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Locust Projects: Ten Years and Still Breeding

Clifton Childree's "Dream-Cum-Tru."
Clifton Childree's "Dream-Cum-Tru."

Locust Projects gives a whole new meaning to the term Art Incubator. Now, at the turn of their tenth year in the business of growing artists (watering them daily and emptying out little packets of supportive, vitamin-rich patronage upon them), it’s only fitting we look back at LP’s greatest hits, while sneaking a peek into their future. A future which holds the likes of an adult amusement park’s ruins; a big Smash & Grab, Star-Spangled auction; and a grand, celebratory Basel-bash of artistic collaboration.

A History Lesson

According to the Greeks, when the Muses brought song into the world, some people were so entranced that they stopped drinking and eating — captivated to death, literally. The muses turned these human corpses into locusts (grasshoppers) that were destined to sing their entire lives. According to a different book, The Bible, you’ll find that locusts are merely the critters that ruined the Egyptians’ crops while saving those of the Israelites. Delve deeper into “the great book” and you find John the Baptist prophesizing while eating locusts and wild honey. There are many symbolic gestures attached to the bonnie bugs; but one thing’s for sure — Locusts will breed quickly and furtively given the right conditions — conditions like the ones LP has been providing for artists for ten years.

Founded by artists Westen Charles, Cooper, and Elizabeth Withstandley, the Project was started out of a need that arose in the Miami art community of the time. “Miami was in need of a young, fresh space… a space that was not politically involved in the art [world]… a space that was about art and interesting art… a space that was not pretentious,” said Withstandley, who had just finished grad school with Cooper (now represented by Fred Snitzer) upon starting LP. She now lives in L.A., but, like all three of the founding members, she remains on the board and participates as often as possible in the decisions and direction of LP. Otherwise, it’s executive director Claire Breukel, who calls what she refers to as the “back-of-house” shots and says everyone involved wants to avoid “professionalizing” the space in a way that inhibits both the artist’s and the curator’s freedom.

In general, Locust events and exhibits are both site-specific and experimental, and always well-attended. It can easily be said that the place is literally transformed over and over again. Take, for instance, Magnus Arnason’s 2007 show, Polymorph. This was a sprawling, organic installation that, explains Breukel, resembled something out of an alien movie but which was also working with ideas of birth (think: umbilical cords, pods, etc). Arnason used coffee and sugar and other substances that attracted bugs (maybe even some Locusts – wink, wink) for months after. “Magnus was a super guy. He left me a selection of cockroaches cling-filmed inside cups inside my desk drawer,” laughs Breukel.

The Prophecy Ahead

The morphs will continue from September to December. Here are just a few highlights:

Now on display is Clifton Childree’s Dream-Cum-Tru. A local Miami artist and experimental filmmaker, Childree is best known for his black-and-white vaudeville slapstick horror movies. Dream-Cum-Tru draws from this B-movie style and enters the world of run-down rollercoasters and adult-themed arcade games singing their last bleeps. Childree was just awarded the first Annual Hilger Artist Project Award, which he’s using to kick-off the 10th anniversary season of LP. The exhibit runs until Oct. 25.

On Saturday, Nov. 1, 2008, Locust offers the all-time best-bang-for-your-buck fundraiser (and the Life-line of LP). Smash & Grab offers collectors a chance to win valuable contemporary pieces of art by top Miami artists such as Carlos Betancourt, Daniel Arsham, Bert Rodriguez, Martin Oppel and many others. The night will have a “Stars and Stripes” theme with Americana food and cocktails. Tickets range in price from $425-$1,200, depending on how many raffle tickets you want to purchase.

Finally, the Inevitable Continuum runs Nov. 8-Dec. 31, with receptions on Nov. 8 (7-11 p.m.) and Dec. 6 (7-11 p.m.) during Art Basel. Celebrating the 10th anniversary of LP, Breukel has teamed up with artist Gene Moreno to curate an exhibit that literally looks back at 10 years of exhibitions, while at the same time looking into the future of contemporary art. For the show Breukel and Moreno have invited one alumnus from each year LP has been alive and kicking to select their favorite, most promising artist working today. Mixing everything from drawing to digital mediums, the show promises to be eclectic as well as doused in the prophetic honey LP is so well-known for.

Locust Projects, 105 NW 23rd St, Wynwood; 305-576-8570

Published: 9/08

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