Evan Robarts grew up in Miami Beach and moved to New York more than a decade ago to pursue a degree in sculpture. These days, the 30-year-old artist has a studio in Brooklyn and often visits his hometown. This provides the perfect vantage point to view the staggering changes to the landscapes of two of America's premier art scenes.
"The Miami Beach I grew up in has changed completely," he observes. "And the same commercialization and changes are happening now in Brooklyn... I feel displaced and caught somewhere in the middle."
Robarts' sense of displacement and long family history in South Beach -- his grandparents owned a local hotel in the 1950s -- is reflected in an untitled work he created during a recent residency in Miami that will be on view this week at Lincoln Road's ArtCenter/South Florida, which is presenting "I-95 South." The group show pairs three Miami and four New York artists ranging in age from 24 to 33.
The exhibit, which also features locals Johnny Laderer, Gustavo Oviedo, and Luis Pinto and New York's Tyler Healy, Dean Levin, and Kyle Yanagihara, offers a unique opportunity to compare the work of emerging talent in both cities.
"These artists' works are influenced by their environment -- whether by the underground art and music scene, the urban landscapes of Brooklyn or Wynwood, or their proximity to each other within the walls of their studio," says ArtCenter's artistic director, Susan Caraballo.
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Robarts' part of the exhibit features three boogie boards he purchased at a Lincoln Road tourist trap. He cut out the middles and inserted flat-screen monitors. Each one loops a short video taken with a cell phone. One of them pictures the scummy surface of the Gowanus Canal, which is located near his Brooklyn studio and is one of America's most polluted waterways, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Another video shows the glossy floors of the midtown Miami Target store gleaming under fluorescent lights in a way that suggests rippling waves. And the third depicts palm fronds gently swaying in the breeze.
"South Beach has become consumed by the commercial tourist and nightlife industry, and much of its history has been glossed and developed over," Robarts says. "I shot the video of the canal near my studio, which has caused some of the highest cancer statistics in the nation, to show how unchecked development destroys the environment, which ironically is what is happening here as well."