Visual Arts

South Florida galleries provide Art Basel’s local afterglow

Kelley Johnson, Flickering Vibrations into Escapism, 2015, Wood, vinyl, acrylic, PVC, metallic tape, flash, mirror, plexiglass full detail.
Kelley Johnson, Flickering Vibrations into Escapism, 2015, Wood, vinyl, acrylic, PVC, metallic tape, flash, mirror, plexiglass full detail.

Now that the bright glare of Miami Art Week is dimming, it’s a good time to catch what the local scene still has to offer.

The most prominent local activity lately has emanated from the multi-venue, artist-saturated exhibits grouped together as “100 + Degrees in the Shade,” which includes a survey book. It’s the brainchild of curator Jane Hart, who for almost a decade organized the shows at the Art and Culture Center of Hollywood before departing this summer.

Hart decided that as Basel time arrived, Miami’s local face needed to be seen in a big way. She recalled the sprawling show that artist Robert Chambers put together at the Bass Museum in 2001, when the inaugural Art Basel was canceled due to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The museum was stuffed with the work of local artists, from painting to installation to performance; it was electric, and it was chaotic. That spirit continues with “100 + Degrees.”

The venues include the Girls’ Club in Fort Lauderdale, alternative galleries and spaces such as Carol Jazzar Contemporary Art, Bridge Red, the newly opened artist-run Laundromat and the main pop-up space in the Design District.

The works from more than 150 contemporary artists are displayed throughout these spaces; some are older works, some site-specific, all are for sale. Hart says that the different venues lent themselves to the type of art that would be featured at each — at Jazzar, with its surrounding dense foliage, there is “an urban tropical aesthetic”; at the much bigger main space on North Miami Avenue, there are large, interactive installations.

Hart says she thought more could be done during Art Basel “to promote local art, and to contribute to the dialogue” in developing the community. With no grants and limited private funding, she says, over the summer she worked with co-curators Chris Ingalls and Nina Arias to put together this huge production, collecting the artwork from artists who have lived in Miami and made an imprint here and lining up the venues.

“It was all very grass roots,” she says. “I like the DIY aspect of it all; an ‘it takes a village’ type of effort.”

It would be a disservice to many artists to try to list the “best-of” pieces included in the exhibits. Overall it is an exuberant example of what has been created over the last several decades.

But as with any expansive survey like this, it is not all inclusive — there are a number of important artists missing, which is a shame. And the various shows are sometimes too hectic and suffer from a lack of labeling. With so much work, it would have made the viewing process easier for the average viewer to know who the artists are, and when the works were made, at first glance.

Hart is aware of that criticism but says that “it is not the be all and end all. With the resources we had, we put together a large survey that hasn’t been done since 2001.”

With that older show in mind, the chaotic nature of “100+ Degrees” may in fact be the antidote to the international art fair that takes the bigger headlines in December: Here’s a chance to discover and like the art that attracts you, regardless of the name and price-tag attached to it.

DANIEL ARSHAM: ‘THE FUTURE WAS WRITTEN’

A home-grown artist included in “100 + Degrees” is Daniel Arsham, who has become well-known nationally and internationally and now makes New York home. His solo exhibit at the National YoungArts Foundation, “The Future Was Written,” continues his exploration of artifacts of our consumer and communication culture. In fact, excavation would be a better word, as his piles of remnants of items such as Walkmans, typewriters, videotapes — all made from chalk — when viewed from the floor above look like an archaeological site.

Arsham has been making a version of this installation in various venues, but the YoungArts space is perfect for this “dig” because of the expanded two-story visuals. On the ground floor, you feel as though you are stumbling through the detritus of something formerly grand that has fallen, Ozymandias-like. That the nearly 2,000 objects are made from chalk, a material that is going to crumble on its own, accelerated by human contact, accentuates that impression.

“The failure of these objects to last,” Arsham says, is an essential element.

