Phillip Ross Munro is perhaps best known for his dynamic underwater photography portraying swimmers clad in flowing fabric evoking images of classical paintings. His technically masterful large-format photographs shot off the South Florida coast are sumptuous and operatic in nature.
But in a new series marking a departure, Munro turns his lens shore side to explore the nature of what's hidden under our noses. His striking light box piece titled Scotoma #16 (Oil Spill) is on view as part of "Sex, Drugs & Profanity" at the Robert Fontaine Gallery, an eye-opening group show that hews to a panoramic approach of the subject matter.
Seamlessly curated by 35 year-old dealer Robert Fontaine, the exhibit combines works by Munro and other Miami artists like Tina La Porta with big names like Damien Hirst and Nan Goldin from the gallery's secondary market holdings where the locals hold their own displayed against top-drawer talent.
Munro's light box piece mingles aspects of the traditional nude beefcake images with a candid shot of a man lost in the pages of the Sunday paper in his backyard.
And, while the picture might imply the psychosexual reveries of a closeted rooster hawk, Munro's image exudes a gorgeous chiaroscuro effect reminiscent of a Rembrandt painting telegraphing the talented artist's classical training.
Nearby Troy Abbott's poignant installation, Faggot, is autobiographical in nature. The local artist hung scarlet drapes on a wall and superimposed a grade school photo of himself on the curtains inside an ornate, gold rococo frame.
Beneath it the artist arranged a church-like altar replete with a gold-brocaded pew and covered the altar with dozens of candles arranged to spell the work's title. His installation immediately evoked thoughts of the child abuse scandals bringing the Catholic Church to its knees and even the recent Penn State University tragedy.
But for Abbott the work is more about lost innocence and the power of words spoken by adult authority figures such as teachers and the harm they inflict on clueless children.
Another artist mining the nature of vulgarity is England's Simon Thompson who eschews subtlety to take a stab at the contemporary art scene with a visual gesture akin to a punk rocker's middle finger offered from the sleeve of a ratty leather jacket. His edition of ten silk screens on gun targets read "Fuck off Art Cunts" as the man in the picture points a Saturday night special at viewers.
Piotr With His AIDS Medicine
|Piotr With His AIDS Medicine|
On an adjacent wall Nan Goldin's Piotr With His AIDS Medicine appears not far from Scott Snyder's picture of a slumbering bear cradling empty bottles of Hydrocodone in what Fontaine refers to self portraits adding that the artist suffers from Multiple Sclerosis.
These works compliment each other effectively both reflecting hot button issues of healthcare in our society.
One of the stranger works on view is Jefro's The Bitch of Belsen (Irma Grese), a portrait of the notorious warden of the women's section of the Nazi concentration camp, Bergen-Belsen.
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Grese, who also worked at Auschwitz, became the youngest woman to die under English law in the 20th century when she was executed at 22 for war crimes. She was famous for setting her starving dogs on inmates, beating them with whips and random shootings of prisoners.The portrait seems out of place given the show's theme and subject matter.
If one were to look for a bone to pick with Fontaine's exhibit it's that it lacks bleeding-edge video or new media works that would have elevated it to the next level. But barring that the dealer has delivered a decent account of his program with this tidy exhibit that warrants a visit.
"Sex, Drugs & Profanity" Through December 5. Robert Fontaine Gallery (175 NW 23rd St., Miami), Call 305-397-8530 or visit robertfontainegallery.com.