By Ciara LaVelle
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By Kat Bein
By Juan Barquin
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By George Martinez
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At Locust Projects this past Saturday night, Diego Bianchi gleefully tinkered with his unruly installation, not unlike Rube Goldberg on the eve of destruction.
Unsuspecting spectators strolling through Wynwood's season-opening gallery walk might have felt ambushed by the Argentine artist's psychedelic phantasmagoria, a scene even Timothy Leary would have been hard-pressed to hatch.
Over a 10-day period, Bianchi had trashed Locust, filling the space with a battered boat hull, heaps of garbage, and a slick sheen of mud. He puts rock stars — and their lifetime hotel bans for taking wrecking balls to their rooms — to shame.
A phrase, spray-painted on a gallery wall, wittily warned viewers: "This is not Chelsea. This is Miami, where the sun boils the blood."
Signs of heat stroke were evident everywhere, as slapdash fountains arranged strategically across the filthy floor spewed foamy streams of soap bubbles. Hundreds of LifeSavers candies dangled from fishing line, twirling like noxious snowflakes overhead.
Bianchi's sprawling installation, Wake Me up When the Present Arrives, was one of the marquee attractions during this weekend's art season kickoff, where themes of natural disasters, car wrecks, and general mayhem drew many folks like moths to a dim light.
The 37-year-old Bianchi has earned a bad-boy rep for his outlandish nightmare-scapes, usually concocted from garbage and sundry household cleaning products. The craptravaganza at Locust might be his most ambitious to date.
Bianchi's hope is that viewers will root under the varnish of lunacy to "consider natural disasters as a possibility for a new order of things." Judging by some of the spectators' glazed peepers, thoughts of a lawsuit or insurance claim appeared to be rattling skulls instead.
Although the artist created plank pathways for people to navigate his toxic marshland, few dared. Those who did are unlikely to forget the burbling fountains fashioned from beer cups, yogurt containers, and slimy refrigerator trays, or the bright orange carrot sticks, shiny CDs, and mangled bicycle frames erupting from the squishy carpet of dirt.
One wall was covered in the sawed-in-half casings of Mercury outboard motors; another was pin-cushioned with empty potato chip bags. A column was papered completely with tourism brochures for Florida attractions such as Monkey Jungle, the Kennedy Space Center, and an alligator farm.
For anyone who has ever had to dig out of the rubble after a major hurricane, Bianchi's provocative piece not only nails our dread of killer disasters but also points to how fully dependant South Florida is on the natural environment and the tourists it attracts for its economic survival.
In the project room, Locust nicely complemented Bianchi's mess with Frankie Martin's Storm of Life. The tasty video piece features the artist as she yaks on a cell phone while sunning on a beach before jumping into TV weathercaster mode and maniacally gyrating her hips as sheets of rain crash on her head.
Downwind at the Fredric Snitzer Gallery, onlookers discovered rubberneck heaven while gawking at Timothy Buwalda's large oil-on-canvas paintings of car wrecks in "False Start," his first solo show at the space. The sumptuous works depict crumpled Beemers and Toyotas, their mangled husks rendered in excruciatingly clear detail. Buwalda's powerful paintings swing between photorealism and abstraction, delivering a haymaker. These were among the best canvases on display that evening.
At the Dorsch Gallery, Kyle Trowbridge's "What Makes a Boy Start Fires?" injected high-octane fuel into the car crash theme. The artist even exhibited a burned-out pearlescent Volkswagen Beetle. Simply titled 07/13/07, the piece features a car's carcass that was crisped on the recent Friday the 13th, when a child's doll was melted into the passenger seat during a fiery accident. A copy of The Catcher in the Rye rests in the back seat.
Der Lauf Der Dinge (The Way Things Go), a split-screen video projected onto a corner wall, turned the space into an orgy of carnage as more than 30 film clips on a continuous loop portrayed some of Tinseltown's most spectacular smashups. As delighted spectators at the gallery watched cars and trucks pancake wantonly and police cruisers tumble end over end toward them, they unabashedly shook their fists as destruction engulfed the room. On the other screen, a man sat in a pickup truck with his young son, who leaned out the passenger window and, sporting a devilish grin, locked eyes with viewers. The lad raised one's hackles as he joyously crashed two toy cars together over and over in his hands.
In Dorsch's main gallery, "Variations on a Theme," John Sanchez's solo show, reflected why the painter has emerged as one of South Florida's finest talents.
His evocative oil-and-acrylic-on-canvas paintings somberly depict desolate urban scenes as if they were snapped by a disposable camera through a drunken haze in the wee hours of the morning. Sanchez's works resonate loudly with the tangible force of his attention and are steeped in a surreal density of information.
Late Fix is a jewel that shows the parking lot of a pizza joint, where the shop's neon lights are refracted brilliantly from the rain-slicked asphalt and car windows.
Which Way Home?, another gem, features a lonely stretch of highway in which Sanchez telegraphs a virtuoso's gift for capturing rain on canvas. In this piece, his streetlight reflections illuminate the drenched pavement, transforming the road into a shimmering ribbon. Rare is the artist who can distill the character and hue of a passing moment with such rigorous attention to color and detail.
The night's biggest hoopla came courtesy of Anthony Spinello, who inaugurated his new Wynwood digs with champagne, pink balloons, and old-fashioned apple pie.
Rising art star Susan Lee-Chun uncorked the space with "Versus," her solo show featuring a suite of knockout Lambda prints in which the artist battles with her kooky alter ego. Lee-Chun delivered a head-turning performance during the opening.
As spectators crowded outside the space, a video monitor in the gallery's window facing the street featured the blond-wigged Korean artist dressed in plaid schoolgirl garb while trying to peel the skin off an apple in one swipe. Occasionally a disembodied hand would reach in from offscreen, whacking Lee-Chun on the noggin. Spinello mentioned that in the Korean culture, peeling a whole apple in one take symbolizes a major accomplishment akin to catching a fly with chopsticks.
Inside the space, the artist — wearing a plaid vest, black leggings, and a unicorn headpiece — served onlookers spoonfuls of apple cobbler while humming Don McLean's "American Pie." One of her juicy Lambda prints, The End Is Here (Sioux marching away to the beat of her drum), portrays Lee-Chun's dingbat doppelganger at the supreme moment of triumph.
The artist's performance inside and outside the gallery backed up traffic on NW Second Avenue for most of the night and left Spinello glowing with self-congratulation.
It also signaled there's no limit to how far some will go to up the ante as the season heats up.