Every year, YoungArts Awareness Day celebrates the outstanding artists that make up the organization's roster of alumni. Last year, the YoungArts Campus housed a solo exhibition of hometown hero and YoungArts award winner Daniel Arsham, the most internationally recognized local artist of his generation. This year, YoungArts celebrates the day with a group show, curated by sculptor and YoungArts master teacher Robert Chambers, that includes some of its most notable alumni — Arsham, Naomi Fisher, Hernan Bas, and Nicole Eisenman — mixed in with recent winners.
The pieces that make up "MouthWater" form a rich mosaic of materials ranging from painting, installation, and sculpture to video. No matter the medium, the warm palettes and rich textures are meant to create a strong, almost primordial, sensory experience. The show is designed to leave viewers craving more work from this wide swath of artists. At the same time, it creates a platform on which pieces from artists at various stages in their careers can weave a substantive dialogue.
"'MouthWater' is a metaphor for a feast of aesthetics in the visual arts that has been generated at YoungArts," Chambers explains. "I wanted a visceral title descriptive of the hunger, drive, and determination it takes for artists to create new work."
Inspired by colors and scenes he witnessed while riding home from school on the train, Leonardo Bacan abstracts shape and color to create a canvas that's a study of the South Florida sunset. Bridge's rich oranges and reds collide with dark and azure blues that shimmer in contrast. Bacan is a 2016 YoungArts award winner and is attending New World School of the Arts.
Set against Bacan's work is Eric Rhein's Fly Leaves. Rhein is a more established artist and a 1980 YoungArts award winner. He began his practice in the early '80s in New York's East Village, where he made work that was tied to his queer identity. In Fly Leaves, he created individual abstract portraits of close friends and acquaintances who had succumbed to AIDS. The delicate wire sculptures, set against thin paper, create subtle shadows that evoke the fragility of mortality.
Playing off the idea of the body in art, Jackson McGrath is a local artist who fuses performance, photography, and installation. Inspired by conceptual artists such as Vito Acconci, McGrath seeks to expand the boundaries of art to the artist's actual body — exploring its physical, as well as psychological, space. McGrath is a 2015 award winner, born and raised in Miami Beach, and he's attending the Cooper Union School of Art.
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In A, McGrath establishes a narrative between a mound of sand and a picture of himself scooping up sand on a beach, hung on a wall above the mound. It's an installation that explores an ostensibly casual relationship between two disparate mediums: photography and earthworks. The viewer is left questioning the relationship between the two and the role of the artist — thrust into the very center of the installation.
Meandering around YoungArts' exhibition space, you'll find it easy to get lost in the compact yet broad scope of the show. The artists and their pieces represent a cross section of the highly varied work supported by the organization. By combining the work of past and current YoungArts talent, "MouthWater" makes the future of culture in Miami seem even brighter.
On view September 27 through November 21, at the YoungArts Campus, 2100 Biscayne Blvd., Miami The opening today will feature special refreshment and food available for purchase to celebrate National YoungArts Day. Admission is open to the public.