Sunday, December 20, 2009

Miami Fashion We Can Enjoy While Surviving the Blizzard of '09

Left: "Paradise" by Jack Pierson, at MOCA, Miami.

The first night of Miami was the perfect way to slap a bit of Miami fashion into any warmth-deprived New Yorker. At MOCA, a reception sponsored by Vanity Fair had all the platform stilettos sinking into the earth of the Museum courtyard, but no one cared, as the women still towered over the men, and everyone lined up for the free booze. Weird combination Smurfette-ballerinas posed and pranced, and promoted the gin du jour.

Right: Smurf-arina.

Calvin Klein was sighted, and a well-coordinated couple posed amiably. Some "ladies" really know how to accessorize...(left).

Spiderella made an appearance (right), and of course requisite shoe fetishists could not be disappointed--the woman below left was ensconced in skintight shiny spandex leggings (are there any other kind?) and an equal length of platform shoe.

A bit more New York-Carrie Bradshaw was on display at one of the numerous parties held at the hotels on the ocean. Miraculously the pink graffitti Louis Vuittons below were not forced to endure any unpleasant sand, as they VIP'd their way into the bar area.

Matching couple at the Pulse fair below:

And, in a segment I have been dying to start, the "What Not To Wear" section: I photographed this anonymous couple browsing at Art Miami from the back, in order to hide the fanny packs. Hawaiian shirt--check. White socks, brown sandals--check. Matching couple--check. Perhaps this segment should be renamed: "How Not to Match".

Monday, December 7, 2009

Pulse/NADA/Photo/ArtMiami/Scope/Aqua/Verge...oh my!

Right: Wanda Koop at Michael Gibson Gallery, Toronto, Scope.

The painting on the left is exactly how I felt as I finished walking through Scope and Aqua. Two art fairs that last year had been among my favorites, shrank and eliminated many good galleries. Aqua got rid of their lovely hotel location, and the current Wynwood location had so many garish works that by the time I had walked through I had forgotten the good ones. Among the better, were Toronto's Michael Gibson Gallery, featuring a quiet and haunting painting by Wanda Koop of the "Miracle on the Hudson"- an event that quickly became a Hallmark-card media spectacle, but in paint brought back the haunting lonely frisson of near-death it once was. Another standout was Megan Whitmarsh's oddball embroidery and painting mash-ups, at Michael Rosenthal.

Right: Megan Whitmarsh "Crystal Expanse" at Michael Rosenthal, Scope.

Left: Guerra de la Paz at Carol Jazzar, Scope.

Scope was also barren of good booths, with even the best galleries playing it safe and bringing rather ho-hum works. Recession specials were not in everyone's favor. Carol Jazzar and ADA stood out, with 3-d work by Guerra de la Paz and Jen Stark, and Chris Verene's idiosyncratic photography and a crazy collection of cats by Scott Hewicker respectively.

Right: Scott Hewicker at ADA, Scope.

Left: Okay Mountain Corner Store, Pulse.

Pulse won out for Most Improved Fair, gaining a better space (no more sand floors!), more solid galleries, and a terrific music program taking full advantage of their courtyard space at NADA's former location. With 104 galleries, Pulse managed somehow to still feel organized and leisurely. A highlight of the Impulse section (for solo exhibitions) was the hand-made bodega at Austin's Okay Mountain collaborative gallery. With products for sale, all created by hand, it hit the sweet spot of art-world humor (Dzamacolors "for art school kids to use when they're making those rip-off Marcel Dzama paintings") and silly fun (Old Stanky kitty litter).

Left: Devin Strother, "Drunken Bitches Fighting in the Bathroom" detail, Richard Heller, Pulse.

Devin Strother, a young artist at Richard Heller, showed cut-out figures in manic scenes, slyly playing with devilish racial stereotypes. Cut paper was used to quite different effect in Natasha Bowdoin's elegant layered paintings at CTRL Gallery in Houston. DCKT, Kopeikin, Fred, and Mark Moore Gallery all had strong carefully thought-out curated booths; i.e. London's Fred Gallery presented works by artists from the African diaspora--though one wouldn't necessarily guess it from the variety of works.

Steve Viezens
had paintings and quirky drawings in a star-shaped layout at the booth of Galerie Kleindienst from Liepzig, another strong booth (no surprise given the famous art school there).

