A Range Just Right
For those who find it difficult what to make of some of the art being shown today, here's a solution: Suspend judgment. Concepts need time to grow on you. That's why a skeptic like Marcel Duchamp believed it was better not to know what to believe, rather than believe something without a doubt.
Norberto (Bert) Rodriguez's "( )" at Fredric Snitzer Gallery presents us with this predicament. In Duchampian fashion Bert's favorite occupation is to make you think. In parentheses I welcome this new work. In this show he's succinct and minimal, his message as cryptic as a Sumerian tablet.
We are introduced to a clean, spacious arrangement of Scandinavian-type lightly varnished furniture: tables, bed, cabinets, shelves, and a big mirror. It's elegant, minimal, and efficient. To top it off, feng shui services are provided by a feng shui priestess (not a hoax). It's not obvious what the pieces mean, or what Bert's role is in all this. Did he build the pieces? Is this some kind of feng shui showroom? How about this: If in feng shui everything has qi (a vital energy with the ability to affect us), Bert may be trying -- at least for the duration of your visit -- to make his installation fit your body by taking the most vital energy from his pieces. To be sure, the arrangement breathes some kind of order, but after looking at yourself in the mirror, you should question whether the artist's main motive is to be benevolent with your qi -- maybe he's just putting you on. The best part is that Bert gives no clues.
Also at Snitzer, Michelle Weinberg is showing "Reading Room." Weinberg's collages wittily dab at stereotypes of female domesticity. Her cut-and-paste work is simple, minimal, and intentionally seems amateurish. Weinberg fills her flat spaces with squares, bubbles, furniture, and early-Sixties-looking female and male figures, separated by tastes and division of labor. Formally it's not easy to suggest movement within a medium as flat as collage while simultaneously using it as ornament -- which she does. I discovered surprising pop associations and kitsch decoration all within this dated seductive flavor. Weinberg hasn't shied away from going back to and cautiously enjoying a place in time when things seemed more authentic and genuine and yet, in retrospect, deceiving.
Glexis Novoa and Naomi Fisher's "New Work Miami" at Miami Art Museum is the last of four installments commissioned for 2001. You have to be impressed by Novoa's proficiency at pictorial utopias. He teases the audience with the horizon line at eye level, starting counterclockwise from the door. Follow it closely and discover, here and there, tiny islets, like emerging revelations. Novoa keeps the prize for the end: utopia itself, hinting at the political redemption of aesthetics -- a place where everything is larger than life and the mundane becomes sacred.
Amid shadows and lines, with light breathing through structural design and aesthetic austerity, some of the most important legacies in modern architecture pop up together on one island: Buckminster Fuller's geodesic dome, Soviet realist statuary, Futurist silhouettes, Mies-like profiles, and whatnot. This is a perfect island, a promised land. Novoa then ropes in the island. A public telephone across the room from the monumental drawing can be used to call anywhere you want, gratis.
I must confess that Fisher's work has grown on me, and now it makes me think of a strange symbiosis of gender and nature, females and flora. I remember previous works by her: female buttocks, hairy legs, and closeups of sweaty skin amid green tropical vegetation. It had a mood of staged artificiality reminiscent of the subject in a window at a natural-history museum, and it made us all voyeurs. Now Fisher creates hyperrealist shots of subjects overlaid by flower petals and leaves captured in midair. It's a midsummer night's dream, in which one relies on something other than sense perception. Disrupting and transforming visions, Fisher goes Dionysian, indulging in colored moods of strong filtered hues, like dated Technicolor material. This work has less of the artist's typical eeriness and more exuberance.
As most know by now, Art Basel will not come here this year. The sudden cancellation is explained in their Website: uncertainty owing to threat of terrorism, anthrax, and potential attacks in the future. After claiming they've lost about four million dollars because of the postponement, they anticipate that the premiere of Art Basel Miami Beach will happen in December 2002. Some artists were dismayed, some frustrated, some disappointed. I see it this way: Basel was a way to gain legitimization and credibility outside Miami, and this already has happened. But it did because we paid attention to and nurtured our own home talent. So relax, folks, it will come next year; in the meantime we can continue to build up our own home.
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