America, a world stalling in mud, and here in real time, confirmed with a devastating punctuation point.
“Nobody crosses the region without getting dirty” is part of a broader project called “dialogicCentralsolutions,” which included a symposium (held in the mud) the following day addressing the contemporary art of Central America, and a series of publications on the same topic. It’s all organized by Spaniard Roc Laseca, who previously curated a solo exhibit from pioneering video artist Bill Viola several years back at the Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami.
Standing outside the muddy space, he explains that the project aims to relate art to everyday lives and experiences in Central America, not something elite and removed from that often-turbulent ground. The whole concept of a Central America is a little muddy, he says. It is, in his view, the least known and understood region of the Americas, constantly under threat from man-made violence and natural disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes and indeed landslides. But all of those experiences have influenced important artists coming out of that isthmus, which is what this project intends to highlight. Not coincidentally, at the ArtCenter’s remaining Lincoln Road space, an artist from El Salvador, Walterio Iraheta, is being featured; he’s also in residency at the Fountainhead.
Galindo is no longer buried, but the mud will remain until November, morphing into whatever nature leads it, according to Laseca: a dry, crusty floor? Or a swampy mess? Laseca says it needs to remain organic, in keeping with the theme of art responding to real circumstances.
In acknowledging the real circumstances that completely transformed the inaugural exhibit at the temporary space in Little River, ArtCenter has started a fundraising campaign for the victims of the Guatemalan landslide.
If you go
▪ ‘Nobody crosses the region without getting dirty’ by Regina José Galindo.
Where: ArtCenter [Little River Edition], 7252 N.W. Miami Ct., Miami.
When: Through Nov. 8, Thursday-Sunday 12:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.
Information: www.artcentersf.org. To help aid the victims of the Guatemalan mudslide, go to: www.gofundme.com/reginajosegalindo.
▪ “Residential Properties”
Where: The Fountainhead Residency, 690 N.E. 56th St, Miami
When: Through Oct. 16
Information: resproperties.tumblr.com; facebook.com/ResidentialProperties2015