By Monique Jones
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By Liz Tracy
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By Ciara LaVelle
By Carolina del Busto
By Michael E. Miller
One has to tip the chapeau to Anthony Spinello. The spunky young dealer transforms his modest gallery about as often as his competitors change their underwear. During last Saturday's Wynwood season-opening art walk, he stopped traffic along NW Second Avenue, out-hustling most of the bigger venues fishing for eyeballs on a night when the crowds where the largest in recent memory.
"I wanted to create a museum show in my small space," Spinello says. "The artist spent nearly two months this summer preparing for this show."
"Emotional Response Can Be Deconditioned" marked Federico Nessi's first solo exhibit at Spinello. The 26-year-old artist succeeded in conveying the sense of someone undergoing a Skinnerian douche following the wreckage of a tormented relationship. "It deals with the Seventies notion that aversion therapy could be used to control emotions," Nessi explains. "I wanted to create an environment where people would find themselves experiencing the anxiety and confusion of uncertainty in a visceral way."
Entering the space, visitors are assailed by a wall of white noise. Nessi reconfigured the gallery's interior, creating an enclosure in which dueling video monitors pin the viewer in an eerie dialogue between two figures that never utter a word.
He Is He and He Is You Too is a looped 10-minute two-channel video featuring the artist and his gallerist on opposing screens. Their faces bob and weave under the glare of light beams as if they were each undergoing the third degree. As the film progresses, it appears the men are searching for each other with flashlights as if they were trapped in opposite ends of a mineshaft. The tug-of-war vibe is reminiscent of how people struggle to get closer to each other while invariably pulling away.
Standing inside the space, spectators can touch the monitors, hung at eye level, by extending both arms toward the confining walls. Nessi has used subwoofers and a hiccupping radio frequency to ratchet up the aggressive, confrontational nature of the piece. The sounds pierce the senses in a fashion that drags visitors into the fray, making them feel trapped between a quarreling codependent couple on the verge of imploding.
There is something deeply evocative about the work, which provokes a gut-check about the obsessive side of love and the complexity of human interactions.
In You Held Me Like a Crucifix, an arresting nine-panel digital print, Nessi weaves a poignant narrative in which two men appear ready to engage in oral sex. He calls the work "the most intensely personal" in the exhibit and says it reflects his struggle dealing with his homosexuality as a Hispanic man who grew up in a strictly Catholic home.
In the black-and-white images, a young man sits on the edge of a bed with his face obscured by a T-shirt wrapped cowl-like around his head. As he unzips the trousers of a man who looms above him, a flashlight casts a shameful glow on the impending blowjob.
On a wall across from the images, a photo depicts a solitary man sitting on an armchair as ropes of light erupt in an umbilical flow from his chest. The metaphysical nature of his agony is further illuminated by mounds of shattered mirrors and dangling light sources arranged in an altarlike offering in a nearby corner of the gallery.
Near the end of the evening, Nessi and several collaborators performed an extended version of "Haunted When the Minutes Drag" by Love and Rockets outside Spinello's doors.
As the cascade of music drew hordes to the space, Nessi sheared performance artist Ana Mendez's dreadlocks. It was a cleansing of the baggage many people drag like chains in the wounded recesses of their skulls. "I think that recognition of painful feelings is what makes you accept who you are and go on," Nessi sighed.
After the performance, police had to swoop in to scatter the throngs that had choked off traffic outside Spinello.
Downwind at Gallery Diet, Andrew Mowbry packed the space to the rafters with his solo show "Tempest Prognosticator," which riffs on man's relationship with natural forces and how the weather can have a volatile impact on our daily lives.
Inside Diet, the artist appears in a video isolated in a rear room. It shows a barefoot Mowbry in a business suit atop a downtown Miami building. He is trussed in a handcrafted polyethylene contraption that has turned him into a human weather vane. Birds twitter loudly and traffic zooms by as the wind spins the dart-shaped gizmo teetering over his head.
In the video, from which the show takes its name, Mowbry is cosseted by a sculpture titled Weather Vane/Anemometer, with which he appears on a rooftop. As the artist stands on a lazy Susan, the device strapped to his back captures the wind in large cups at the end of extending poles, slowly spinning him. Not far from the screen showing the video, the weather vane sits on display in a corner.
Nearby, Parachute is a sculpture created from found umbrellas, cord, foam, vinyl, and aluminum that sprawls in a bright multi-patterned spill across the gallery floor. On an opposing wall, a C-print with the same title depicts Mowbry ready to become blown into the air above Bicentennial Park.
The artist also built Drawing Table, which harnesses the elements to create art. He placed the remarkable object on the roof of his studio, allowing the wind to activate an arm on the table and arbitrarily create drawings with colored pencils on precut Mylar. Rendered over a two-month period, the drawings are labeled with exact longitudes and latitudes; notations correspond to the days they were made.
Mowbry's engaging exhibit references the Tempest Prognosticator, a 19th-century invention by George Merryweather, also called the Leech Barometer, which used a bottle of leeches that would become agitated during an approaching storm.
In the wake of Hurricane Ike's devastation throughout the Caribbean and Texas, the exhibit packed a timely wallop.
"It's been crazy," Nina Johnson, Diet's owner, said. "We had plenty of new faces we haven't seen in the gallery before. At one point, we had to put up little signs warning people not to touch the art. We also had to close the doors because of the overflow."