Think summer has slowed down in the South Florida art world? Think again. While a decade ago galleries might throw up a crowded group show for the hot and muggy season, hoping at least to draw artists’ friends, this summer features several crisply curated, intelligent shows. Here’s a quick glance around the blocks.
Cathedrals of Consumption
The May run of the second Maison&Objet Americas international design fair got Guillermo Leon Gomez thinking: about design, about consumerism, about the relationship between décor and a home’s inhabitants. Those ruminations spurred the exhibit “Cathedrals of Consumption,” a name taken from sociologist George Ritzer, who has studied the intersection between place and the desire to purchase.
The home Gomez created at Spinello Projects in Little River forms a delightful commentary, populated with quirky, intriguing works threading the line between the literal and conceptual, created by international artists with impressive resumes.
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Introducing the show is a work on the outside of the living room wall that should resonate with almost everyone, either as a memory or current reality. It’s an old, leaking window air conditioner, with a cheap little potted plant sitting on top and a frying pan below to catch the drip, drip, drip. (It really does drip). It’s from Argentine Mika Rottenberg, who has shown widely, from Beijing and Tel Aviv to the Whitney and Guggenheim.
In a similar vein, around the corner also on the outside of the wall is a lovely work from London-based Gabriele Beveridge. A photo of a woman seems to gaze through a window, made from a steel frame jutting from the wall, with a broken blind crookedly pulled halfway up, and sunglasses on the ledge.
On the last outside wall, Miami-native Bert Rodriguez has inserted a medicine cabinet. The mirrored door is covered with morning affirmations, those little ditties people say to give them confidence to get through the day. And yes, it is a real cabinet, in unlimited editions if one wants to buy it.
Enter the living room. Hanging on one wall is a bright red snuggie, tacked up so the limbless fleece and polyester arms just dangle there, from Texan Andy Coolquitt. In what could seem like a companion piece, Los Angeles-based Amanda Ross-Ho has hung two stacks of towels that she has painted, one rack in pastel greens and blues, the other black and white.
The soundtrack comes from the television, which is showing an over-the-top, campy infomercial. It’s from the always-fascinating video-and-performance artist Kalup Linzy, a Stuckey, Florida, native who has shown at the Rubell Family Collection, the Studio Museum of Harlem, New York MOMA and the Met.
As you can tell, there is a sense of whimsy to this exhibit; almost every piece will bring a smile to your face. But they are not silly or simplistic. Gomez is to be commended for this smart “home design.”
Ceci n’est pas une peinture (This is not a painting)
Gallery owner Lexing Zhang also had the Maison&Objet Americas fair in mind when putting together “Ceci n’est pas une peinture” for her upper Eastside gallery. The Chinese native made Paris her home before moving to Miami and opening up ART LEXING in 2010. She still travels extensively to France and China in search of art.
Zhang says she has always been intrigued with tromp l’oeil, depicting an object or facade with illusion to make it look real. For this exhibit, she brought together a Japanese design team, three Chinese artists and the French fashion house of Maison Margiela.
Contrary to the title, Zheng Jiang’s incredible detailed work is a painting — it just looks like it could be a tile or glass mosaic. Using only his brush and tempura — no special effects or manipulation — Zheng employs rich colors and composition to make this shimmering painted tapestry to appear to be what it is not.
The product of Maison Margiela may be familiar to visitors to the Design District, with its fanciful tromp l’oeil prints. Lexing has hung one such example here, a full-scale mural of Baroque French doors. One set is closed, highlighting the elaborate “carved” detailing on their exteriors; the other is open, revealing the hallway of a classic French chateaux with archways and more interior ornamental architectural flourishes.
To view this faux façade, you may want to sit on the chair next to it. Of course the chair is painted on canvas in a wooden frame that is placed on the floor. But wait, the illusion is reverted here: it really is a chair! Push your backside into the canvas, and a seat holds you up, hidden behind the “painting.” This is the work of Tokyo’s YOY, who have also created a line of shelves that look like they are made from paper, like Japanese origami, so light and fragile that they could fly away. But they are made from white-painted steel.
Again, the clean, uncluttered presentation in this exhibit includes an element of wit and whimsy; we can have fun with the serious creation of art.
Magdalena Suarez Frimkess and Ben Russell
At Michael Jon & Alan in the Little Haiti district, the gallerists have uncluttered things further, with one pedestal holding several small ceramics, a single video, a deep coral-colored partial wall dividing the two, and no exhibition title at all.
On the front side of that eye-catching wall, six examples from the 87-year-old Venezuelan Magdalena Suarez Frimkess are displayed atop a white block. One is a Mickey Mouse ceramic napkin holder, one is called “small plate with goofy.”
Grim faces should be checked at the front door with this exhibit as well. But make no mistake: Frimkess’s art is not goofy. She acknowledges the imagery of ubiquitous pop North American culture and interweaves it with more ancient native craft, such as pottery making. According to Alan Gutierrez, co-director of the gallery that was only one of two local galleries represented in Art Basel Miami Beach last year, Frimkess is experiencing a “revival” of sorts in her eighth decade.
Behind that wall is a video from experimental film maker Ben Russell, which also fixates on the intertwining of native and pop culture, showcased in an entrancing 16 mm film. Called TRYPPS (Malobi), with a reference to that hallucinary experience of tripping, Russell filmed a ritualistic ceremony in a village in the small South American country of Suriname.
There is dancing and drumming, but many of the participants are wearing Halloween costumes, creepy masks and clown suits. It’s a surreal mix. Gutierrez points out that the main character the camera follows is wearing a wig and jumpsuit that they chose for the color of the gallery’s centerpiece wall — that mesmerizing deep coral.
These exhibits ask us to open our eyes and look a little more closely at our surroundings, our world and how we experience it all.
IF YOU GO
▪ What: “Cathedrals of Consumption”
Where: Spinello Projects, 7221 NW 2nd Ave., Miami
When: Through July 23
Information: free, spinelloprojects.com
▪ What: “Ceci n’est pas une peinture (This is not a painting)”
Where: ART LEXING, 7520 NE 4th Ct., Suite 106, Miami
When: Through June 20
Information: free, www.artlexing.com
▪ What: Magdalena Suarez Frimkess and Ben Russell
Where: Michael Jon & Alan, 255 NE 69th St., Miami
When: Through July 2
Information: free, www.michaeljon