Local Obituaries

The man behind the Miami Beach art scene, Charles Recher, dies at 66

Artist Charles Recher, seen here in 2016, influenced visual projection artists, helped open an artists’ colony on Miami Beach and created installations seen at Art Basel.
Artist Charles Recher, seen here in 2016, influenced visual projection artists, helped open an artists’ colony on Miami Beach and created installations seen at Art Basel.

The avant-garde video installations of artist Charles Recher, a prime architect in building Miami’s arts scene, enticed and provoked the world around him.

Art critic Elisa Turner once opined of Recher’s “multitasking multimedia,” declaring it was “art for the age of attention-deficit disorder.”

Recher, creating to the end, died of a stroke Thursday at age 66 in Miami Beach.

Recher’s frequent collaborator, filmmaker Bruce Posner, recommended Recher for a research residency program in Tokyo in 2015.

“I have witnessed his transformation from an undergraduate art student to one of the most significant visual and performing artists in South Florida,” he wrote. Works like “Cars & Fish,” a sound and vision projection collaboration with composer Gustavo Matamoros, helped inaugurate the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in 2005, a year before the venue opened.

Charles Recher was a wonderfully sweet man. He was intelligent, curious, patient, kind and generous. He created very fine, thoughtful work in film and video. His multimedia performances were delightful. I had known him for a long time, but I was always being surprised by what he was doing. I guess that is an artist’s job — to surprise us and to make us think. Charles was very good at this job.

Art librarian Barbara Young, one of the founders of the Vasari Project, an archive at the Miami-Dade Public Library.

Recher could use his art to be an activist, as in the 1990s, when he joined with the Save Miami Beach political action committee to fight high-rise development.

“Charles was my most treasured friend for 35 years, and artists like Recher, Judy Robertson and Marilyn Gottlieb-Roberts pioneered the art scene of South Beach and Miami itself,” said writer Tom Austin, a 2015 South Florida Knight Arts Challenge winner for his “South Beach Century” cultural project. Recher was to create an art film about South Beach for Austin’s project.

“Charles created fantastic performance art installations, including pieces meant to fight greedy developers who were intent on tearing down Art Deco landmarks for high-rise nightmares. He’ll be sorely missed by me and so many other people in Miami, as a mentor and a friend. I’m so sorry he’ll never get to finish his art film about South Beach,” Austin said.

Recher, born in Fort Lauderdale, was excited about his role in the Knight Arts Challenge. He told Austin, “There is a tradition in the filmic arts of creating poetic portraits of places. All of the great cities have been used as subjects: Manhattan, Paris, Tokyo. They show the rhythm of the place without words or talking heads, using only visual poetry.”

This passion is part of what drew artist Judy Robertson to Recher when they first met in the 1980s. At the time, Recher was building sand castles on the beach. Robertson became his longtime companion and the couple helped spearhead the Save Miami Beach effort. He lived at Eighth and Lenox; she at Fourth and Jefferson.

That 1950 Streamline apartment building at 800 Lenox Ave. became an artists’ colony when Recher, then a film teacher at Miami Dade College’s Wolfson Campus, joined with Cuban art collector and attorney Bradshaw Lotspeich and fellow Miami Dade art professor Marilyn Gottlieb-Roberts to buy the building in 1986 for $146,500. The trio renovated the two-story apartment house and began selling its six units to fellow artisans.

“He had an unquenchable sense of curiosity about the world and about people, so he was very disarming in one-on-one encounters,” Robertson said. “Whether old friends or perfect strangers, you got the sense he was listening very closely and observing very closely.”

Charles tells the truth, is kind, observant and lovable. He understands friendship; a conversation with him is stripped to essentials — complete and playful. This describes his character and is a summary of the way he makes art. It also describes the way his work hits you.

Marilyn Gottlieb-Roberts, retired Miami Dade College art professor.

Said Gottlieb-Roberts: “During the 1980s, Charles, Bruce Posner and I worked with many others to extend Mary Luft’s conception, Miami Waves, into an annual weeklong film and performance festival held at the Wolfson Campus. I’ve been told these events were memorable and even influential. That’s OK. But what really matters was being there and playing well with others, which is, after all, what it’s all about.”

Luft, executive director of Tigertail Productions, met Recher more than 30 years ago at an experimental film festival in Tampa. He screened one of his films for her in her backyard on a large sliding-door screen. He eschewed traditional screens.

“I was immediately hooked with the vision and playful imagination of Charles,” Luft recalled. “This leprechaun of art, a one-of-a-kind artist, had the ability to surprise and delight every single time.”

Ever since, Recher has created numerous works for Tigertail, Luft said. “Charles was first in the realm of performance projections in Miami, which often included live elements. He influenced an entire community of image makers in Miami.”

Charles was gentle but mighty, a giant in the art world. He was challenging the way we look at art and social norms in his quiet, knowing way. He was one of the deepest thinkers I have ever met.

Artist Lou Anne Colodny.

Matamoros, who also collaborated with Recher on an Art Basel installation at ArtCenter/South Florida in 2011, called his friend “a curator of life arts. He had an uncanny ability to bring people together based on their interests. Clever, funny and a great teacher, his life was a celebration of life itself and his art a way to open a window for us to peak into his practice.”

Recher is also survived by his two nieces, Wendy LeClaire Bradford and Nicole LeClaire Benson. A private memorial will be held at a later date.

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