By John Thomason
By Benjy Caplan
By Artburst Miami
By Carlos Suarez De Jesus
By Daniel Reskin
Five shows scheduled for Dade and Broward exhibition spaces this season focus on the art of Haiti, both sacred and profane. This is mostly a coincidence, and a pleasing one, that reflects a current international interest in Haitian culture and the fact that South Florida is home to both a large Haitian population and more than a few long-time collectors of art from the island. Also on tap for area art institutions in the upcoming months: work by Mexican masters and Surrealists; shows of abstraction, pop, performance, landscapes, and photorealism; and significant solo exhibitions by Miami-based artists. The 1996-97 season promises to be long but not dry, so get out your calendars. Some highlights:
"Sacred Arts of Haitian Vodou," organized by UCLA's Fowler Museum of Cultural History, exhaustively mines the artifacts of the widely misunderstood Afro-Caribbean religion. The exhibition seeks to shoot down the stereotypical image of vodou as evil mumbo jumbo. The display includes sacred bottles, sequined flags, dolls personifying deities, and other objects used in vodou rites, as well as paintings, sacred music, photographs and videos. Rabidly praised by critics when it was exhibited at the original venue, the show will be at the Center for the Fine Arts from September 20 through December 1. As of this fall, the CFA will officially change its name to the Miami Art Museum of Dade County, and will be known by its new acronym, MAM. From November 1 through April 27, the museum displays the first donations to its new collection.
Opening this month, "Invoking the Spirits: Haiti's Charged Murals" at the South Florida Art Center's Ground Level gallery (September 14October 26) offers a cohesive look at another popular form of Haitian art. Photographer Pablo Butcher has been documenting the powerful political and social imagery of street murals in Port-au-Prince for ten years. The exhibition, organized by Miami's Haitian Cultural Arts Alliance, features 30 of Butcher's enlarged color prints, as well paintings on large-format canvases created especially for the show by Port-au-Prince muralist Charlemagne Celestin.
The result of an exchange project between Brazilian and Floridian artists, "The Manipulated Word: Text and Image" will be on view at Ground Level from November 9 through December 21. The show features text-based works in various media, including video, Websites, and faxed messages. Later in the season, Miami-based artist Karen Rifas creates an environmental, site-specific installation with natural materials (January 4February 8). And from May 10 through June 21, five local artists create a "Queer Space" for performances, installations, video, and discussion workshops in collaboration with the Miami Gay and Lesbian Youth Group.
The Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA) offers museumgoers a rare chance to view a critical mass of important works by Mexican masters Jose Clemente Orozco, David Alfaro Siqueiros, Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, Rufino Tamayo, and other significant modern and contemporary Mexican artists. "Mexican Modernism from the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection" (October 4December 1) traces the evolution of Mexican art of this century through 53 paintings from this private collection. MoCA and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art are the only U.S. venues for this show.
Coinciding with the dates of the Mexican show, a site-specific installation by Gabriel Orozco will be on view in the plaza outside the museum. And October 4December 8, MoCA exhibits eleven large-scale paintings by the late New York artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, subject of Julian Schnabel's current film Basquiat. "The Blue Ribbon Paintings," a series from 1984, exemplifies Basquiat's style of incorporating abstract expressionism, graffitiesque symbology and text, and African-American iconography in his works. From December 20 through February 16, MoCA chief curator Bonnie Clearwater explores "Painting into Photography, Photography into Painting," through the work of artists whose photographs adhere to the conventions of painting, and painters drawn to the style of photorealism. Artists include Richard Artschwager, Chuck Close, Gerhard Richter, Jeff Wall, and others. At the same time, Miami-based artist Robert Chambers creates an installation of billowing silk in the museum's Art Pavilion. Highlights from MoCA's nascent permanent collection will be on view March 6-April 20.
"Youth Matters," the season opener at Miami-Dade Community College's Centre Gallery (through October 25), focuses on artists who work with teenagers, either as subjects of their art or as artistic collaborators. Included in the show are portraits of teens in their bedrooms by photographer Adrienne Salinger, and works by the well-known Bronx-based artist team Tim Rollins and K.O.S. (Kids of Survival), art which evolved from students' reactions to classic books. "Refab" (November 6December 20) surveys current tendencies in abstract painting. "Endurance: The Information" (January 8March 7), is a visceral history in photographs and video of contemporary performance art that tests the limits of the body, mind, and spirit. Originated for New York City's Exit Art gallery, this gripping display includes documentation of seminal works by Chris Burden, Vito Acconci, Marina Abramovic, Joseph Beuys, and many more.
At MDCC's InterAmerican Gallery, shows by individual artists consider the iconography of contemporary private and public life. Onajide Shabaka (September 18November 8) explores the symbolism of common articles in the context of the black American experience in installations made from men's work clothes, beer bottles, or baby shoes, and in drawings on tar paper. Carol Sun (November 20-January 17) reveres the flotsam of domestic life as precious objects. Molly Blieden's (April 9May 28) multimedia installation focuses on the experience of bilingual office workers.