This past January, Gregg Shienbaum approached a man wearing a hoodie, goggles, and a scarf over his mouth outside his Wynwood art gallery, which was then under construction. The guy was wheat-pasting a poster onto a light pole. "At first he thought I was a cop and froze up on me," Shienbaum says. "I gave him my business card and told him I was interested in showing his work and to visit my gallery."
At first the street artist, who operates under the name Clandestine Culture, was reluctant. He said he preferred the democratic nature of a concrete canvas to the traditional white-box space of a commercial gallery.
The artist might be familiar to many Second Saturday art crawlers. His latex-paint-on-paper posters depict police officers in riot gear or strangers he surreptitiously photographs and then paints. They appear everywhere in the neighborhood with the words Clandestine Culture printed across the bottom.
But the dealer eventually persuaded the urban talent to join his stable. Some of his latex-on-translucent-paper paintings will be on display at Gregg Shienbaum Fine Art (2239 NW Second Ave.) beginning at 6 p.m. this Saturday for the May edition of the Wynwood Art Walk. There will be a solo show this October.
"I just sold his first piece in a gallery to a French collector last week who fell in love with one of Clandestine Culture's images of a cop wearing a gas mask," says Shienbaum, who opened his spot in March. "It went for $2,000. Nobody knows him yet outside of Miami, but I think his work has a strong social message people really respond to and is going to take off."
Clandestine Culture's attention-grabbing pieces will be on view in a group offering that includes Russell Young's image of a sobbing Marilyn Monroe, Sarah Hardacre's scintillating nudes inspired by vintage men's magazines juxtaposed against the phallic outlines of modern concrete skylines, and Magnus Gjoen's turgid bazookas, human skulls, and artillery glossed over with Renaissance masterpieces by Titian, Michelangelo, and Tiepolo.
"I've only been open for two months but have been doing really well with these artists," Shienbaum says. "A lot of new young collectors are coming in who are very interested in the urban art movement with a strong political message." (Gregg Shienbaum Fine Art also showcases a mix of pop art masters such as Warhol, Lichtenstein, Johns, and Rauschenberg along with urban street art by names such as Ron English and Shepard Fairey.) Call 305-205-9089 or visit gsfineart.com.
Other shows you shouldn't miss this weekend: Dimensions Variable (3850 NE Miami Ct.) is presenting "AABBCCDV," by American-born, Berlin-based Erik Smith, whose project explores the shifting nature of urban landscapes in a near-anthropological fashion.
Last year Smith employed a shovel to excavate a section of the former "death zone" of the Berlin Wall. He unearthed a large spiral staircase and presented it as a sculpture.
Smith, who has been in Miami on an artist's residency, continues his investigation of cities in transition by focusing on the demolition of Dimension Variable's former Design District space, which is being torn down for a new development. "Our building also used to house Locust Projects, the Spinello Gallery, and other artists' studios and exhibition spaces," says Leyden Rodriguez-Casanova, an artist and one of DV's founders.
"For his project, Erik strategically placed microphones inside the building to record the sounds of the backhoes razing it to the ground," Rodriguez-Casanova explains. "He also salvaged artworks left behind by former resident artists. He has torn them apart, painted them over, and repurposed them for the exhibit."
One of the artworks Smith is using is a piece that was commissioned by the Miami Art Museum from Rodriguez-Casanova for a group show. "It was an iron-gate wall that was too large for me to carry around anymore, so I left it. I called MAM to see if they wanted it, but they told me no since it was site-specific."
MAM is preparing to move to its new home on the bay, so the discarded gate is an apt reminder of our art scene's rampant evolution.
Smith, who is also creating a limited-edition soundtrack of the site's destruction, hopes to convey a sense of the radical transformation the area has undergone over the past decade. The process is as much "about speculative growth and renewal as it is negation and fragmentation," he says. Call 305-607-5527 or visit dimensionsvariable.net.
At the recently relocated Locust Projects (3852 N. Miami Ave.) New York-based artists are the focus of two intriguing exhibits.
Meredyth Sparks is presenting "So I Will Let It Alone and Talk About the House," which includes her first-ever video animation, as well as her largest installation to date. Sparks employs a concept she calls "extraction," dicing up imagery culled from musical subcultures, art history, labor, and gender to create works oscillating between the minimal and the decorative.
At the gallery's entrance, she has used string to fashion a structure under which visitors can walk on their way to the main space, which houses a suite of collage works. There is also a multipaneled labyrinth including video animation of fluttering hummingbirds, reflecting the circulation of imagery in contemporary culture. That piece draws the spectator into a space for an assault on the senses.
For her show "Lines," Anya Kielar has created a theater-stage-like installation using dyed and painted fabrics she has cut into both figurative and abstract shapes and then strung up on a clothesline along with some found objects. Inspired by Man Ray, Kielar has produced work that exudes a distinct surrealist nature.
While driving around the Design District or Miami Beach this month, also keep your eyes peeled for Kielar's "Sprayogram, Yellow Lines," covering more than 30 bus shelters and commissioned by Locust as part of a public art initiative called Out of the Box. Call 305-576-8570 or visit locustprojects.org.
At Black Square Gallery (2248 NW First Pl.), Colombia's Anibal Vallejo weighs in with a whopping dose of the surreal in a solo titled "Hobnobbing at the Garden of Earthly Delights," which riffs on Hieronymus Bosch's famous masterpiece.
Vallejo tackles the sins of contemporary society via hilarious embroidery pieces on canvas that he later paints. He skewers the banality of mass media with works depicting a bald Britney Spears throttling Mickey Mouse with an umbrella, Tiger Woods on his knees begging for forgiveness, and a drunken Paris Hilton dragging herself across the pavement during a wardrobe malfunction. Call 305-424-5002 or visit blacksquaregallery.com.