Right: Steve Viezens at Galerie Kleindienst, Pulse.

Left: happy reveler, post-Exene Cervenka performance at Pulse.

At Photo Miami, the booths shrank by two thirds, leaving a spartan arrangement of 26 galleries. However, for the most part it was for the best-- fewer flower studies and giant female nudes, more thoughtful or historic work. Large constructed photographs of a fictional African town called Udongo, dealt with post-colonial history and Western concepts of Africa by Jasper de Beijer at TZR Galerie Kai Bruckner. Nearby, classically composed photographs from 1970s beaches gave us the opposite--a taste of the visually familiar, but with a Mexican twist, courtesy of Carlos Perez Siquier at Galeria Sandunga (right). A vibrant booth from China--MR Gallery-- with classical documentary black and white images by a handful of artists, provided welcome relief from Art Asia's Vegas-y commercial fare.

Left: Comfortable man being comforted by comfortable art at ArtMiami.

At nearby Art Miami, bright halogen lights and gleaming concrete floors created a soothing environment, and the art similarly didn't want to cause any discomfort. While I saw some great art, including Zhang Huan photos at Barry Friedman, and iceberg photos by Olaf Otto Becker at Amador Gallery, the overall effect was of a gentle sea breeze.

And finally, my visit to NADA provided a welcome pause to the madness. NADA chose an anachronistic resort a few miles north of Art Basel, replete with chandeliers, ballrooms named after famous French leaders (Napoleon, Richelieu), and a pool aching for hipsters to swim in their skinny bikinis (right). Also, a baristas from Intelligentsia Coffee plied their wares midway through the ballrooms, and who could resist such steam-punk cuties (left)?

Art-wise, NADA had dealers beaming with delight, as booths were both full of visitors and high-quality, especially the Lower East Side galleries. Collette Blanchard showed an installation by Derrick Adams including a performance, as well as glittery paintings based on the musical the Wiz. Lisa Cooley featured a bureau stabbed multiple times in the back, and a knit sculpture by Josh Faught.

Left: Derrick Adams at Collette Blanchard, NADA.

Right: Josh Faught at Lisa Cooley, NADA.

British galleries were quite good, as London's Man and Eve showed tiny cut paper delicacies by Sarah Bridgland, perhaps a tad too cute, but riding the overall trend for cut-paper sculptures and collage. Josh Lilley Gallery also had a strong show of Christof Mascher and Vicky Wright, whose oddly light washes on unprimed backs of panels created an ominous cloud when seen from afar.

Right: Sarah Bridgland, at Man and Eve, NADA.

Left: Another fabulous shoe/dress combination.

Below: a restful view courtesy of NADA's Deauville Beach Resort.

Art Basel 2009- "The Second Act"

Left: Jack Pierson "The Second Act" at Regen Projects.

Below right: Doug Aitken's "Free".

This year's Art Basel Miami was full of proclamations: large textual sculptures which, strung together, could easily portend statements about the art market this year. A gigantic “DESIRE” filled one booth, a “PORN” revamped Robert Indiana’s famous “Love”, and “FREE” by Doug Aitken had a photo of wreckage within. Peres Projects featured Don Attoe’s neon figures along with phrases, most potently “We’re all here because we’re too afraid to deal with problems in our real lives” atop men’s heads watching a stripper at her pole.
Additionally, we had “The Second Act” by Jack Pierson, certainly a comment on how quickly the art market has rebounded from the doldrums of last year. The neon “After” aglow behind Philippe Parreno’s "Marquee" lights, showed that afterlife was just across the way, seen through the entryway of celebrity/film idol-worship. Perhaps last year’s purgatory has led not to Hell but to a slightly adjusted Heaven of smaller fairs, but still healthy appetites. One overheard snippet: "...but I have 30-foot ceilings!" from a happy purchaser.

Left: Marc Bijl "Porn" at Breeder.

Above right: Philippe Pareno "Marquee" at Esther Schipper.

Below right: Jonathon Monk "Gold Bubbles" at Yvon Lambert.

