Tonight's opening show at Wynwood's newest art venue, Mindy Solomon Gallery, brings Matt Vis and Tony Campbell to Miami following their major photography show at the Zachęta National Gallery of Art in Warsaw.
"It's a really strong statement to make," Solomon says. "Their work is hysterical, in a way that makes people feel comfortable with it. And that's really their whole premise: delivering work to the people."
Are you a person? Then this may be the art show for you. Wynwood is still damp and trembling from last week's Second Saturday art walk but has enough youthful elasticity to bounce back for tonight's reception, which also coincides with an opening at Emerson Dorsch, just across NW 24th Street.
Vis and Campbell comprise Generic Art Solutions, a duo that works in photography, sculpture, video, and performance, all of which are part of their new Wynwood show, "Renaissance Men." The pair is part of a loose collective that got their start in the St. Claude arts district in New Orleans, an area that went through the same growing pains as Wynwood is experiencing.
"We started the same kind of thing," Vis says. "All of the sudden, there were food trucks and an open air market, all that. If you're going to throw a party, you have to decide what the occasion is that you really want to celebrate. And how many rowdy drunks you want to invite to your house. If it's too many, maybe next time, you don't invite so many. Because if you have art inside and a ton of food trucks parked outside, we all know which one is loudest and the most attention grabbing."
He remembers there being so much smoke from the cooking outside his gallery in New Orleans that he thought the partiers had lit a bonfire in the street. So the next time, Vis says, they didn't invite as many cooks.
"It's the same thing with art. Some of our art is pretty irreverent but we like to rein it in and distill it down. Do you need ten bongo players in your band or would just one do?" Vis asks, proving himself to be an idiot because you definitely do need ten bongo players. What a dope. (Full disclosure: the Cultist Family Bongo Choir was not selected to perform at tonight's opening.)
Vis and Campbell are best known for their long-running performance piece, the Art Cops, in which the two dress in police uniforms and tour galleries, museums and art fairs to ticket and fine violators of the "rules of art."
"We don't patrol our own shows, as it seems like a conflict of interest," Vis says. "But we are considering a sweep of the neighborhood."
At last year's Art Basel Miami Beach, the Art Cops ticketed a dealer selling reclaimed Banksy street art. This past week, Banksy caused a stir in New York City when a stand selling some of his originals on canvas for only $60 popped up in Central Park alongside the usual flotilla of tourist-targeting dross prints. Several new Bansky pieces went up on walls around the city, including one in long-depressed East New York, where locals hid it from view and charged well-heeled visitors up to $20 for a peek.
As the British half of Generic Art Solutions, Tony Campbell offered some art historical perspective on his countryman Banksy's situation.
"Street art is street art and it should be free," he says. "Strictly speaking, it's technically vandalism. You're painting on someone else's property. But ancient Italian graffito is actually political by nature, about the oppressors. It's like pissing on their walls."
For a curious twist on this idea, see the below photograph of people photographing a dog getting meta on one of Banksy's newest wall pissings.
"If it's true that it was really Banksy [selling real work in the park], then what he is doing is redistributing wealth," Campbell continues. "The commodification of his work has already begun as soon as he begins it, and when he started to be collected, this complicated things. His work is supposed to tear down consumerism but now he is guilty of creating revenue.
"Where does his money go? He decided that mostly he would put it back into the art, but this is possibly one way to temporarily break out of that cycle. It's making his work affordable and, in doing so, is like handing over to the purchaser the many thousands each one of these pieces is worth. They were going for $60 a piece and I read that he sold about $225,000 worth of work, in terms of what it was valued at, even though not many pieces were sold."
"The other vague possibility," Campbell says, "is that these were all forgeries. Because Banksy himself was not there and would never be there. You have to trust in it. And if it's not true, then it's just a reverberation."
What about the odd secondary market of people being charged to see public art?
"That's just street hustlers hustling and fucking with tourists," Campbell chuckles. "It's like, 'Let me shine your shoes!' That's arguably a more valuable kind of service but, either way, the hustlers will eventually get tired of it because they're people and it's tiring to argue with other people."
But back to Miami. "We also have sculpture in this new show," Vis explains. "With any of our projects, the concept comes and then you make an object to navigate it."
One sculpture, installed alongside a video featuring its use is a peculiar tandem bicycle called Pushmi-Pullyu. Unlike most tandem bicycles in which the riders face the same direction, in the Generic Art Solutions version, the riders have their backs to each other.
"This piece," Vis explains, "is about the art of collaboration. It is literally an exercise in the conceptual difficulties of working with another person. Sometimes Tony wants to go one way with an idea and I want to go the other way. I can spend time and energy going against him or I can -- again, literally -- be behind him all the way, giving up control to support his motion forward. And when it's my turn, I can move in a different direction."
Their latest project is video currently under the working title of "Sledgehammer Symphony." It's a performance filmed in private in 9th Ward Studios, a soundstage in their New Orleans neighborhood. Cultist agreed to not reveal certain details of the video, but the title and a moment of quiet contemplation ought to give one a fairly good sense of the orchestrated destruction that takes place, especially in the context of their previous work.
"In 2010, we ended up breaking a lot of stuff at the New Orleans Museum of Art," Vis remembers. "It was for a performance called Spill, and I was a waiter. Tony was a tuxedoed diner. I did a really bad version of the magic trick where you pull the cloth out from under a fully set table, except in doing so, I smashed a lot of things. I was not good at it, much like the people trying to plug the BP Gulf oil spill kept trying things that didn't work because they weren't good at that, either."
The sounds of breakage inside the museum inspired the new video which won't be shown until December, though several of Generic Art Solutions's video pieces will be on display. These include diptych video portraits of Vis and Campbell in costume, "trying to be a convincing sculpture in a video portrait."
And though the Art Cops will not be on duty at Mindy Solomon Gallery tonight, Generic Art Solutions will be performing at the opening.
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"I don't know how to make this sound attractive," Vis says modestly, "but we will be doing occasional, unannounced performances of A Social Intercourse, which is an unscripted performance which is interactive with the audience."
"Renaissance Men" by Generic Art Solutions opens tonight, Wednesday, October 16 at Mindy Solomon Gallery. The opening reception goes from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. and the show is on view through November 16, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m, Tuesday through Saturday. Visit MindySolomon.com and GenericArtSolutions.com.