Art Basel is just around the corner, and local galleries are pulling out their big guns in anticipation of the December confab. Here are our picks for this month's edition of the Saturday-evening culture creep, our city's most popular cheap night out on the town.
For "Tamim," Zack Balber's solo debut at the Fredric Snitzer Gallery (2247 NW First Pl., Miami), the artist has titled his exhibit after the Hebrew word that means pure, unblemished, and complete. But for Balber, the word is elastic enough to reflect his notion of the "bear Jew."
That term was used by the Germans in Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds to describe Sgt. Donny Donowitz, who enjoyed beating Nazis to death with a baseball bat. We mention this to clarify any confusion that the term bear Jew might connote a large, hairy Hebrew homosexual.
Second Saturday Art Walk
Likewise, Balber's photographic portraits at Snitzer reveal subjects at the far edges of the Jewish mainstream. At first blush, the young men in his pictures appear to be imposing figures. Many of them are covered in enough ink to print the pages of a tabloid.
Not unlike Balber, a product of the mean streets of Pittsburgh, many of his subjects were raised in gritty inner-city neighborhoods throughout the country and, like the artist, might have concealed their culture behind a gruff exterior to fit in.
With his compelling photos, the artist cracks through the façade and captures their vulnerabilities. His band of fellow bear Jews also inspired Balber to reconnect with his faith — his subjects appear wearing the same yarmulke the artist himself wore during his bar mitzvah.
Around the corner at Gallery Diet (174 NW 23rd St., Miami), Bhakti Baxter's ball-busting exhibit is the locally based artist's first Miami solo show in four years.
The highly anticipated exhibit, which includes sculpture, painting, collage, and installation-based work, is called "Rompelotas," a play on the Spanish term rompe pelotas, which translates to "ball breaker."
Look for some adroit legerdemain from Baxter, whose exhibition juggles the laws of gravity, density, and the malleability of mass while striking a balance between play and placement.
You can also expect him to employ found objects — such as soccer balls and office desk drawers encrusted in concrete and enamel — to portray what the gallery calls "irrational models of natural phenomena."
If you need further convincing, don't miss Baxter's impressively titled Imploded Volleyball Barf (Cosmic Yolk Residue of Transformation) Mom's Garage, cobbled from Southern pine, a volleyball, concrete, enamel, metal, and screws. Call 305-571-2288 or visit gallerydiet.com.
Richard Haden is one hell of an artist whose mind-boggling, hyper-realist, painted-wood sculptures of imploded fire extinguishers or crumpled truck fenders and milk jugs are instantly recognizable. He's also an avid long-distance runner. So for his new show, "(RAD) Running à Dérive," at the Dorsch Gallery (151 NW 24th St., Miami), Haden has moved beyond carving wood to create a collaborative video with Bill Bilowit titled Entering the Republic of Misery for a show that also includes sculpture and digital prints.
While training for the upcoming New York Marathon, the artist strapped a GoPro athletic camera to his head and navigated through Miami's toughest inner-city neighborhoods. He also collected pieces of detritus left behind by area denizens to re-create in his sculptures on view at the gallery. In addition, he shot hours of raw video of his frank and personal encounter with a young woman who goes by the street name "Mercedes."
To transform his recording of Mercedes into an artwork, Haden collaborated with locally based Wet Heat Project filmmaker Bilowit, a veteran of up-close-and-personal, atmospheric documentary films. The result is a month's narrative of Mercedes's roller-coaster life of prostitution, drugs, jail, rehab, and intuitive urban survival, carved and shaped into a 25-minute loop by Bilowit's intensive editing.
Haden's daily life is all about risk — a man in his 50s running the punishing New York Marathon or armed only with his imagination while bounding through Miami's uncharted killing grounds. Call 305-576-1278 or visit dorschgallery.com.
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Over in the Design District, at Primary Projects (4141 NE Second Ave., Ste. 104, Miami), Kenton Parker transports viewers to the City of Angels' hardscrabble streets with "It Takes All This to Be Me," his first solo project since 2007.
Parker is known for swallowing and then vomiting up mainstream cultural imagery, later subverting that aesthetic with aggressive visual and textual commentary.
With his wacky installations, film sculpture, and wall-based works, the artist channels multiple roles, such as the vagrant, the journalist, the graphic designer, and the taco vendor.
Expect to see Parker's miniature replica of his fully functioning L.A. taco shop and even a pair of stunning, mouse-size installations. Call 954-296-1675 or visit primaryprojectspace.com.