Miami’s fushcia-smudged sky provides the perfect backdrop for the Wynwood Art Walk, which pops up on the second Saturday of every month and draws loads of viewers and arty events.
One of the remarkable things about Miami galleries is their size, which by comparison to New York makes them more like mini-museums. The 12,500-square-foot Zadok Art Gallery, for example, is currently showcasing two stellar artists: Lori Kirkbride, a Brooklyn-based painter whose Klimt-meets-Miriam Schapiro works are infused with a hint of playfulness, and Chen Man, a Chinese digital artist who recently created an ad campaign for MAC Cosmetics and shot Victoria Beckham for the cover of next month’s Chinese edition of Harper’s Bazaar.
Man’s show consists of her digitally enhanced, sultry photographs of Asian women mounted as transparencies on light boxes. Kirkbride uses a sleek resin to finish her intricate collage-paintings, which she creates on wood and then mounts on a wooden frame. Zadok’s Director, Mark T. Smith, says it’s this unique signature that makes Kirkbide’s work great. “Not only is it incredibly beautiful, but it’s very well-crafted too,” he says.
The lofty Dorsch Gallery has a solo exhibition on by Ralph Provisero called For Old Times’ Sake, which features his kinetic sculpture, Spring Rider. The work, a found toy fiberglass car that’s been re-painted black, triggers memories of childhood arcade games as it noisily jostles around on a pedestal spewing a periodic machine gun sound.
Concurrently on view at the venue is Let’s Begin with a Line, an engaging group show that’s thoughtfully curated by gallery director Tyler Emerson-Dorsch. She said that she was attracted to the openness of the phrase, “Let’s begin,” and decided to use it as the springboard for investigating the symbolic nature of lines in art. All the works were fantastic, particularly a series of printed etchings that Sonic Youth guitarist Lee Ranaldo made with vinyl records.
Towards the back of the show is recent Virginia Commonwealth University MFA grad Jennifer Lauren Smith’s video, which follows a hot air balloon above and below water level. Gallery founder Brook Dorsch called the work “hypnotic,” and he was right—this work mesmerizes.
Over at the hip Gallery Diet, local artist and curator Christy Gast’s larger-than-life burlap sculptures tower over viewers. Riffing on the idea that the artist’s studio is a site that’s both liberating and confining, the works reference polar opposites: past and present, interior and exterior, figurative and abstract. Gast’s material of choice, which is normally used as a container of seeds, beans, or soil, gives a nod to elements for creation, life, and consumption.
Nearby at the David Castillo Gallery, New York-based photographer, sculptor, and performance artist Kate Gilmore presents her solo show, Rock, Hard, Place. It consists of a video performance called Break of Day, a somewhat disturbing commentary on the passing and futility of time. The reel seems to pivot on something of a Sartre-like No Exit theme of repetitive captivity.
After Gilmore’s show, the lighter openness of Vox, a group exhibit at the Alejandra von Hartz gallery, is a welcome respite. Buenos Aires-born artist Soledad Arias’ Acoustic Wall #1 captivated with its cascading wall of emotionally charged words. Phrases like “yells out,” “gasps,” and “stutters” scream off of the wall, eliciting a variety of images and responses. “Everything is in the context of human condition,” Arias has said. “Everything is an excuse to know and to figure out who we are.”
A separate gallery at Alejander von Hartz houses a painting installation by Berlin-based Danish artist Malene Landgreen titled Voyage and Rhythm. Landgreen’s work, though linear and geometric, is often imperfect and unfinished. The edges bleed into nowhere. White gaps of canvas peek through her creations, seemingly with the sole purpose of driving perfectionists into a tizzy.
The gallery 101/Exhibit exudes a knowing coolness that’s comparable to a space right out of L.A. (owner Sloan Schaffer plans to open a new space in West Hollywood later this year). He finds artists that are technically masterful who also have a gritty appeal. One of his finds, San Francisco-based Ted Vasin, is no exception. His latest body of work, Poison Bliss, resonated as one of the night’s best openings.
Guns are a major theme throughout Vasin’s figurative canvases, which illuminate his extreme skill as a draftsman. He gets his edge via provocative subject matter and metallic acrylic paint, creating frightening, enticing imagery derived from his own hallucinations. In one work the artist appears three times brandishing a gun, pointing it directly at the viewer. Despite the aggressive stance, it’s hard to pull away from the violent imagery.
In sum, the experience was a stellar showing for Miami’s art walk. Devoid of maddening crowds, these non-Basel months are always the best opportunity to engage with the exhibitions, dealers, and artists before the craziness begins.