By John Thomason
By Benjy Caplan
By Artburst Miami
By Carlos Suarez De Jesus
By Daniel Reskin
"Haunted" is a group show installation put together by José-Carlos Diaz at the Worm-Hole Laboratory, a small apartment-turned-exhibition space off Biscayne Boulevard. Diaz's idea is to bring together lesser-known artists as well as themes that may slide under the radar of more established alternative spaces.
Each artist is given a room. Pepe Mar fills kitchen drawers, vitrine, and walls with toy motifs; there are some puppet creatures being ground into fluorescent juices all over the kitchen counter. Don't kids "kill" when they play? Mar's playful toy mutilation points to role playing, fantasy, or in any case, violence as an aesthetic construct.
Coming out of the kitchen I was impressed by Cristina Lei-Rodriguez's colorful altarpiece made up of resin, plastic foliage, semiprecious stones, and tiny animal turtles. Lei-Rodriguez borrows from Tennessee Williams's play Suddenly Last Summer, which was influenced in turn by Herman Melville's Encantadas, a series of sketches where Melville narrates his tour of the Galapagos Islands as a young sailor. In Williams's play, two of the main characters witness newly hatched sea turtles hurrying to the protection of the sea come under attack by "flesh-eating birds." The moral of the story: Life and death are two sides of the same coin, a brutal reality that Lei-Rodriguez's work conveys plaintively.
Next, prepubescent beings bitten by vampires. Jen DeNike's photos of interiors takes you to some New Orleans apartment, where beautiful boys dream and taste the fateful bite that takes them away from the monotony of everyday life. And they play very well next to the tour de force of the show, Diego Singh's Banshee. The title refers to the omen of death announced by a spirit, but this installation resonates with other post-Romantic themes of suicide, youth angst, Gothic imagery, artificiality, and effeminate nature. The setting is a white room, decorated with vaporous curtains and a glittering floor, filled with painted purple clouds, big shimmering tears, and little paintings emanating pop-Gothic gloom, rendered with minute precision. It's a cold and detached dreamland, and compelling work. Singh communicates a space of sadness bordering on torpor.
Diaz's effort feels more like the product of an art activist than the exhibits of your average curator. I say this because Diaz's space, like other recently opened ones in Miami, acts as a catalyst for Miami art networks -- he and his friends maintain that Worm-Hole is born out of an increasing need for alternatives. Remember that line, and keep an eye on the Lab experiments coming up in 2004.
What's in the "order" of cured ham? You can find the answer by visiting 108 Contemporary Art's show "Terapia Entrópica" (Entropic Therapy) by Spanish artist Francis Naranjo. Inside a dark room, four booths show glowing color pics of meat nuggets deliberately positioned inside Zen-like saltboxes. One photo upsets the previous balance by mixing salt with ham lumps. It evokes not just food but flavor, texture, or even a meditative garden. If entropy means the measure of a system's disorder, Naranjo's statement can be seen as an unstable position between order and disorder. 108 Contemporary Art's mission is, according to owner Chilean Victor Quiroz, to show contemporary and conceptual art from Latin America and Spain; the spacious venue that forms a corner on Second Avenue in the Design District is a good place to start.
At Marina Kessler Galleryis an exhibit of Pablo Cabado's recent photo work. I like Cabado's previous works in big-photo format, those that looked into an urban landscape of abandoned plots and destitute people. This show includes those plus more recent and smaller photos by the Argentinean, but they were not as united by a precise thread. Upstairs Andres Ferrandis's Los Vientos #3 mixes a fine blend of materials to achieve unity in diversity.
Finally, don't let pass Beatriz Monteavaro's show "Crush with Eyeliner" at Ambrosino Gallery --not only because Adam Ant's saga continues (now with buddy Gary Numan) as they visit a planet ruled by Siouxsie Sioux and her Planet of the Apes gang. While thrown in jail, they meet Picasso and after a fight, manage to escape thanks to their New Wave eyeliner superpowers. A pulpy story of course, but Monteavaro packs in enough irreverence to challenge old social archetypes.
Really it's Monteavaro's métier that attracts me. She achieves labor-intensive detail and complexity that pulls you in. Look at the contrast between hero's outline and the background space, a mix between the traditional cartoon action and a more restrained narrative. Monteavaro's color-marker doodling creates intricate grids, shades, and colored crisscrossing planes, which offer smart solutions to the overall story. Monteavaro is an artist with wit and skill.