Best Of :: Arts & Entertainment
The infectious sound of los timbales and bongos fuse with the keyboard as the sax and vocals crescendo. In a matter of seconds, a seductive melody reverberates throughout the room, prompting the party people to involuntarily and uncontrollably shake their asses. They have caught Palo! fever. For more than a decade, the Afro-Cuban funk band has been bringing el sonido caliente to the Magic City. Steve Roitstein, who also teaches at Miami Dade College, is the Palo! mastermind. Prior to becoming the leader of the band, el músico worked with Willy Chirino, Julio Iglesias, and other Latin music legends. He even snagged a Latin Grammy in 2001 for a song he produced for Celia Cruz. Success was definitely on his side, but Roitstein wanted to create something he could call his own. So Palo! was born. The descarga masters may share the same name as the Afro-Cuban religion, but the story behind their moniker comes from a Cuban man who couldn't pronounce Roitstein's first name. To help him out, Roitstein explained it was like "Esteban" but in English. That's when el cubano corrected him by saying, "Ah, Estick!" Because the word palo is Spanish for "stick," the band name was born. More than a decade later, the group continues to spread its rumba across the 305. Just last year, the bandmates released their second album, Palo! Live, which was recorded during their tenth-anniversary bash at the now-defunct PAX. The band was also featured in Miami Boheme, a documentary on PBS showcasing Miami's Latin fusion bands, and their music recently aired on public radio. Roitstein and his crew are now working on a third album set to be released this fall. But you won't have to wait till then to hear them cantar la salsa — chances are you'll catch 'em throwing it down on any given weekend.
How do you know when an art gallery has catapulted into the art-world stratosphere? When collectors from Miami, New York, Los Angeles, and Paris quickly buy out its entire stock at a major art fair. That was exactly what happened to Spinello Projects at the Volta New York fair, where major collectors plunked down serious cash to pluck 25 of Farley Aguilar's atmospheric paintings off the Spinello booth walls within two hours of opening its doors, to the delight of Anthony Spinello and his rising art star. Spinello, who has experienced a meteoric rise since he became a dealer in 2005, heads one of only two local galleries invited to participate in Art Basel Miami Beach the past two years running. It's no accident. The dealer has demonstrated a keen eye for spotting talent and represents locals ready to burst onto the national stage, from Aguilar to Santiago Rubino, Sinisa Kukec, Agustina Woodgate, Typoe, Manny Preires, and Antonia Wright. The main reason: He inspires fierce loyalty. For Spinello, the program he runs is a passion. He can often be found at his artists' studios or his gallery working elbow-to-elbow with the talents on their projects. Spinello has become known not only for producing edgy, thought-provoking, and seamlessly organized exhibits, but also for assembling a stable that functions as a family network of supportive talent rather than a roster of individual egos. In a business known for ruthless competitiveness, that level of loyalty is an all too uncommon trait.
During the past five years, Jillian Mayer has catapulted to national prominence as an artist and filmmaker who creates uncanny works that employ a postmillennial techno approach while blurring identities and parsing pop cultural memes. She burst onto the scene with her 2010 Scenic Jogging, in which the artist raced after bucolic screen-saver images projected onto Wynwood warehouses. That piece later won the Guggenheim's YouTube Play biennial, where it earned Mayer raves. The next year, Mayer followed with I Am Your Grandma — a viral, deliciously creepy gem in which she sings as the bizarre granny of her future progeny; it has earned 2.6 million YouTube views and counting. She also released Giving Birth to Myself, which headlined her solo show "Family Matters" at the David Castillo Gallery with a disturbing meditation on maternity where the sweat-soaked talent re-emerges as a baby slathered in acid-green slime. In 2012, Mayer and frequent collaborator and founder of the Borscht Film Festival, Lucas Leyva, snagged national headlines after their film The Life and Freaky Times of Uncle Luke screened at Sundance and earned the duo inclusion in Filmmaker Magazine's "25 New Faces of Independent Film." Last year, Mayer's clever How to Hide From Cameras, a YouTube makeup tutorial on how to remain anonymous in an increasing surveillance state, was a finalist at the Museum of Contemporary Art's popular Optic Nerve video fest, while her film #PostModem, yet another collaboration with Leyva, screened at Sundance. These days, not only is Mayer riding a hot hand, but the wildly creative artist has also proven herself a chameleon-like changeling who's startlingly at ease with forever reinventing herself.
