"At the Edge" and "Lean-to" at Oolite Arts Keep Miami's Art Season Going in the Summer

Installation view of "At the Edge" at Oolite Arts
Installation view of "At the Edge" at Oolite Arts Photo by Pedro Wazzan/Oolite Arts
Summer in Miami is generally accompanied by the dueling vigors of hurricane season, record-setting temperatures, an exodus of locals bound for cooler climes, and an influx of tourists in search of offseason rates.

For the city's cultural institutions, the season caps off a year of bustling exhibitions and artist showcases, with galleries closing for weeks at a time or museums seizing the opportunity to renovate.

At Oolite Arts, the start of June was met with the opening of two summer exhibitions, "At the Edge" and "Lean-to," at its Lincoln Road home. The two shows string together the power of being in conversation with one's contemporaries, though they discuss vastly different themes and points of reference.

With "At the Edge," Oolite Arts programming senior manager Amanda Bradley and president and CEO Dennis Scholl have savvily convened six South Florida women artists who warp the concept of abstraction — specifically, the mid-20th-century style of hard-edge painting — to their individual visual languages. The artists — Nathalie Alfonso, Georgia Lambrou, Devora Perez, Jennifer Printz, Karen Rifas, and Donna Ruff — have taken over Oolite's 928 Gallery with a divergence of color theory, two- and three-dimensional mediums, and unconventional materials.

Wrapping the literal edge of the gallery are Alfonso's translated ladder-like charcoal and graphite forms, which the viewer is invited to walk in and around. The structures are repeated on the opposite wall of the space in a suite of nine intimately sized compositions. Ruff's work juxtaposes the delicacy of a morning newspaper with dainty, lace-like doily constructions, encased behind glass for visitors to peer in upon; it becomes a scavenger hunt to try and discern words that are obstructed from legible view.
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Donna Ruff, Division, 2018, archival print on kozo paper from photogram, 31.5 x 23.5 inches; and After Irma, 2017, archival print on kozo paper from photogram, 38.5 x 27 inches
Photo by Rick Wester Fine Art/Donna Ruff Studio
Seemingly simple, these works reduce hard-edge abstraction to the core primary ingredients of line, form, and color. The antithesis of figurative art, abstraction allows the mind to consider the possibilities of space and agency — in this case, the calculated processes each artist engages in to execute a finished work. Gone are the days when abstraction as a visual genre is met with whispers of misunderstanding and blank stares; here each artist reignites the visual language as one of lucent tints and funky shapes.

For Bradley, the exhibition's central message of abstraction speaks to a higher value.

"A key component of this show is that abstraction can provide the space to evoke the same deeply held emotions as more naturalistic works of art," she says. "These artists are using abstraction to respond to notions of labor, resistance, and transformation."

In the 924 Gallery adjacent to "At the Edge," Oolite Arts' 2022 artists-in-residence exhibition, "Lean-to," is curated by Leilani Lynch of the Bass. Here the shared theme among the 14 participating artists lies not in a common aesthetic thread but rather in the joint involvement in the nonprofit's studio spaces. The value of an allocated studio to dedicate oneself wholly to a consistent practice can be appreciated through these scattered deposits of artwork the artists have mined during their time at Oolite.
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Installation view of "Lean-to"
Photo by Pedro Wazzan/Oolite Arts
The show was conceived during studio visits with the artists, an aspect expressed via the duplicity of the exhibition's title.

"[Lean-to] is a temporary structure or improvised shelter, and it's also symbolically leaning toward something in the future," Lynch explains. "Many of the artists are also thinking about care in some way, whether it's the rituals they perform for self-care or their care for the community and the environment."

The artists on view: Jen Clay, Yanira Collado, Rose Marie Cromwell, Carolina Cueva, Rev. Houston R. Cypress and Jean Sarmiento (together), Mark Fleuridor, Friday, Felice Grodin, T Eliott Mansa, Reginald O'Neal, Edison Peñafiel, Ema Ri, Greko Sklavounos, and Roscoè B. Thické III.
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Reginald O'Neal's 18 years and counting, 2022, mixed-media sound installation
Photo by Pedro Wazzan/Oolite Arts/
From the smell of amassed floral arrangements to the manipulation of family photographs, each artist relies upon the personal, the speculative, and the use of material to capture the intangible multifaceted ideals of care, support, and shelter. In direct dialogue with their neighbors, the individual voice of each is strengthened by virtue of unification with those who are going through the same lived experience of a temporary studio space.

The tunnel-vision ordeal of encountering O'Neal's 18 years and counting forces the viewer to peer through a narrow slit into a dying field of bouquets lined up in front of a portrait of the artist's father. The domestic structure of the mixed-media sound installation serves as a homage to the lives affected by family members in the prison system or other incarcerated circumstances.
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Rose Marie Cromwell, In the Landscape, 2022, archival digital print with found wood frame, 14 x 11 inches; and Precipice, 2022, photograph printed on silk, 96 x 84 inches
Photos by Rose Marie Cromwell.
The vantage points presented to the viewer of Cromwell's Feminist Landscapes (2022) series are those living through childhood while simultaneously removed from and above the epoch. Grounded in road trips to the American West, Cromwell's photographic depictions of dilapidated, fallen structures and their surrendering degradation to nature calls to mind the temporality of communities and the ephemeral passing of time.

For Oolite's 2022 residents, summer as a season and as a climax of their artistic endurance catalyzes the capacity for self-reflection. Reborn by the promise of a vibrant future, the dual collective exhibitions show the myriad lives and points of reference being mined within South Florida to generate fascinating works of art.

"At the Edge" and "Lean-to." On view through September 11, at Oolite Arts, 924 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach; 305-674-8278; Monday through Sunday noon to 5 p.m.
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