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What We Talk About When We Talk About Art PDF Print E-mail
Written by Anne Tschida   
July 2010

New local art arrives at MAM

When we talk about the art scene in Miami today, it’s not about whether it has arrived, it’s about where it is going. For more than a decade now, Miami has developed a solid visual arts community, with its institutions, museums, collections, and a base of artists finding firm roots. And of course, Art Basel Miami Beach has helped add international depth -- and an extra level of scrutiny.

Along the way, museums and galleries have highlighted examples of Miami’s growth, more often than not focusing on the vibrant, emerging young artists.

Now the Miami Art Museum (MAM) wants to give us a little more. “New Work Miami,” opening up in mid-July, aims to present a broader, more mature art scene than has been shown in the past. It’s a noble ambition, and one that could benefit Miami at this point. But first, the curators of this exhibition want to emphasize that this is not a comprehensive survey of Miami’s scene; it is a snapshot of a moment in the summer of 2010.

Peter Boswell, MAM’s assistant director for programs and senior curator, and René Morales, associate curator, are sitting at a table in the foyer of the museum this hot, sunny morning, talking about the genesis of the show. They’ve been making the rounds of studios and galleries for months now, looking for new works and “not the usual suspects,” says Boswell. “We were looking for stuff that jazzed us up, and hadn’t really been seen before.”

They came to a decision as they visited swaths of the city to include emerging, midcareer, and established artists, but in the end to limit the total amount of work so it wouldn’t feel like a Miami grab bag.

“We really wanted to highlight the variety of approaches that artists take today,” says Morales. “Ten years ago artists just weren’t as exposed to as much as they are today. It’s so diverse, and not just multiculturally.”

As we walk through the spaces that will soon house the work of about 35 artists, Morales and Boswell explain that it’s not just Miami that has grown in the 21st Century, but the art world itself. Says Morales: “Yes, Miami has been exposed to international art because of Basel and the [growth] of the collections here, but the Internet has changed the world as well.”

So in tandem with our kinetic globe, Boswell and Morales don’t want this show to be static, or just paintings “hanging on walls for one night.” Throughout the run of the show, there will be performances, videos, and even artists working in the museum at certain times. There will be a room designated for works that relate to the environment, a “rock and roll” room with pop-referenced art, and sound installations.

It does seem a departure from the all-Miami shows of the past -- well-received exhibitions such as “The House at MoCA” and its follow-up “Travels in Hyperreality,” and MAM’s own “Miami in Transition” -- which were intended to introduce audiences to Miami’s talent. “New Work” wants to introduce new techniques, styles, and approaches with the assumption that the Miami creators themselves are already recognized.

And while this is a locals-only exhibit, reflecting the multicultural backgrounds of the artistic hands, Boswell makes it clear he thinks there is no such thing as a “Miami flavor” or style: “It’s a more interesting reality than that.”

What will this reality entail for those visiting MAM to see the show? Because the curators didn’t want “New Work Miami” to be a survey and crammed with works, some artists will get their own rooms, others entire walls or extensive floor space. Beatriz Monteavaro will make a black-light sculpture in one room, while Felecia Chizuko Carlisle will project imagery and continue to work on abstractions as the show goes on in her “studio” of a room. Sound artist Gustavo Matamoros will take over the elevator with his acoustic art, and Tatiana Vahan will create a video installation for the front foyer.

Gean Moreno, an artist and writer, along with Ernesto Oroza, are creating a tabloid catalogue that can be found in the reading/visitors room, where they will also have crafted furniture for the space (the catalogue will also be distributed around town). The collective Talking Head Transmitters will be conducting interviews in another room, and Kevin Arrow will set up a thrift-store-like installation in yet another.

In the “rock and roll” main area, artists such as Manny Prieres, Bert Rodriguez, and Don Lambert will create kinetic pieces. In the alternative-approaches space, highlighting works that are traditional maybe in essence but not in method, artists such as Lynne Golob Gelfman, Bob Thiele, Mette Tommerup, and Frances Trombly -- whose “painting” is a stretched, hand-woven canvas -- will be shown. The duo of Guerra de la Paz will be unveiling a new series, based on Greco-Roman torso sculptures but still made from their trademark found clothing, in this case shoulder pads and skin covering of polyester lace. And Fabian Peña will cover a wall with a piece made from bug parts. Robert Chambers, Jacin Giordano, Jim Drain, and Michael Genovese, along with others, will also contribute to the mix.

It’s a mix that is intentional, says Morales, a grouping of artists who are new, well established, or somewhere in between -- and all are part of Miami’s now substantial art community. In fact Morales was a co-curator of the 2006 MAM show “Miami in Transition,” which featured 21 artists, none of whom are in this show but most of whom are still active, so one clear goal was to highlight yet another group of artists to underscore the heft of the scene here.

The cohesion of this particular show comes from the new work that he and Boswell saw in the making, in its depth and diversity. “Because of the global nature of art today, there is a new conversation” with the rest of the art world that makes Miami far less provincial than it once was, Morales suggests.

While the art world used to follow dictated trends formulated in art hubs, in the 21st Century, artists are familiar with work being created all over -- thanks to travel and the Internet -- and therefore such art centers are less important. Combine that with a South Florida demographic that is uniquely multicultural, and Miami has a lot to say. “The diversity of approaches,” says Morales, “is what they have in common.”

 

“New Work Miami” at the Miami Art Museum, July 18 through October 17, with special performances and openings the first and third Thursdays, 101 W. Flagler St., Miami, 305-375-3000.


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