David Beckham is smitten with the idea of constructing a new Major League Soccer Stadium at PortMiami and calls the site perfect because it reflects a city that "is all about the water, all about the culture." Becks is right. For evidence, simply visit the planet's most popular port to discover Coral Reef City, Bhakti Baxter's first large-scale public artwork in Miami. For his eye-popping project, part of Miami-Dade County's Art in Public Places program, the homegrown artist created site-specific designs for the port's toll collection booths that reference the site's unique role as gateway to the tropics. Baxter collaborated with Coral Morphologic, a Miami-based scientific art endeavor led by marine biologist Colin Foord and musician Jared McKay to create the 18 unique designs that wrap each individual toll booth. Each delivers a stunning vision of our vibrant local sea life. To accomplish the feat, Baxter and his collaborators enlarged macro photographs of corals that inhabit the waters in and around Miami, creating a striking synergy between nature and art that captures our town's appeal as a pulsating paradise. The resulting explosion of the brilliant, rainbow-hued colors of the soft corals (technically known as zoanthids) delights not only the likes of Beckham and the millions of other visitors passing through on cruise ships, but also locals, who rarely get a chance to behold the mystery and beauty of the creatures populating our coastline.
Wynwood may be the heart of a growing global graffiti movement, but some of its murals are surprisingly soulless. Whether they depict a cool-ass dragon perched atop a mountain peak or cartoon characters committing acts of violence, many are brilliantly drawn but little more, like flashy wallpaper for warehouses. Few of the works strive to stir something inside passersby. On the southwest corner of NW Third Avenue and 27th Street, towering gold letters spell "I remember paradise" against a rainbow background. The mural, by Londoner Lakwena Maciver, is meant to invoke human longing for a lost era. "We all have this sense that there is something wrong with the world but that once there was something perfect," Maciver told New Times. It's a beautiful painting, and one that has formed the backdrop for Beyoncé Instagrams and glossy magazine spreads. But it's actually the mural cater-cornered that makes us nostalgic. There, a heavily tattooed man holds a gorgeous woman in a tender embrace. A shuttered doorway is transformed into a birdcage. The mural, by Peruvian duo Entes y Pésimo (Beings & Dreadful), perfectly captures modern-day Miami: young, Hispanic, interracial, part tattooed thug, part tender romantic. The man's face is pensive, his stance protective. The woman, unashamedly in love, stares straight out at you. How wonderfully disarming to walk through Wynwood on a weekend night, past posturing dudes and pretending chicks, and stumble upon such intimacy.
The eyes of Miami are stoned on Elmer's and see everything. The sleepy sentinels keep watch over Wynwood at NW 27th Street, make their mark on the Margulies Collection facing I-95, boldly impress passersby on Biscayne Boulevard, and peer down from above the kitchen at the bayside Standard Hotel. Whatever their location or color scheme, they are stacked by the dozens, sometimes even hundreds, and leave an impression whether or not you know the name of the man who wields the can that created the memorable work. The ignorance stops here, because the local artist deserves your recognition. "AholSniffsGlue" is not only the funniest street artist name in town, but it also gets to the heart of the whole droopy-lidded genius of his best-known trademark. But lazy eyes aren't all he draws. He's had solo exhibits of his multimedia artwork at Gregg Shienbaum and Mercenary Square and has been part of group affairs at Scope and Wynwood Art Fair. But it's the half-mast eyes that are his calling card and most notable addition to the Miami street art scene. Next time you see them, call it out: "AholSniffsGlue!" You'll look cool in front of your friends.