Second Saturday Art Walk: Five Unmissable Exhibits as Art Basel Approaches

Few photographers captured the toil and turmoil of everyday survival that Parisians faced in the aftermath of World War II like Willy Ronis.

The French lensman's work, on display in a retrospective at the Dina Mitrani Gallery, is one of a number of shows worth catching at this weekend's Second Saturday Art Walk, the district's final warmup before Art Basel Miami Beach roars into town.

Most of the Wynwood galleries are raising the curtain on their Basel blockbusters early, so it's the perfect weekend to catch some local shows that might get lost amid the impenetrable clamor of the international art circus that will parachute into the 305 during the first week of December.

For lovers of classical black-and-white photography Mitrani's show is a can't miss and offers a compelling look at the work at the first French photographer to work for Life magazine. It's just one of our picks for what's worth a gander this weekend before Baselphrenia sets in.

Willy Ronis: Paris

A contemporary of Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Doisneau, Ronis created images that helped define life in postwar France and were often quite controversial. As a reconstructing France struggled to project stability, Ronis's pictures of common street life instead showed working-class people in a country humbled by poverty and wracked by social unrest. On view are images of a couple embracing under a bridge along the river Seine and, in the strikingly joyous Le Petit Parisien (1952), a young boy wearing shorts and a vest as he skips giggling along a street while lugging a baguette almost his size. Mitrani, who is collaborating with Peter Fetterman, a Santa Monica, California, gallery owner, calls this exhibit "a dream come true," adding that 25 of Ronis's classic pictures will be on display during the art walk.

Dina Mitrani Gallery, 2620 NW Second Ave., Miami. 786-486-7248, dinamitranigallery.com.

Scribe's House

Pablo Lehmann premieres his new text-based series, in which the artist engulfs entire rooms with intricately cut-out words from books, textiles, and plastics.

The Argentine talent's large-scale images depict rooms in Lehmann's Buenos Aires home completely covered with layers upon layers of textile-like pages of language across every inch of every surface. The project marks a departure for Lehmann, who has most recently exhibited drape-like wall sculptures of deconstructed language, weaving words hijacked from original sources into conceptual tapestries. In this show, instead, he has festooned bathrooms, bedrooms, dining rooms, and studies with the remnants of letters in a process that often takes several months. After photographing the results of his meticulously constructed environments, he destroys the original hand-crafted creations before finally digitally altering his rooms to convey spaces fully conceived from literature. In a world where books could become obsolete and language is mangled or reduced to Twitter's 140 characters, Lehmann's three-dimensional play on words is a reminder that language remains key to intellectual analysis, face-to-face communication, and the sheer pleasure of reading.

Black Square Gallery, 2248 NW First Place, Miami. 305-576-0081, blacksquaregallery.com.

Soul Manufacturing Corporation

Among the highest-profile openings this weekend are a pair of exhibits at Locust Projects combining solos by Miami's Jacin Giordano and Chicago-based artist Theaster Gates who recently made big news at Documenta (13) in Kassel, Germany, with his critically acclaimed installation 12 Ballads for Huguenot House.

At Locust, Gates is launching "Soul Manufacturing Corporation," the first gallery exhibit of his multidisciplinary opus. It will feature a fully functioning "factory" with four pavilions, where "skilled makers" will produce objects and pottery during the exhibit's duration. Gates's show will also host programs by a yoga instructor, a DJ, and a reader assembled as part of the project to "care for" the workers and audience. The artist was inspired by lectors who read news and literature to illiterate workers during the industrial era, and says his project is an exploration of the relationships among labor, race, and aesthetics. In the gallery's Project Room, meanwhile, Giordano's "Wound, Bound, Tied and Knotted" presents a new series of works in which the artist employs tree branches as the stretchers for his paintings. Their organic nature dramatizes the web of rainbow-hued yarn he wraps around the stems to create the surfaces he paints upon.

Locust Projects, 3852 N Miami Ave., Miami. 305-576-8570, locustprojects.org.

A Country, an Illusion

Reminding viewers that the Big Apple took a shellacking during superstorm Sandy and had its lights dimmed, Cuban artist Abel Barroso, who lives and works in Havana, is employing raw wood in his opus Emigrant Pinball to convey New York City's famous skyline in a work riffing on migration and issues of displacement. His solo at Pan American Art Projects is anchored by the sprawling installation offering a wry commentary on the existence of geographical boundaries and features seven pinball machines without traditional lights and whistles that are interconnected by Gotham's distinct silhouette. Barroso's striking piece references the city as a sort of "El Dorado," where players are confronted by a virtual frontier between the first and third-worlds and buffeted by chance while dreaming of finding that greener patch of grass in foreign climates.

Pan American Art Projects, 2450 NW Second Ave, Miami. 305-573-2400, panamericanart.com.

A veces me asaltan las dudas celestes

Peruvian artist Cecilia Paredes is a chameleon-like master of blending into her surroundings. Typically, the photographer explores issues of migration or relocation in her eye-popping oeuvre, creating what she calls "photo performances" in which she employs makeup and body paint to melt into her own paintings that transform her into part of the flora, fauna, or celestial landscapes of her imagination. At the Diana Lowenstein Gallery, Paredes offers her body as a container for viewer's projected fantasies. The gallery is also featuring Caroline Lathan-Stiefel's "Lagan," a word that describes ocean wreckage attached to a buoy so it can be recovered. Lathan-Stiefel is known for creating monumental, room-engulfing installations using sundry items such as pipe cleaners, plastic shopping bags, fabric, straight pins, yarn, wire, and lead weights among other unusual materials. The artist considers these works drawings in space and her colorful creations are designed to physically impact the body of the viewers navigating them.

Diana Lowenstein Gallery, 2043 N Miami, Ave., Miami. 305-576-1804, dianalowensteingallery.com.

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