Wynwood Art Walk Preview: Robert Fontaine Opens a New Joint

A man teeters precariously on a faded yellow scaffold while plastering a wall. Beneath him another worker paints an office area that could easily substitute as a bar. Dust fills the air, and the screech of a hammer drill wails like a siren through the space.

Nearby, 36-year-old Robert Fontaine steps over a clot of tube cartons filled with silkscreen prints he's ready to ship to clients. There are also several of Paul Rousso's bath-towel-size acrylic sculptures of crumpled cash arranged on the floor as if they fell out of someone's pockets.

The dancer-trim Fontaine, who wears black wire-rim glasses, jeans, and a nicely pressed dark-gray shirt, nimbly navigates the busy, crowded room while taking stock of a growing collection of art.

"Rousso's sculptures are some of my biggest sellers and are priced in the $8,500 range. Troy Abbot, who is local, is also hot now and can't keep up with the demand for his work," Fontaine says while studying the blueprints for his new space. He mentions he's been selling an average of "five to ten works a week" since opening a gallery in Wynwood in February 2011.

Fontaine says he made a six-figure salary last year. Not bad for a guy who just a couple of years ago was traveling with Marilyn Manson trying to sell the musician's artwork while he was on tour. "Basically I organized shows for him in Zurich, Moscow, São Paulo, Athens, and Cologne and sold his work while trying to get my foot in the art world."

During this month's Wynwood Art Walk, he will inaugurate the new Robert Fontaine Gallery (2349 NW Second Ave., Miami) with "Collective Memory," a solo show by London-based artist Nick Gentry, who creates large-scale portraits using floppy discs attached to Masonite board that he then paints. In a back room of the gallery, Fontaine will also exhibit works by iconic museum artists.

"The new space is twice the size of the former one," Fontaine says. "It's across from Panther Coffee and has 20-foot ceilings and is over 2,000 square feet in size, so I will be showing works by Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, and Tom Wesselmann, among others from my collection. I am also going to have a video room, which is something I did not have the space to do before."

Signs that Wynwood is soaring as a cultural destination will be evident to art lovers and even the casual observer beginning at 6 p.m. this Saturday with a plethora of new shows, ranging from a Parisian shutterbug's photos of famous celebrities, to an exhibit riffing on El Generalissimo Franco and fascist-era iconography, to the contents of a manmade underwater reef dredged up from the coast and plopped inside a Wynwood space.

Florida Grand Opera will also jump onto the art-walk bandwagon by hosting a preview of Roméo et Juliette at the always-buzzing Dorsch Gallery.

Here are our picks for what not to miss during this weekend's rollicking arts bash. There will be something for everyone to enjoy.

At the Lelia Mordoch Gallery (2300 N. Miami Ave., Miami), "1010 Portraits" features Paris lensman Didier Gicquel's large black-and-white gelatin silver prints of film, art, music, and literary luminaries captured while visiting the City of Lights.

Since 1979, the photographer has used a battered old camera with a Leica lens to take pictures of personalities such as James Ellroy, Patti Smith, Francis Ford Coppola, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Larry Clark, David Lynch, Johnny Depp, and a host of other celebrities with a passion for France. Gicquel's shots are soulful and speak to the universal cult of celebrity with a natural, unposed air. Call 786-431-1506 or visit

Primary Projects in the Design District (4141 NE Second Ave., Ste. 104, Miami) delivers the heroic and the ridiculous with University of Arizona professor and conceptual artist Lawrence Gipe's over-the-top foray into fascism, "In the Valle de los Caidos."

Gipe's solo boasts epically scaled mixed-media paintings on raw canvas, a video installation, and a collection of small works delving into the enormous cathedral that Gen. Francisco Franco had built as a tomb for himself in the Sierra de Guadarrama near Madrid, using prisoners of war as slave labor.

Gipe has sourced imagery for his exhibit from historical photos, propaganda films, present-day blogs from both the right and left of the divisive controversy surrounding the site, and even a Franco-era thriller that used the church grounds as a set. Call 954-296-1675 or visit

At the Charest-Weinberg Gallery (250 NW 23rd St., Miami), German artist Hannes Bend presents "Eclipse," a multimedia re-creation of a natural disaster wrought by man. For his arresting exhibit, Bend has filled the gallery space with hundreds of rotting tires dredged from the Osborne Reef, expanded in 1972 when the Broward Artificial Reef Company began dumping old automobile tires off the coast in an attempt to attract more marine life. With more than 2 million rubber tires sitting underwater today, Osborne has been declared an ecological catastrophe, and Bend's project, which also features photography and video, draws attention to the 30-acre site. Call 305-292-0411 or visit

The Dorsch Gallery (151 NW 24th St., Miami) is staging a pair of exhibits intended to appeal to nostalgia for youthful playgrounds and our inner math nerd. The first, "For Old Times' Sake," is a solo by local sculptor Ralph Provisero. It features a monumental kinetic sculpture titled Spring Rider, for which the artist retooled an old-school fiberglass child's car and tricked it out with a motor to make the toy wheels dance. The second show, "Let's Begin With a Line," is a group offering that comprises a selection of works riffing on the aesthetic pleasures of symmetry and the linear.

But the highlight of this edition of Second Saturday might be the feud between the Montagues and the Capulets when Florida Grand Opera previews its performance of Shakespeare's classic tale of love and warring families at the Dorsch from 7 to 9 p.m., with complimentary cocktails provided by Chambord liqueur, Little Black Dress vodka, and Herradura tequila.

"Because of the nature of Art Walk, with its mixture of new and veteran art viewers, it is possible to surprise, convert, and enchant," gallery director Tyler Emerson-Dorsch says. "An operatic performance of Roméo et Juliette is very different from the exhibitions and punk and sound performances we have at the gallery, and so this occasion is an intervention of sorts or — to use an art term — a happening to break habits of thought. In the shock that ensues, we'll have some fun."

Call 305-576-1278 or visit

Back in front of his new space, Fontaine, whose program centers around pop art, urban and street art, and contemporary photography priced in the $500-to-$50,000 range, says he also plans to stay open until 8 p.m. weekdays to cater to art lovers popping in for a cup of joe across the street at Panther Coffee.

"People are actually visiting the area in droves and not just on Second Saturdays anymore," mentions Fontaine, who bristles at the notion he's just another trust-fund kid with his name plastered across a Wynwood gallery façade.

"For me now, the risk is greater, but it makes you work harder."

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Carlos Suarez De Jesus