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Primary Projects' "International Friendship Exhibition": American Kitsch Glorified

Known as a venue friendly to local artists, Primary Projects doesn't disappoint with its Art Basel gathering of Miami creatives.

The "International Friendship Exhibition", a group show of 19 artists, including Autumn Casey, Jim Drain, Gavin Perry, Asif Farooq, Magnus Sodamin, Cole Sternberg, Cody Hudson, and Michael Vasquez, is titled in reference to Kim Jong-il's gift pavilion of the same name. The exhibition pays homage to the nature of contradiction, a concept ironically exemplified in the kitsch-and-propaganda-filled pavilion in North Korea.

See also: Art Basel Miami Beach 2014 Local Gallery Guide

Curators Books Bischof, Cristina Gonzalez, and Typoe pulled the idea from an article about the International Friendship Exhibition in North Korea, describing the ongoing exhibit as an exercise in contradiction. The pavilion acts as propaganda, giving the impression of worldwide support for the North Korean government. Bischof says Primary's show is a balance between some artists taking the idea of contradiction literally and the curators acknowledging that, in some respects, what galleries and artists do here in the U.S. is no different than North Korea's blatant declaration of power.

"Whether it's in our gallery, in the Convention Center, or any type of other program going on in the city versus kitsch objects behind glass windows in North Korea, they're saying 'I'm fucking awesome,' or 'money and power,' or 'this is who we are, this is why we're the best,'" says Bischof. "Welcome to Miami Art Week."

Entering the Primary space you'll find blacklight, pops of color, and neon (naturally), but that particular Miami spark is tinged with darkness. In fact, several read like broken down depictions of the American Dream, deconstructing typical symbols of success and happiness.

Gavin Perry's Rainbows and Unicorns -- a giant rebar rainbow going from bright to black -- is the artist's interpretation of "one of the most overused and quotidian artifices of man," according to the gallery statement.

Reed Van Brunschot's digitally modified chairlift, timed to rise up the wall every six minutes, was a favorite among visitors. Though most might see the chair as a signifier of immobility or infirmity, Brunschot said she finds childlike wonder in the curiosity it can illicit, and wanting to "take a ride."

Autumn Casey's wax and mirror, metaphorical self-portrait.

Nothing says lost youth like glamour shots. One of artist Zachary Balber's pieces shows shots of his sister, taken before her untimely death.

Andrew Nigon's oft-used insulation gets the framed, suburban home treatment.

"This exhibit houses a lot of Miami artists, but the ones who aren't from here this romantic relationship with Miami," Bischof says. "Cody Hudson's from Chicago, but the piece on the top right is called I Lived In Kendall for Seven Months..."

"International Friendship Exhibition" is curated by Books Bischof, Typoe and Cristina Gonzalez of Primary. Gallery hours during Art Basel are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, or by appointment with cristina@thisisprimary.com. Participants include Zachary Balber, Autumn Casey, Jim Drain, Asif Farooq, Andrew Horton, Cody Hudson, Jessie Laino, Beatriz Monteavaro, Andrew Nigon, O'Miami, Kenton Parker, Gavin Perry, Bayne Peterson, Magnus Sodamin, Karen Starosta-Gilinski, Cole Sternberg, Alex Sweet, Reed Van Brunschot, and Michael Vasquez. Visit primaryprojectspace.com.

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