Maximo Caminero, Artist Who Smashed Ai Weiwei Vase, Returns to the Miami Art Scene

Maximo Caminero sits in his North Miami studio under a wall-engulfing abstract canvas titled Everything Vibrates.

On the stereo next to him, the devotional music of the Sufis and the plaintive lament of reed flutes raise the room’s energy to a hypnotic pitch.

Leaning forward in his battered leather recliner, the 54-year-old Dominican painter pauses to reflect. “My philosophy has always been that those of us who create art have a responsibility to be aware and conscious at all times,” he says.

The last time we heard from Caminero was in February 2014, when he made international headlines for smashing an Ai Weiwei vase at Pérez Art Museum Miami in an act of protest. At the time, Caminero declared he had done so to draw attention to what he called a lack of representation “for all the local artists in Miami who have never been shown in museums here.”

The stunt earned him the enmity of much of Miami’s art community. He was also sentenced to probation for 18 months, served 100 community hours, and paid $10,000 in restitution for the destroyed Han Dynasty urn. After vandalizing Weiwei’s vase, he publicly apologized for the act.

This Thursday night marks Caminero’s return to the local scene in the two-man show “Migration of the Sign,” organized by the Swerdlow Art Group at Rostad Edwards Fine Art in Wynwood. The exhibit also features the work of Sergio Payares, a Cuban painter whose oeuvre similarly mines themes of displacement, solitude, or banishment. The opening, which is free and takes place from 6 to 9 p.m., will include upward of 20 paintings making their public debut.
Caminero typically employs the ancient symbolism of the Taino, the first inhabitants of the Antilles, in his work, using it to contrast notions of order and chaos and explore the dynamics of contemporary society.

Payares too has evolved a conceptually distinct body of work; his resonates with the dissonance of the exile experience. His motifs often include disembodied heads, fragmented limbs, pyramid-like monuments, and solitary palm trees that appear buffeted by an unseen wind. The 54-year-old’s sprawling canvases — many executed in bone-white, almost translucent washes and completed with minimal graphite markings — are often coded with enigmatic text that heightens a sense of the timelessness and mystery his paintings convey.

Nick Swerdlow says he founded his curatorial program after working for the Gagosian Gallery in New York. “I established the Swerdlow Art Group two years ago after I began collecting art the previous summer,” the 23-year-old dealer informs. “My artists come from across the globe, from Miami to Beijing, Berlin, South America, and the West and East Coast of the United States. I plan to show a variety of both modern and contemporary painting, as well as some conceptual photography, over the next couple of years.”

Swerdlow says his program’s focus will be on featuring artists who don’t fit within the molds or confines of any movements.

“They are each unique in their own ways, and their artwork is an expression of their individuality and their cultural and ethnic backgrounds. I believe that the art world today has moved beyond the period that has been defined as postmodern, and is in a period of flux. Globalization has truly taken hold of the art world, and artists from all over the world whose practices center around their personal identities are beginning to take center stage,” the young dealer adds.

In addition to showing works by Caminero and Payares, Swerdlow says he will stage exhibits by Joshua Hagler, Maja Rujnic, and Calen Bennett this year.

"Migration of the Sign"
Through November 18 at Rostad Edwards Fine Art, 97 NW 25th St., Miami; 305-753-9521;
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