As the season winds down and the soaring temperatures threaten to crisp Wynwood's asphalt during this weekend's Second Saturday, it seems local galleries are opting to crank up their thermometers, popping their corks on searing shows boasting everything from political unrest to cultural dislocation.
There's a rabid Green Bay Packers fan protesting the government in Milwaukee's frosty climes at Miami's smallest gallery, and even a tribute to Kurt Schwitters, the granddaddy of installation art.
At Dot Fiftyone Gallery (51 NW 36th St., Miami) a pair of pitch-perfect shows evokes an atmospheric vision of social and political dissonance.
"Universal Melancholy" features an arresting suite of portraits lensed by Swiss shutterbug Liliane Eberle during recent visits to Tunisia, Morocco, Bali, Cuba, and Cameroon.
"Super 8," spooled in Dot's upstairs Project Room, boasts rare political art films helmed by Venezuela's Julio Neri that capture the turbulent unrest in his country and throughout Latin America during the late '70s.
"The fashion in which these shows balance each other is uncanny," says Isaac Perelman, the gallery's codirector. "Both of these artists have served as witnesses of the turmoil confronting humanity from very different perspectives and from vastly opposite chronological periods... [Still], both of these shows reflect social and political realities currently relevant to all of us in a subliminal way."
Eberle's No Where Road, snapped in Cuba in 2008, depicts two soldiers weighed down by supplies as they putter precariously on a wobbly motorcycle down a desolate country highway.
In The Bar, shot in Cameroon last year, the photographer captures a couple of women wearing colorful, flower-patterned frocks as they depart a ramshackle joint called the "Doctor Obama Snack Bar," with the visage of the American president beaming from a sign. One of the subjects appears to be laughing, while the other scowls sourly as she navigates a mud puddle.
"The concept of making people's emotions and longings the focus of my photographic oeuvre and seeking what can hardly be expressed in images fascinates me," Eberle says. "Feelings exist beyond the realm of the representational, but they leave traces — traces that I can follow."
Neri, who was president of the International Federation of Super 8 Film during the medium's heyday, is showing Electrofenia (1978), a 27-minute color and black-and-white flick depicting the Kafkaesque machinations that led up to Venezuela's 1978 presidential elections.
He is also spooling Armada (1977), thought to be lost for nearly 30 years after copies were destroyed in a film lab fire, according to Perelman. "The sole existing copy was discovered at a U.S. university last year and returned to the director," he says, mentioning that when it was first released, it was censored in Venezuela.
It tells the story of the spoiled daughter of a ruthless South American general cut from the severe militaristic Prussian tradition. She seems to lack nothing in life except for her freedom. The film ends with the girl finding the liberty she long dreams of.
Neri's poignant, experimental short snagged the Palm D'Or at the Belgium International Film Festival in 1978.
Both of his powerful movies represent the few cases of Super8 cinema criticizing military dictatorships predominant in southern countries of South America and offer an unusual opportunity to experience the traumatic era. Call 305-573-9994 or visit dotfiftyone.com.
Pan American Art Projects (2450 NW Second Ave., Miami) fans the flames with "Uprooted/Transmigrations," a sizzling group show organized by Abelardo Mena, curator of international art at Havana's Museo de Bellas Artes. The show focuses on the diaspora as one of the processes that integrate the cultural identity of American nations at a time when most countries are celebrating bicentennials of their republics, which rebelled against colonial domination.
The exhibit culls work from Pan American's holdings and is complemented by pieces specifically created for the exhibit.
Artists participating in the sprawling project are Cuban-Americans Luis Cruz Azaceta, Carlos Estevez, Humberto Castro; Cubans Kcho, Sandra Ramos, Santiago Olazabal, Abel Barroso; Argentines Hernán Dompé and Yaya Firpo; Jamaicans Milton George and David Boxer; and Haitian-American Edouard Duval-Carrié.
Firpo's reinvented world maps, Kcho's inner tube populated by metal shanty houses, Azaceta's island made of slaves' cotton, and Duval-Carrié's uprooted tree with hearts hanging from its limbs are among the works that explore migration themes in the Americas. Call 305-573-2400 or visit panamericanart.com.
"Merzbau to Now," on view at the Fredric Snitzer Gallery (2247 NW First Pl., Miami), places the legacy of one of art history's seminal experimental figures on the front burner. The show pays homage to the work of Kurt Schwitters, who was involved with movements such as Dada and Constructivism but who is arguably best known for inventing the concept of the installation.
Between 1923 and 1943, he created an architectural assemblage by plastering nearly the entire interior of his house in Hanover, Germany, with protruding, angled surfaces until it almost appeared like a cave full of wooden stalactites and stalagmites. Known as the Merzbau, his crowning opus was bombed and destroyed in 1943 during World War II but remains one of the iconic works of the early 20th Century and continues to influence artists today.
At Snitzer, María Martínez-Cañas, John Bock, Michael Vasquez, Christian Holstad, Ida Ekblad, Bert Rodriguez, Mauricio Gonzalez, Yasue Maetake, and José Bedia exhibit works nodding to Schwitters's enduring legacy, while also reflecting the multidimensional art practices the German experimental artist explored. Call 305-448-8976 or visit snitzer.com.
Not much larger than a milk carton, More Funner Projects (180 NE 39th St., First-Floor Lobby, Miami) is no stranger to shoehorning big ideas into a matchbox-size space while playing with conceptual fire — then shoving an extinguisher up the collective art-snob ass.
The brain trust behind the prankish outfit has invited Los Angeles-based artist Nate Page to bring his explorations of the American psyche and the schism between the public and domestic self to the 108-square-foot Design District window space.
Page is exhibiting Winter Collection 2011: Protester 1, a chilly, ice-tray-size installation in which a lone mook, who happens to be a Green Bay Packers fan, rails against political injustice in front of the snow-spackled capitol in Madison, Wisconsin.
The artist seems to be arguing that sports fans and protesters share the same passion for their causes. And in the current context, it's almost as if rooting for the home team or rallying for political change might be seen as symptomatic of a nasty cold sore that gushes from the central nervous system of consumerism. Call 786-512-4130 or contact morefunnerprojects2gmail.com.
Keep your peepers peeled for all of these shows this Saturday in Wynwood. Remember to stay well irrigated with a complimentary cold one, try to avoid melting your sweaty dogs on the blistering sidewalks, and enjoy the surprising number of new openings, unusual for this time of year.