But these bits and pieces are not from ancient Egypt — these are the cultural and communication innovations from the 20th century that suggested progress and modernity: those telephones with dials, video-game machines, boom boxes, VCRs. By using chalk, Arsham has allowed them to continue to communicate even in their decayed states. The site is surrounded by chalkboard walls, on which any visitor — including kids — can pick up a bit of, say, a camcorder and write or draw messages and images.

“These markings leave an impression for the future,” Arsham says. Or, at least a future that will last through the run of the exhibition. Chalkboards are meant to be erased, and even the concept of a chalkboard may be alien to those born after 2000.

From the second floor, the impression is less interactive and more abstract; we are removed from this archaeological exploration, a little unsure what those white mounds of debris really mean, or ever did.

MINDY SOLOMON GALLERY: ‘THE WAY WE SEE IT’

Mindy Solomon is one of the first contemporary galleries to have moved into the developing arts area of Little Haiti/Little River, opening in September. Her Art Basel exhibit is a particularly strong photography show, with the work of Scot Sothern leaving the most searing portraiture.

Sothern himself could be the focus of the camera for much of his eclectic, nomadic life, hustling his photography on the Los Angeles streets for 40 years until an L.A. gallery gave him a show in 2010 titled “LOWLIFE.” His career then took off.

That’s a hint as to what his favorite subject matter is: the underclass that we turn our eyes from, those people who sleep on sidewalks and hawk their wares from seedy hotel rooms and street corners. What makes the images so visceral is that Sothern is not just an observer, he knows this hard-scrabble life. Currently, he writes a column for Vice magazine.

MITRANI GALLERIES

While much attention lately has been paid to the artistic exit from increasingly hectic Wynwood, some solid, serious galleries remain. In the case of the Dina Mitrani Gallery and The Screening Room (run by sister Rhonda Mitrani), two superb exhibits offer a calm, contemplative alternative to the hyperactive life outside.

At Dina Mitrani, the photography could not be more different from the aggressive images at Solomon. Two long scrolls fill the gallery, unspooled to form a labyrinth that the visitor walks into and out of, delicate black and white images of the Peruvian Amazon engulfing you.

“Robert Huarcaya: Amazogramas” is created from photogram, developed in the 1800s as one of the first forms of photography. It involves a long process in which light-sensitive paper captures the image without machinery, reacting only to natural light.

Although the idea of the tropical Amazon evokes a riot of color, this quiet, unfurled world depicts the subtlety of the most diverse of environments without need of extra coloring.

Next door at The Screening Room, several pieces from Wendy Wischer work with light in another way, although again without any loud introductions. The centerpiece of Escaping Gravity is two mounds of stones, one rising from the floor, one falling from the ceiling, with video projections metaphorically unveiling life cycles, as images of fading leaves morph into live, flapping birds and then fade away to reveal the barren stone again.

The audio experience is critical to this work, as well as to the video that suggests a turbulent cataclysm roiling down from the sky, and then retreating, with a small bird flitting across the screen reminding us of renewal.

If you go

What: “100 + Degrees in the Shade.”

Where: Various venues in Miami-Dade and Fort Lauderdale, with main space 3900 N. Miami Ave., Miami.

Info: For locations and times, and to order the survey book, visit www.100degreesintheshade.com.

What: “Daniel Arsham: The Future Was Written.”

Where: National YoungArts Foundation, 2100 Biscayne Blvd., Miami.

When: Through Dec. 11, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday.

Info: Free, www.youngarts.org.

What: Mindy Solomon Gallery: “The Way We See It.”

Where: 8397 NE Second Ave., Miami.

When: Through Dec. 11.

Info: www.mindysolomon.com.

What: “Robert Huarcaya: Amazogramas.”

Where: Dina Mitrani Gallery, 2620 NW Second Ave., Miami.

When: Through Jan. 9.

Info: www.dinamitranigallery.com.

What: “Escaping Gravity.”

Where: The Screening Room, 2626 NW Second Ave., Miami.

When: Through Feb. 16.

Info: www.thescreeningroommiami.com.

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