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Written by Anne Tschida - BT Arts Editor   
June 2012

Two artist-run exhibition spaces in North Miami span the little-known corners of the local art scene

 

ArtFeature_1Some of the first structures humans ever made were bridges. We knew we wanted to cross over to new territory, and then be able to come back again.

So the two artist-run alternative exhibition spaces in North Miami are aptly named: Bridge Red Studios Project Space and Under the Bridge. They’re both located in a complex of studios off NE 123rd Street, and both have a mission to exhibit art that may not otherwise appear in galleries, although they achieve this in slightly different ways.

The first to open up was Bridge Red Studios, named after the brightly painted red door that serves as the space’s entry. It’s run by veteran artist Robert Thiele, his artist daughter Kristen, and photographer son-in-law Francesco Casale, all of whom believed that too many artists who had put in years perfecting their craft were flying well under the radar in Miami, with its youth-obsessed burgeoning art scene.

So in early 2011, Bridge Red opened with a retrospective of painter Salvatore La Rosa, whose prolific output from well more than 40 years, for the most part, had been hidden away in his studio, away from the bright lights of Art Basel Miami Beach. “He is the classic misunderstood artist,” says Robert Thiele about La Rosa, a recluse who makes art for art’s sake and for almost no other reason. The reaction to the inaugural exhibit was overwhelming, remembers Thiele, so they continued with more shows, and “not all of them involved senior citizens,” he says with a laugh.

ArtFeature_2These shows included “3,” featuring Robert Chambers, William Cordova, and Barbara Neijna, and “70s,” which highlighted work from artists who taught at the North Campus of Miami-Dade Community College (as it was then called) during the 1970s, including the late, great Duane Hanson. “These are, and were, mature artists with a formidable body of work, who, for whatever reason, are not showing in the galleries here,” explains Thiele.

Bridge Red will produce five exhibits per year. It kicked off 2012 with a solo show by Sherri Tan, who makes sculpture and collage from found objects and baroque imagery, and whose work has not been exhibited since the early 2000s.

All that heavy lifting paid off with a Knight Arts Challenge Grant this year; Bridge Red raised the matching funds of $15,000 with a one-night auction, proving the popularity of the artwork the space is showing.

“Each show pulls in a new crowd that we haven’t seen before,” says Kristen Thiele, who recently gave up her curating and board duties at the Art Center/South Florida to concentrate on Bridge Red. With the grant, the Thieles and Casale will concentrate on making catalogues and documenting the exhibits on their Website, “to extend their lives,” she says.

ArtFeature_3Currently on view as the summer show is painting and sculpture from Zaydee Martinez, Joe Nicastri, and Laura Tan, all artists who’ve had long careers. Next up will be a solo show by Robert Flynn, a rising star who left Miami to teach in Vermont and then unexpectedly died of a heart attack at age 39 in 2007.

The North Miami complex that includes Bridge Red has long been a home to a number of artists, including Lou Anne Colodny, who was the founder of the Center of Contemporary Art (COCA), the precursor to the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA). Opened in 1981, the complex “showed alternative work, from performance and sound installation to experimental visual arts,” recalls Colodny. “We showed video before video was ‘in.’”

When the space morphed into a full-fledged museum, Colodny passed the reins over to director Bonnie Clearwater and focused on making her own art. But after Bridge Red opened upstairs from her, she decided it was time to get back in exhibiting mode. “There are so many artists who have been biding their time, doing their own thing, working behind the scenes,” she says, pointedly adding that, contrary to popular belief, an art scene existed here before Art Basel.

To kick off what she named Under the Bridge, Colodny asked her old friend Adalberto Delgado if he would like to show his work. Delgado, an influential member of Miami’s cultural community, is an experimental visual artist and rumba master who recently opened an alternative art space in Little Havana, the 6th Street Container. He put together the clever “Again, After All These Years” exhibit, which lampooned the pretentious and all-too-serious nature of the current art scene. “He is a forgotten hero,” says Colodny, “I wanted him at my space.”

But unlike Bridge Red, Colodny isn’t going to concentrate only on work created by artists in the later stages of their careers: “I want it to be a mixed bag -- just art that excites me, whenever it was made.” She wants artists to collaborate, with no predetermined outcomes.

One result is the current exhibit, “Smoke Signals: portals y paisajes.” Curated by William Cordova, the 14 artists included in the show range from well known to obscure. The “portal” is the key element in the various small-scale works on the ground floor of Under the Bridge, a former warehouse.

ArtFeature_4 ArtFeature_5

 

Each work suggests a peephole, a bird’s-eye view into another realm. Miami-raised and now New York-based Luis Gispert has a drawing that resembles a vinyl record, but it’s only halfway colored in. Should we be drawn into the vortex completely, or remain halfway out? A spinning record is a portal into music, of course, and into all the emotions that are evoked by it. Back in 2002, Gispert became one of the first of the new generation of artists from Miami to be accepted into the Whitney Biennial.

A less familiar name would be Yanira Collado, who has crafted what looks like blacked-out text on paper, not unlike a classified document. In fact, the strips of text are actually woven fabric, a coded quilt. When looking into this portal, the meaning -- or the revelation -- truly is layered.

Other artists include Robert Thiele, Jorge Pantoja, Glexis Novoa, and Fatima Haider. “I want the exhibits to be whimsical and serious,” says Colodny, not just “crappy handicrafting.”

 

“Martinez/Nicastri/Tan” runs through July 8 at Bridge Red Studios Project Space, 12425 NE 13th Ave., Suite 5; 786-390-8915. “Smoke Signals: portals y paisajes” is downstairs at Under the Bridge, 305-987-4437.

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