The Art of Jab

When Catalan artist Luis Vidal last showed here, his work -- wallpaper patterned with drawings of pedophilic acts -- was the sensation of Art Miami 2002, drawing not only collectors and curious spectators but prompting visits from Miami Beach police.

Vidal, who says the work is meant to inspire reflections on pedophilia, was not charged despite cries of pornography by fairgoers. But for Vidal, artistic justice was served when the work was bought -- by the secretary of the Department of Social and Health Services of Washington state. "Everything can have more than one reading," says Vidal, age 32, whose dramatic installations have made him a celebrity in his native Spain. "What I like to do is show people things that everyone knows exist but nobody wants to see. My work is not gratuitous; it's a solid provocation."

Two installations by Vidal will be on view starting Monday at Transeat, artist Antoni Miralda and restaurateur Montse Guillen's Miami studio, together with work by Miralda and Cesar Trasobares. The show promises to be one of the most provocative of the impending Art Basel onslaught.

Vidal will show "Sleeping Family," a group of life-size figures -- all sporting renditions of the artist's head -- prone on the floor in what Vidal calls a collective suicide. The second work, "Piss Class," is a parody of public education featuring a classroom filled with naughty man-child creatures and a grotesque, jabbering teacher.

Miami resident Miralda, who like Vidal is from Barcelona, has long fed global audiences' heads with art that encourages awareness of the social and political implications of food production, while appreciating food packaging and popular festivals as art forms. No stranger to controversy either, Miralda incurred the wrath of conservative American Catholic leaders last year with a scatological display at California's COPIA center. The ceramic figures, called caganers, depict nuns, priests, peasants, and newsworthy figures (Osama Bin Laden for one) taking a crap. In Catalonia, they're placed in nativity scenes as comic relief and are said to bring luck. The offending caganers will be part of Miralda's installation at Transeat titled "Sign of Good Taste." The exhibit will also showcase large vitrines (refurbished refrigerator cases) filled with wonderful and strange food-related paraphernalia that the artist has collected around the world.

Cesar Trasobares, one of Miami's most forthright artists (the Bass Museum showed his fantastic interpretation of the Elian scandal staged with dolls last year), will fill several glass cabinets at Transeat with his works made from one-dollar bills. Trasobares folds, shreds, paints, and glues the bills to create figures, buildings, and other sculptures up to a foot high. (A more extensive display of his work is currently at Florida International University's library.)

"I'm working with the actual territory where all action happens in our society," says Trasobares, who titled his installation "Mirror Dollar."

The Transeat show also includes work by Rotraut (Yves Klein's widow) and Jane Manus. The artists will celebrate the exhibition and Art Basel on Thursday, December 5, with a party at 11:30 p.m.

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Judy Cantor