The Institute of Contemporary Art Miami (the ICA) grabbed the winter headlines, when Miami’s newest private museum opened, showcasing artwork owned by benefactors Irma and Norman Braman along with other internationally acclaimed pieces. And rightly so: the stunning building in the Design District with its sculpture park is a jewel.
But the city’s other private collections continue to deliver some of the smartest, interesting exhibits not just in the region, but nationally.
Like the ICA, the private collections of Martin Margulies, the Rubell Family and Carlos and Rosa de la Cruz are open to the public. Unlike the ICA, those private museums are dedicated almost exclusively to each collectors’ holdings. Here’s what they are showing now. (Note: the Margulies Collection closes for the summer after April 28.)
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At the Margulies Collection at the Warehouse in Wynwood, we look backwards, to the beginnings of contemporary art, through a few stellar examples of Pop Art. Most art aficionados will recognize the markings of these famous Pop pioneers immediately: the pain-stakingly hand-made small dots of a Roy Lichtenstein; the silk-screened Brillo boxes of Andy Warhol; the psychedelic bright red and orange coloring of James Rosenquist.
Warhol’s work has become almost clichéd in the varied ways it has been depicted and represented since it upended the art scene in the early 1960s. Those Campbell soup cans and Marilyn Monroe paintings became ubiquitous backdrops in 20th-century Americana, and in a sense lost some of their heft as important art statements.
But set against a wall at the front of the warehouse, Warhol’s commercial reproductions regain their gravitas. These are some of his first sculptures, shown initially at New York’s Stable Gallery in 1964. It was a pivotal time, says Margulies’ chief curator Katherine Hinds, when the colorful, often-strident paintings of the abstract expressonist movement spawned in the economically harsh 1940s gave way to a more literal depiction of contemporary culture.
Warhol glamorized the most mundane – but popular – packaging that Americans were, literally, eating up in post-war America: boxes of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, Heinz ketchup, Del Monte fruit, Campbell’s soup. The cardboard boxes were recreated as sculptures, exactingly crafted of wood with silkscreen and house paint. Decades later, these now-classic pieces still create a hypnotic experience.
Pieces from other Pop Art icons fill the rest of the front gallery. Ironically, two of the most compelling lack color. Tom Wesselmann’s “Bathroom Collage #6,” a 3-D sculptural collage, is executed in black, white and gray. Jasper Johns “0-9,” painted in 1959, is a study in gray that references the common task of note-taking. Its spareness is part of its beauty.
Rubell Family Collection
While Pop Art sent shock waves through the 1960s art world, today it can seem almost tame — especially when compared with the 21st century works on display at the nearby Rubell Family Collection. RFC’s 2018 exhibit, “Still Human,” spills over two floors. The title is almost painfully apt, as one feels just barely human after taking in the often disturbing imagery here.
The show suggests that we are so subsumed by artificial intelligence, biotechnology and virtual reality that humanity itself may be disappearing.
One of the most unsettling — and memorable — is a sculpture by Andro Wekua, who was born in the country of Georgia. A girl dangles by her chin, which rests on a clear platform. Her feet hang inches above the ground; she is anchored, instead, by a modem. The fingers of her bionic arm periodically twitch, making the already eerie installation downright creepy.
So is the woman wrapped in plastic curled up on the floor, from Josh Kline. Called “Thank you for your years of service,” the sculpture addresses the displacement of workers by automation and technology. Packed and ready for dumping, she is the new garbage.
Then there are Stewart Uoo’s sculptures, of female torsos made from a vast assortment of materials, including wires, cables, steel, feathers, fake eyelashes.
The focal point of this large exhibit are four huge paintings by Allison Zuckerman, who created the canvases during a summer residency at the Rubell. They, too, can be an acquired taste. As the catalogue to Zuckerman’s work states, “these figures are not homogenous, but rather constitute a wild (and amusing) assemblage of body parts culled from numerous paintings that were created during different historical periods.” The eyes, mouths or breasts are outsized, and can look grotesque.
de la Cruz Collection
“Force and Form,” the show at the de la Cruz Collection, weaves art and technology with social themes including gender, class and power.
The work showcased here also reflects the relationships that have grown over the years between the collectors and the first-rate artists they favor, including Glenn Ligon, Albert Oehlen, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Jim Hodges and Ana Mendieta. Their works appear in this show, as they have in many others here.
“Force and Form” takes over the building’s three floors plus its Project Room — with good reason. Many of the paintings and sculptures in this show are made on a very large scale, adding a tangible physicality to the entire exhibit that at times feels a little overwhelming. But there are some smaller surprises too: One charmer is Isa Genzken’s Nefertiti bust, with the ancient Egyptian queen decked out in funky glasses.
On the theme of “Force,” Nate Lowman literally threads together the fabric of America in his wonderful multi-media map of America, “In Pieces and in Stitches.” Another is Peter Doig’s “Baked,” a vague sea-scape swimming in rust and yellow colors. The work offers a soothing and somewhat melancholy pause on this exhibit’s trek — a lovely and welcome stop indeed.
If You Go
Margulies Collection “Pop Art,” through April 28, at the Margulies Collection at the Warehouse, 591 NW 27th Ave., Wynwood; www.margulieswarehouse.com.
Rubell Family Collection “Still Human,” through Aug. 25, 95 NW 29th St., Wynwood; rfc.museum
de la Cruz Collection “Force and Form,” through Nov. 15, 23 NE 41st St., Design District Miami; www.delacruzcollection.org.