Oolite Arts Exhibition Is a Snapshot of Miami Art Scene | Miami New Times


"It Was Always About You..." at Oolite Arts Offers a Snapshot of Miami's Art Scene

Oolite Arts' group exhibition is a testament to the organization's ongoing presence in the community.
A pot by Oolite Arts founder Ellie Schneiderman is at the center of "It Was Always About You...."
A pot by Oolite Arts founder Ellie Schneiderman is at the center of "It Was Always About You...." Oolite Arts photo
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There may be no better place to experience the full breadth of Miami's art scene right now than at Oolite Arts.

As a testament to the organization's ongoing presence in the community, the list of participants in Oolite's latest exhibition, "It Was Always About You..." reads like a who's who of South Florida artists, from storied veterans to buzzy emerging artists. Reginald O'Neal and Ema Ri, two current residents at Oolite, have their work in the show. Cara Despain, currently nominated along with O'Neal for the Florida Prize following a Bass Museum exhibition last year, does too, and so do painters Thomas Bils and Matthew Forehand, photographer Roscoè B. Thické III, and conceptual artist Rafael Domenech. Videos from Luis Gispert and fabric works from Dimensions Variable founder Frances Trombly are also included.

The most prominent work is a tiny, elegant pot by Ellie Schneiderman, Oolite's late founder. Placed in the center of the main exhibition space, it feels like a microcosm of the show: small but mighty.
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Ahol Sniffs Glue, Untitled, ink on paper
Oolite Arts photo
With works spread across mediums and disciplines, the one thing that unites them all — besides its artists' local connections — is intimacy.

Curators Dennis Scholl, taking a pre-retirement victory lap after years as Oolite's CEO, and programs coordinator Laura Guerrero, requested smaller works from participating artists. They intended for the show to evoke the Paris Salon, a historical exhibition that made and broke the careers of countless artists, from Manet to Singer Sargent. Scholl and Guerrero didn't pack the gallery with floor-to-ceiling paintings like those old shows, but the presentation does feel similarly mixed up in the best way possible.

It's a gallery full of friends and family — nobody's judging or buying this work. The artists are participating out of a sense of community and camaraderie. In this respect, the "You" in the show's title represents the community itself. It could be the show's artists, the Oolite support staff, or the visitors who appreciate the art and support it however they can.

A few works do stick out more than others. Schneiderman's pottery painted black and white with a scalloped motif that recalls wheat or palm trees, is lovely and intricate. It's mirrored by a graffiti-esque print by Ahol Sniffs Glue of many-eyed, black-and-white-striped cartoon figures, which sits next to tonally similar prints, each featuring humorous slogans by Laura Marsh ("Low Effort, High Yield") and Kelly Breez (around an open mouth, "A portrait of an unreasonably loud conversation in a wine bar").
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Tom Virgin, Little Moon Over Little Haiti, 2020, letterpress printed reduction print
Oolite Arts photo
You can find these little connections all over the space, and some of the works are more serious, united by the anxiety inherent in living in Florida today. In a separate gallery, a sanded-down classroom globe by Agustina Woodgate speaks to the apocalyptic implications of climate change. Nearby, a painting by Lou Anne Colodny shows police looming with menace over a group of prisoners. The curators avoid romanticizing life in Miami by highlighting this kind of work.

Still, one of my favorite pieces in the exhibition does just that in its own way. Printmaker Tom Virgin's view of Little River at night resembles the old woodblock prints of Hiroshige and Hokusai. The night is deep blue, and the moon floats over trees and powerlines. Maybe living here isn't so bad after all.

"It Was Always About You...." On view through Sunday, September 17, at Oolite Arts, 924 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach; 305-674 -8278; oolitearts.org. Admission is free. Daily noon to 5 p.m.
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