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Antonia Wright and Ruben Millares: Booking It at Spinello Projects

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During the past few years, gallerist Anthony Spinello has departed from Miami's sweltering summer climes to curate projects in Europe. But this summer he's been pouring his sweat into two striking solo shows, both opening this Saturday at his eponymous space west of Wynwood.

"Antonia Wright and Ruben Millares are a very powerful and dynamic artist couple, reminiscent to the intense artistic and romantic relationship of Marina Abramovic and Ulay," Spinello says.

Spinello, who has been supporting the duo's collaborations recently, including "Drinks on Me" at his gallery this past Art Basel, knows a good thing when he sees it. After all, not many dealers can boast having a mega collector get smacked in the gob by one of their artists -- only to ask for more of the same.

"This past December, the nude duo tossed balloons full of wine and ink at each other within a sealed room. Spectators became voyeurs as they peered through peepholes to view the performance," Spinello recalled. "Mira and Don Rubell were at the gallery during the performance. No one anticipated the performance to be as violent and explosive as it was. I had to run to the freezer to get ice for Mira, she thought her tooth was chipped -- thank god it was only a fat lip! However, she was very happy to see such a performance here in our own backyard, Miami."

You can expect more fireworks from Wright and Millares this weekend when they open "State of the Book," a scathing commentary on the devaluation of the book and the rising budget cuts to arts and education plaguing contemporary society.

Cultist caught up to the conceptual duet earlier this week and here is how they describe their heady exhibition:

How long have you and Ruben been working on this project?

Ruben and I have been working with books since the summer of 2010. We have been thinking of the project for several years and are excited to be debuting "State of the Book" at Spinello Projects this Saturday.

Is this the culmination of your "smashing through a wall of books" performances?

"State of the Book" is an extension of Job Creation in a Bad Economy; a project where we build huge walls of books and repeatedly smash through them with our bodies.

"In that series we are creating a playful commentary on the somber issue of the devaluation of the arts and education in our society as seen symbolically in the problems facing libraries in the US today. With the extreme action of tearing down these bookshelves, we physically and metaphorically tackle the bureaucracy and walls that uphold these systems.

In "State of the Book," we are attempting to aid in the solution of these problems facing closing and underfunded libraries. We saw a poster during the Occupy Movement that said, 'You know things are bad when librarians start protesting."

Culture builds around institutions such as libraries, and without access we are losing more than we shortsightedly realize. As Orwell famously wrote in 1984: "Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past."

How many books did you use in the exhibit?

We will have roughly 1,523 books in the collection.

Where did you get them from?

We have asked certain people who respect the book to curate different sections of genres for the exhibition. If you believe that the books you read affect how one sees the world and who you are, then these create a portrait of each lender. We have also asked many of the museums in Miami including MAM, The Bass Museum, and MOCA to lend us old catalogues to paint a picture of the exhibition history of their museum.

I understand you are recreating a bookstore storefront vibe at gallery entrance. Can you elaborate on that?

The front of the piece will look like the front of a book store, with a window vitrine featuring certain books, a hand painted sign, doors, a neon, etc. We would like it to simulate the feeling you get when you walk by a good bookstore and can't help but enter.

Do you guys prefer reading books in traditional form? Do you often visit libraries?

Yes, we have never read an e-book and hope to never have to.

What are some of the surprises in store for visitors at your "book shop"?

We are scheduling programming throughout the course of the exhibit. We will have readings by various local writers, including my mother, Carolina Garcia-Aguilera, and a children's story hour. The goal is to [activate] the space as much as possible throughout the course of the show. The piece will culminate in a surprise performance called "Copyright Infringement" at the end of the summer.

What are some of the components of your performance for the show?

Not going into too much detail about the surprise performance at the end, I can say it is inspired by themes of the book, it is high energy, and like much of our work, dangerous.

In Spinello's spanking new Project Space, don't miss "The World Is Yours," the debut solo of Miami's Franky Cruz, who is dishing a mash up between biological and human nature using fictitious drug lord Tony Montana and junk salvaged from his Hialeah neighborhood as inspiration.

"I'm incredibly thrilled and proud to present the debut project of multi-disciplinary artist, Franky Cruz," says Spinello. "I've been following and supporting Franky for some time now. A few years ago when he was studying at New World School of the Arts he was suspended for literally suspending himself from the rafters of the Wynwood New World School of the Arts artist's studios, ARTSEEN.

"His studio was taken away from him. I immediately set him up with a studio inside my gallery storage room so he can complete the works for his Senior show at CIFO. I even exhibited a large piece, De Pielal Piso, from his Senior show in Switzerland during Art Basel. When I visited Franky's Hialeah backyard studio I knew instantly without words that he was on to something. He was ready," the dealer concluded.

Opening reception July 13 from 7 to 11 p.m. "State of the Book" and "The World Is Yours" through September 7 at Spinello Projects, 2930 NW Seventh Ave., Miami. 786-271-4223; spinelloprojects.com. Admission is free.

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