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OHWOW's Al Moran on Materialism and It Ain't Fair 2011

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A lot can be said about OHWOW's quick two-year residency in Miami. In a short time, the gallery-meets-performance space brought us an incredible amount of quality exhibitions as well as unforgettable parties, all coming out of a simple black-and-white warehouse in the middle of Allapattah.

Who can forget exhibits by David Lynch and Neckface, or the group show "Dadarhea"? But everything always seemed to peak during Art Basel Miami Beach, when the gallery put on It Ain't Fair, a tongue-and-cheek play on words that seemed to represent the anti-fair.

And while OHWOW's brick-and-mortar space in Miami is long gone, It Ain't Fair is still coming back. And how could it not? Because despite the gallery's widely reported success in Los Angeles, where it moved its flagship location earlier this year, co-founder Al Moran still a Miami boy at heart.

And this year's "not a fair" brings a first -- a underlying theme of "Materialism," which according to the gallery, "aims to focus on the physicality of artwork, the matter that constitutes an object, and the new methods employed by artists toward approaching material."

Artist tackling the theme, which runs from December 1-4, includes Daniel Arsham, Justin Beal, Anna Betbeze, Ashley Bickerton, Scott Campbell, N. Dash, Sam Falls, Michael Genovese, Luis Gispert, Angel Otero, Ryan Reggiani, Bert Rodriguez, Aurel Schmidt, David Benjamin Sherry, Lucien Smith, Agathe Snow, Nick Van Woert, and Aaron Young.

But beyond It Ain't Fair, Cultist had to ask Moran about the state of OHWOW's relationship with Miami -- and we finally seemed to get an answer, but not necessarily the one we were hoping for.

New Times: The theme this year is "Materialism." Can you elaborate more on that?
Al Moran: It's the first year that we've had a working topic for the show. Usually its been inviting artists to the show and they contribute whatever they want to it. This year, we thought it would be tighter curatorially if we would come out with some sort of rallying cry. We selected a lot of artists that were making use of interesting materials, or reusing and reinventing ways the materials are being used.

We also invited people who aren't used to working with materials to see what they could come up with. For example, Aurel Schmidt does drawings basically with color pencils. We invited her to see what her take on materiality was like.

What's behind the name It Ain't Fair? It sounds both matter-of-factly and like a "fuck you" to the traditional art fairs.
The first year we did it, we came up with that name on the level that it's just not an art fair, instead it's an actual curated exhibition where art can be seen. It's within a dedicated space without the confines or the noise that the fairs bring with them.

The name is also tongue-and-cheek because the first year we did it, in 2008 when the gallery opened, we had an incredible list of artists and there were a lot of people that curated that show with us -- Jeffery Deitch, Javier Peres of Peres Projects, Terence Koh. It was like it isn't fair that we just launched this endeavor and look at the piece we built around us.

The gallery has been absent in Miami since last Basel. What have you've been up to since then?
We opened up our flagship location in Los Angeles in March. We've been programming out here and committed to being in LA. Already, we have programs scheduled through the summer of 2013. There's a long list of things we need to tackle out here right now.

OWHOW, when it started, stood for Our House West of Wynwood. Does that still hold true?
We dropped the acronym. It worked on a local level, but the bigger the brand got the bigger the reach got for the gallery. That's how it originally launched but we stayed true to the brand for six months before we started doing projects all over the world. It's just OHWOW.

How's LA different from Miami?
It's pretty black and white. I wouldn't want to compare the cities because Miami doesn't really have the environment to support what we were doing out there, while LA has been very receptive to what we've been bringing out here. There's just a lot more eyeballs out here. The shows we put out here are being seen by a global audience because everyone who's moving around the world is in LA at least once every two months. We are very fortunate to get a lot of great people coming through the space, from curators to museum folks to collectors. There's just more of a support network out here.

Do you still think Miami is a great art city?
That's a loaded question, because I want to say yes because my heart is there because I was raised there most of my life. But the reality is, on a year-round basis, the city can't sustain an ambitious art program.

Some people may disagree, but I think that's a valid assessment.
Yea, that's why you don't really see the major galleries in the city. I mean, Emmanuel [Perrotin] took a shot at it, and he quickly found out there wasn't a support system there for him. And I don't think I could have taken more of a shot than what I did. Everything we did down there we ended up selling to LA, New York, and Europe. The collectors down there really don't support the local galleries; they want to buy in LA, London, and Paris.

So you think local collectors go elsewhere to buy?
I think the majority of collections based out of Miami are acquisitions from out of the state.

Well despite your move to LA, I see that OHWOW's upcoming exhibition is a solo show by Bert Rodriguez, which is great to see the gallery supporting Miami artists.
The gallery was built as supporting New York [artists] in Miami. We are doing the same thing is LA, but at the same time I do have an affinity for Miami artists. So in the same vein, I'm going to try to bring what's relevant in Miami to LA or wherever we go next.

Will OHWOW ever open a Miami-based gallery once more?
We have the bookstore at the Standard. That's been a nice outlet for us even though the people who go to the Standard are mostly tourists. But right now the store is as ambitious as I'm going to get in Miami just because we have other cities in our sights that are more viable. Next year, we are opening up a showroom in Hong Kong, and we are looking around for a space in Europe.

But at least for the time being, It Ain't Fair will be returning to Basel regularly?
You know how we operate, we do whatever feels natural at the moment. If you talk to me now, yea, we'll keep doing It Ain't Fair because it's nice to go back to Miami and bring that energy during the week. But, who knows, things might change.

Follow Cultist on Facebook and Twitter @CultistMiami.

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