By Monique Jones
By Travis Cohen
By Liz Tracy
By Terrence McCoy
By Morgan Golumbuk
By Ciara LaVelle
By Carolina del Busto
By Michael E. Miller
Lyle O. Reitzel owns galleries in both Miami and Santo Domingo. During a witheringly slow summer in terms of sales, he rolled the dice and expanded his several-year-old Miami gallery to twice its former size. The Santo Domingo gallery kept him afloat, and now he has nearly 3,000 square feet of exhibition space. If last Saturday night's Wynwood gallery walk season kickoff was any indication, the gamble paid off. "This was by far the best opening ever at our space," O. Reitzel said. "I was worried that the torrential rains would put a damper on the evening, but I was surprised to see such a huge turnout."
He inaugurated two shows during the weekend. One is a group exhibit featuring names such as José Bedia, Luis Cruz Azaceta, José García Cordero, and Edouard Duval-Carrié. The other, "Shuffle," highlights a suite of large acrylic-on-canvas works by the dealer's latest discovery, Luciano Goizueta.
Buyers snapped up the 26-year-old Costa Rican's paintings. "We sold several of his works in the $5,000 range," O. Reitzel said. "I'm happy that the artist sold in his first solo show ever in the United States."
Rendered in psychedelic, radioactive spills of color, Goizueta's pieces strike a jarring note through their portrayals of people and recreational vehicles superimposed over concrete jungles. The artist often depicts Costa Rica's native wildlife as a commentary on the uneasy balance between ecotourism and urban sprawl. For this show, he created several paintings that feature '60s-era flight attendants clad in funky mod fashions, adding a quirky pop sensibility to his work.
Fresh Fruit depicts a quartet of stewardesses wearing go-go boots and pink-and-orange uniforms. The women pose coquettishly with their hands on their hips as they seductively flash their pearlies at the spectator. In the upper right corner of the composition, an exotic bird plucks berries off a bush, dropping the ripe red fruit on the unsuspecting women.
Another of Goizueta's savory scenes, The One Who Carries the Light, shows a solitary stewardess sporting a scarlet cape. Looking like a cross between Little Red Riding Hood and a British Airways fugitive, she smiles sardonically while palming a jumbo jet in a black leather-gloved paw. A rusty water tower leaks stains across the surface of the picture as stylized rays of pink, yellow, and orange sunlight beam halo-like from behind the woman's head.
In one of his oddest images, a pair of tourists wearing gas masks stands on what appears to be an airport runway. As the couple, rendered in ghostly black, white, and gray, gambols over the tarmac, a rainbow floods the background in candy-colored splashes.
Many of Goizueta's other canvases depict decrepit RVs and people vacationing in the countryside. The paintings seem to employ stains as a metaphor for overpopulation and man's encroachment on the environment.
The show attracted an informed audience, said O. Reitzel. "What impressed me most was the quality of people that turned out for the opening," he said. "It wasn't your typical crowd of youngsters showing up for free booze. Instead it was more like a New York opening, with plenty of well-heeled people, many of whom were asking serious questions about the work and engaging the artist eagerly."
At Gallery Diet, Nina Johnson agreed the turnout was impressive despite the early downpour. "Once the rain stopped, we got packed, and I was happy to see that even the museum people — like MAM director Terence Riley and Bonnie Clearwater from MoCA — came out to support local galleries," she observed.
Johnson opened her season with "Dolos," by Chicago-based artists Dutes Miller and Stan Shellabarger, as part of her ongoing invitational series. She also featured "Steam," by Hills Snyder.
Collaborating as Miller & Shellabarger, the Chicago couple performed Untitled (Pink Tube), a never-ending performance in which the artists sit across from one another in the gallery while knitting a pink tube and conversing with the public.
The men, who have worked on the piece for the past six years, engaged spectators through a ritualistic performance that poignantly links the two as partners, procreators, and artists. "Dutes and Stan use a generic pink yarn to knit their tube that stretched along the length of the gallery and which the public could walk over and around during the evening," Johnson said. "It's a very touching and heartwarming collaboration they are working on as a metaphor for their relationship. The idea behind it is that they will continue doing so indefinitely until one or the other passes away or can no longer continue while the other partner unravels it when it's over."
The gallery also featured Untitled Silhouette (Conjoined Various Numbers), a stunning series by Miller & Shellabarger in which the duo, wearing fanciful hats, appears outlined in Somerset black velvet. Their beards are braided together so the men appear to morph into a single entity.
Snyder's "Steam" was presented inside a black-painted room where ambient sounds such as people murmuring and wind blowing was piped in. The artist affixed a montage of what appeared to be fragmented puzzle pieces scattered across the floors and walls. The Plexiglas forms were covered with photos of an azure sky and billowing clouds, adding a Chicken Little effect.
Originally installed in Amsterdam in 2002, the work includes fragments of falling sky based on hundreds of broken bicycle parts collected during a three-week jaunt in Amsterdam, a city of 1.5 million bicycles. But the sky is not falling over Wynwood. Indeed, the season opened with a roar, featuring expanded spaces, stellar shows, and even some brisk sales.