Indeed celebrity reared its ugly head quite often in Miami. Richard Prince had a row of pencil sketches of Zac Efron and similar teen idols. The Obamas were featured in Annie Leibowitz photos, and in large paintings by Kurt Kauper at Deitch. But most prominently, Michael Jackson was the real star of Art Basel. His beatific likeness found its way into a triptych by David LaChappelle at Tony Shafrazi, including one of “Archangel Michael”, and a giant Kehinde Wiley equestrian painting of MJ as King Philip, commissioned before the artists’ death and completed afterwards, much to the happiness of Deitch’s cash registers. A faceless MJ could be seen in both a 3-inch cardboard painting by Gideon Rubin, and painting of MJ with his chimp by Jonathan Monk. But my favorite MJ painting was by Jeff Sonhouse of the singer as seen from the back, with odd colored lights, and one rhinestoned glove held out in his signature pose, showing us the paradox of celebrity worship: we think we know all based on a celebrity’s ubiquity, and yet he is forever unknowable.

Left: Jeff Sonhouse "The Loved Gloved One" at Tilton Gallery, LA.

Right: Agathe Snow sculptures at James Fuentes, LLC, New York.

This year Art Basel changed its configuration, confusing and frustrating many artgoers (including me), but on the plus side, it moved newer galleries from the containers on the beach to the convention center into a section called Art Nova. For the most part, these galleries capitalized on their new location, and certain galleries stood out; James Fuentes with his all-over wallpaper and crazy sculptures by Agathe Snow, Canada with a quiet threesome of paintings by Joe Bradley, Andrew Edlin had an old-timey booth with Brent Green, and Miguel Abreu with thick paintings by Pieter Schoolwerth. Gavlak, a Florida gallery, featured surreal collages of people with neon colored plants instead of heads, and sculptures of sinking houses by Philip Estlund, proving that not everything is shiny and happy in that sunny state.

Left: Lorraine O'Grady at Alexander Gray, NY.

Right: Mickalene Thomas, "Photomontage8" detail, at Rhona Hoffman, Chicago.

Alexandre Gray's booth featuring work by Lorraine O'Grady had a great feeling to it. Bridging work from an older era showed how O'Grady's work conceptually and stylistically preceded that of Lorna Simpson, Carrie Mae Weems, and even the more photographic work of Mickalene Thomas, the latter two artists featured at Basel as well. O'Grady had a series of photographs of Harlem, where participants held frames in various poses, and the work felt as fresh and organic now as it must have in the 1980's. Thomas, more familiar as a painter, had stacks of 80's-era frames and black and white photos within, making an interesting sculptural link to her work.

Right: Robin Rhode "Pan's Opticon Studies".

Robin Rhode
had work featured in at least three galleries, including a black and white series of photos at Neils Borch Jensen Galerie. This artist is continuing his seeminlgy endless investigation of movement, performance, sculpture, and painting, creating his own hybrid by inventing new ways to document mark-making via the body, i.e. hitting a ball with paint and then photographing the results in a series.

Right: artist Hans Peter Hoffman in front of his work at Galerie Jamileh Weber.

Sartorially, the men at Art Basel fared better than the women, as one artist matched his family crest flags, [Hans Peter Hoffman] while another cooly strolled past a yet-more graphic painting (left). Proving that art fairs make for fascinating outfit/art combinations, a woman enlivened Shephard Fairey's communist propaganda portrait of Aung San Suu Kyi with her dress. While Fairey as usual lacked any irony, one could see nearby a series of Warhols based on the hammer and sickle, where the wall labels alone created a rich stew of communism and capitalism, art world and politics, cool irony and real danger.

Right: Shephard Fairey at Deitch.

Left: Andy Warhol wall labels at L & M Arts.

Below: Gerhard Richter and Louise Bourgeois at Kukje Gallery.

Another pleasure found at crowded art fairs was that of finding delicious juxtapositions of art by familiar artists. A lovely pairing of a hanging Bourgeois "Lair" sculpture, dark, minimal, yet sensual, prompted me to see a nearby abstract, primary colored, lush Richter in a new light.

Shoes seemed to boringly inhabit the black platform stilettos range, which I consequently abstained from photographing. Some colorful Miami variants popped through, notably the following.

In my final few minutes at Art Basel I noticed a realistic life-size sculpture of a waitress by Duane Hansen wedged into a corner. How apt, for all the discussion of the health of the art market, that I saw this sad creature, left behind by the whirlwind of moneyed exotica roaming the halls of the convention center searching for their next investment.

Left: Duane Hansen "Rita the Waitress" 1975, at Van de Weghe.