Something New, Something Wow

"Departing Perspectives" and "Arte Actual"

Two weekends ago art lovers in Miami who made it to the Espirito Santo Bank building on Brickell Avenue for Departing Perspectives were offered a unique experience: a predemolition event curated by Fredric Snitzer. (The bank soon will be torn down.) For four days 44 local artists participated in an art-house extravaganza as part of Art Miami 2000, a yearly fair held at the Miami Convention Center. Assignment: Go inside a downtown, soon-to-be-razed building and make art.

Mostly installations, this exhibit presented a rare opportunity to interact with art created in a totally different setting. Mind-benders, virtual environments, performances, or walk-in rituals, "Departing Perspectives" included dozens of rooms filled with all kinds of statements and peoples. The short-lived happening (for lack of another term) was an exercise in the limits of creative freedom and public response. The occasion to take art outside the rigid confines of galleries, museums, and the pervasive grip of the market is momentous. Bids on works, posted on the walls -- even for the sake of charitable causes -- were, in the opinion of this writer, out of place.

The task seemed deceptive. It wasn't about doing whatever. Artists are conditioned to work for and in the restricted space of galleries. They think they do what they want, but are driven by rules of conservation, peer pressure, and profit. "Departing Perspectives" gave artists free rein to improvise with the space and work in the face of oblivion. Most important it provided a milieu for joint action and interaction. Impressions express judgment. But given the space limitations in this column, not all impressions of the event can be reviewed here; those omitted don't necessarily reflect the quality of the art.

Give me liberty or close down this bank
Pedro Portal
Give me liberty or close down this bank

Details

On view through February 20.
Broman Fine Arts, 2800 Ponce de Leon Blvd, ste 120, Coral Gables; 786-552-0008.

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Beginning at the top, the eighth floor, Charo Oquet articulated possibilities for spiritual redemption inside her candle-lit room filled with toy stuffed animals, rows of measles-spotted dolls, and altars offering sweet food and Afro-Caribbean religious iconography. Karen Rifas made heaps of shredded paper a convincing reflection of the proliferation of waste and the banal secrets of corporate America. She also made this waste a human activity.

One flight down Carol Brown examined domestic violence. Her two rooms contained miniature, finely crafted wooden stairs that led to and from generic windows and doors. The little doors opened to reveal well-known tag lines of verbal violence: "liar," "what did I ever see in you," and "you don't turn your back on me." William Cordova's repetitious tongue-antics video emphasized the platitudes that are our own daily blatherings. George Sanchez saw love as a commodity in his neon Heart Shop, with its heart-printed T-shirts and throbbing disco music. Annie Wharton's installation of plastic Frisbees on the wall, framed by the bay view and the music of Stan Getz and Gilberto Gil, was soothing; Carlos Betancourt's room, with its earth relief and live parakeets, was captivating.

Brian Cooper's powerful ear, clutch, trigger revealed a chamber of harsh violence, with heavy breathing and shots filling the air. Walls appeared ripped or pocked with bullets, and torn plaster bags seemed to announce the hardening of the human psyche. In the chamber lay an abandoned suit, boots, and a hatchet on the dusty floor; a helmet with an attached mike sat on a tripod. Another lasting impression from the sixth floor came from Robert Chambers's video of luscious blue, white, and red smoke, which could only viewed by peering into a large, dark open vault.

On the fifth level, Eugenia Vargas devised a surreal glass window through which the art observer watched a pink room filled with bubbles being popped by a hidden device. A door caption read "do not enter, slippery floor." Marissa Telleria's space was tactfully covered with subtle ornamental wall motifs; the view through a side window showed another room with the same serpentine motif, this one imprinted on a patterned floor made of plaster.

A flight down, Robert Huff set up a sextant in the middle of the first room, pointed toward a photo of the Statue of Liberty, flanked on side walls by excerpts from the U.S. Constitution written in yellow chalk. Through the sextant one could see the face of Miss Liberty. New World School of the Arts students Julian Picaza, Jay Hines, and Bhakti Baxter created an enveloping atmosphere in their black-cloth-covered space. Hanging lamps with shades in assorted shapes and sizes made from velum paper dotted the room. There also was a projection of a swimmer underwater, and at the back, a big walk-in duct that mimicked a womb, warmly lit inside.

From the elevator to the right stood Roberto Behar and Rosario Marquardt's pleasant little house. A woman slept on a bed, surrounded by modest furniture. As he gently chatted, Behar took the visitor inside the dream room, whose floor was filled with sand and votive candles. One could hear the sound of waves and the sea breeze. While walking out (at the request of Behar, being careful not to wake the woman) one's own reflection could be seen in a mirror, as if coming out of a dream. José Bedia and Edoard Duval-Carrié, who played across from each other on the third floor, made powerful religious statements. Down a level was Westen Charles's mind-bender. A room was filled with detergent powder, dammed on one side by the window glass. Stuck in the mounds of grain, a painted wooden zebra on top of a box, covered with colorful wrapping paper, glitter-painted shoes, and empty bottles with recognizable detergent labels.

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