Miami Galleries and Collections Confront Controversial Issues in a Post-Election Art Week
Juliana (Prototype), 2014-2015, by Frank Benson, part of the Rubell Family Collection's exhibition "High Anxiety."
Artwork by Frank Benson
In a year dominated by distrust, outrage, and a widening gap between American people of differing ideologies, the art on view during Miami Art Week is more important now than ever. At galleries across Miami, artists are expressing their truths, inspiring discussions, and offering new perspectives — whether their work is nostalgic and locally focused, such as the monumental pyramid housing the Huffer Collective's personal Miami-found treasures, or social and political, like the "Border Baroque" works by the de la Torre brothers. Wherever you turn, you can expect less sheer Instagram-driven spectacle and more of an outright focus on big issues at Miami's galleries and collections.
Always a space that nurtures social commentary and polarizing subject matter, the Rubell Family Collection is showcasing work with strong political undertones, split between the American artist exhibition "High Anxiety" on its second floor and the Brazilian contemporary art exhibition "New Shamans /Novo Xamãs" on the ground floor. As a nation that's seen military dictatorship, massive environmental-versus-industrial conflict, and the impeachment of its first female president, Brazil has survived many North Americans' imagined worst-case scenarios while sustaining an irrepressible spirit of artistic expression. For a moving retrospective of that history, look into Rubell's room of Brazilian video art, which previews here before joining the Getty Research Institute's upcoming exhibition, "Pacific Standard Time LA/LA."
Within "High Anxiety," artworks from around the United States address the nation's general feelings of politically charged uncertainty and social dissonance. From a demonic-looking self-portrait by Calvin Marcus to the peace-sign patchwork draping the sculpture No Sex No City Carrie, this exhibition showcases a humanity within different tribes. The most graceful piece is also the most polarizing subject: Juliana, an eerily beautiful sculpture of a woman who, upon closer examination, is transgender.
(95 NW 29th St., Miami. Both exhibits are on view through August 27. Admission costs $10.)
For a timely yet timeless exploration of feminine archetypes, there's the stunning fashion-art exhibition "A Queen Within," presented by Barrett Barrera Projects at ArtSeen in Wynwood. Rare and magnificent pieces from Alexander McQueen are showcased alongside other garments and artworks by Vivienne Westwood, Comme de Garçons, Iris van Herpen, and other European designers. Fashion is used here to explore femininity in various aspects, to tell stories, and to portray the infinite personas contained within "woman"-kind. If the artistic, esoteric, thought-provoking power of fashion is indeed lost in today's blogger-centric runway shows, it is captured and celebrated here.
(2215 NW Second Ave., Miami. On view December 1 through 5. Admission is free.)
With all the political talk of building walls and fences, it's deliciously subversive that one of the season's most anticipated openings is Mindy Solomon Gallery's "The Flaunting of Youth," by Chicano brothers Einar and Jamex de la Torre. The duo's lenticular exhibition is ever-changing, full of depth, and different from every perspective — just like the Latinx presence in this country. Lenticular printing gives a 3D aspect to printed images, and the de la Torre brothers maximize that effect with material-intense artworks. They are among the most important Chicano or "Border Baroque" artists in the world today — living on both sides of the border, in San Diego, California, and Ensenada, Mexico.
"Their work really deals with social and political references," says Mindy Solomon, noting the brothers' work will compose the inaugural show at the new Smithsonian Latin American collection — an honor that underscores the importance of Mexico's cultural contributions to the United States.
And for Art Basel attendees who appreciate a different type of culture, comedian and Chicano art collector Cheech Marin will launch his Tres Papalote mezcal at the opening reception. The brand's label features de la Torre artwork.
(8397 NE Second Ave., Miami. On view November 28 through January 14, 2017. Opening reception with artists is November 28 from 6 to 9 p.m. Admission is free.)
For all of those who posted "Pray for Paris" on Facebook, the Margulies Collection at the Warehouse presents fodder for thought via Steigend Steigend Sinke Niede, a large-scale installation by Anselm Kiefer. This first-time exhibition uses salvaged materials from the historic Rue des Archives to create a war-torn landscape of broken asphalt and rusted metal. The title is a Faustian reference, translating to "rise, rise, descend."
(591 NW 27th St., Miami. On view November 28 through December 3. Admission costs $10.)
At "Transitions #3," Israeli artist Naama Tsabar's solo show at Spinello Projects, attendees will "breach the borders between one's own body and the artwork" — experiencing Tsabar's "sound sculpture" canvasses by plucking strings, activating microphone outputs, and otherwise manipulating sculpture to create an acoustic environment.
(7221 NW Second Ave., Miami. On view November 28 and December 4. Vernissage December 2 from 8 to 11 p.m., with a performance at 9:30 p.m. Admission is free.)
Locust Projects, Miami's longest-running experimental art space, supports artists in presenting projects that are logistically complicated and commercially uncertain. This year, they're presenting two new shows by Miami favorite Huffer Collective and Pittsburgh artist Alexis Gideon. Huffer Collective's monumental pyramid housing personal treasures is a Miami-nostalgic autobiographical work (see page 22). Gideon's installation, The Comet and the Glacier, incorporates four structures of installation that house the artist's narrative world — a work of fact and fiction, where memory and imagination and déjà vu are malleable. The "video opera" with music composed by Jacob Rosen plays to stop-motion animation while Gideon sings and raps his narrative. At key moments, the animated characters sing right along with him.
(3852 N. Miami Ave., Miami. On view through January 21, 2017. Gideon will perform live December 1 at 8 and 10 p.m., December 2 at 11 a.m., December 3 at 11 a.m. and 6 p.m., and December 4 at 11 a.m.)
The most personal exhibition of the bunch is also one that should spark a conversation about white America's love of black pop culture — and its simultaneous aversion to confronting race issues that pose an enormous threat to black Americans. Nina Johnson presents the first figurative painting show by Bronx-born, Yale-educated African-American art sensation Awol Erizku: "I Was Going to Call It Your Name but You Didn't Let Me." It's a pop-art exhibition about a bad breakup, and it's immediately relatable and engagingly personal. The reappearing subject is a woman's hand — a figure the artist admits he appropriated from a Los Angeles nail salon. The color palette is bright and bold, with cheerful energy and the floral imagery typically employed by Erizku. Each painting is paired with a song or a YouTube sound bite, creating a breakup playlist that many attendees will want to borrow for their own listening pleasure. Yet even while loving this show and its universal theme, viewers should consider the race questions that are central to Erizku's work and his life — and to our collective future beyond Miami Art Week.
(6315 NW Second Ave., Miami. On view through January 14, 2017. Admission is free.)
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