Local Views For Basel
To see Glexis Novoa's art is to witness a testimony to the destructive essence of humanity. Don't miss his "New Work" at Bernice Steinbaum Gallery. Oswald Spengler in his Decline of the West pointed out that all civilizations come and go, leaving bare vestiges of their grandeur. Did we learn any lessons? According to Novoa, we have not.
There's something intractably romantic about Novoa's art; after a tradition of 500 years of drawing on paper, this Cuban-born artist decides to draw on marble, an ideal medium for a messier art form, sculpture. We associate marble with nobility, in particular with history, which is Novoa's passion. But this is a different kind of history, being "drawn" after the end of the world. Or is it in between civilizations? Let's examine some modern models of cityscapes I find akin to Novoa's. What Tony Garnier had in mind with his Cité Industrielle was a social normative model, as was Corbusier's plan for a city of three million inhabitants. Sant'Elia, the Italian Futurist architect, despised the idea of representing any kind of ceremonial, theatrical, decorative, monumental, or exotic architecture, which is precisely what Novoa does.
As opposed to Sant'Elia's Città Nuova, Novoa depicts marginal Expressionist perspectives of a ruinous global village; a mix of all the histories he can muster in one big spectacle. This is kind of new -- even for Novoa, whose previous representations were more historic, emphasizing the homogeneity of the Totalitarian State. Novoa's pictorial foresight comes closer to Paul Virilio than Spengler. In his essay "The Overexposed City," Virilio leaves open the possibility that architecture will simply become another way of dominating the planet by destroying the urban environment. Novoa goes past this moment, when the planet has already been obliterated.
I see Europa as a multicultural, postcolonial EU before the forces of fundamentalism win over, the fulfilled prophecy of al Qaeda. It's a makeshift war campsite, the sky filled with huge eyeball surveillance machines; domes of all kinds, minarets, gothic towers, spires displaying thin flags, as if in some unlikely Christian/ Islamic HQ. Who and where is the enemy? Inside itself, amorphous, plotting destruction.
The end of history may not be the final synthesis of a great unfolding. Neither utopia nor dystopia. Not a whimper, not a bang. Landscape of Events is a huge rectangular marble slab supported by a metal structure, and Novoa's details are painstakingly small and sparse, an appropriate comment on human insignificance -- and folly.
Campground portrays a city in ruins, but not because of some nuclear conflagration -- too much is left intact. Still standing is the huge Motherland Memorial, the Mother of Russia statue in Volgograd -- recurrent in Novoa's work. I think the totalitarian symbols hold beyond a particular geographic place. Novoa is shifting from cataclysm to implosion, when a system is annihilated by its own overproduction.
What is there after the end? Another beginning? As weird as it may seem, Novoa may not be reporting from the living. In "Approaches to Nothingness" Edgar Morin explores the idea that death does not mean the destruction of our bodies, because at some point our selves can end up in the equivalent of some supercomputer's hard drive. This is the awareness of one who has already disappeared. Or perhaps Novoa hints at the oblivion of our collective memories; if we ever come back we will repeat the same mistake all over again -- which, as we know, has already happened.
"Frenzy" at That Space (across from the Rubells) was a nice show put together by Alisa Pitchenik, an associate professor of visual arts at New World School of the Arts, and Jordan Massengale, a teacher at Miami International University of Art and Design. Even as I walked in the space, Massengale was still sticking labels on the wall while Pitchenik helped by informing people about the artists' work.
This was an intercollegiate effort that brought together talent from FIU, New World School of the Arts, and Miami International University. According to Pitchenik, the show was organized in groups: domestic pieces in the kitchen, detailed graphic work for the smaller rooms, and installations in the "office-like" spaces. "The main room was left for a more frenetic work -- something like a feeding frenzy for the eyes," explained Pitchenik.
Of course there were hits and misses -- this is a large student show, after all. But I enjoyed the originality of the pieces. I took special interest in Tom Nolan's black vinyl cushions filled with city landscapes, Pitchenik's own video showing a girl sliding up and down in an empty, dirty pool, and Mirna Massengale's sensually colored photos.
I was also fond of Robert Estlinbaum's storybooks filled with fantastic ideograms; Ana Kamiar's delicate, hairy constructions on paper; and Mari Marcano's poetic text in silvery cursive letters on dry palm leaves. Also note Carla D'Allessio's color photos of different females on a bed; MSG-inc.org's video, shot like a quirky commercial; and works by the Guerilla Tactiks. "The pieces were selected for quality and consistency," said Pitchenik. According to Massengale, the volume of talented new artists who lack a venue for showing has increased tremendously -- he calls this moment "an evolving point for Miami." I agree. There's a need for an alternative venue to encourage the exhibiting of student talent; it would be nice if That Space became a permanent fixture outside the academy box. Before I left, Massengale added with impassioned delivery: "I read a brief article last year in some magazine, which I don't remember now, listing the top 25 art cities in America, and Miami was not even on the list. Fuck that, I say."
Finally, pay a visit to "Code" at Dorsch Gallery, a show with some of Miami's best and most interesting artists: Ralph Provisero, Mark Koven, Jordan Massengale, Kerry Ware, Kyle Trowbridge, Brian Reedy, Franklin Einspruch, Carolina Salazar, and Claudia Scalise, among others. A review of this show is forthcoming.
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