Monday, December 7, 2009
Art Basel Miami Beach 2009 | Mini Review
The atmosphere at Art Basel this year was refreshingly dynamic. There was a real positive sense of energy that filtered through the venues and into the social scene as well, despite the current lukewarm economic status for luxury. There was a certain something about a majority of the booths at the main fair and the satellite locations that exhibited an inspiring sense of intellectual force. This was evident both in the curatorial aspect of how galleries hung their booths and in the selection of works that they chose to bring down and exhibit at the fair. This observation comes from a viewing of the booths post vernissage, which kicked-off Art Basel on Wednesday, December 2, 6-9 p.m.
One of the first booths that I took notice of was Susanne Vielmetter | Los Angeles Projects, showing with Art Nova. Art Nova presents over 60 emerging and established galleries from 24 countries with recent works by up to three artists. Vielmetter exhibited Ruben Ochoa and Tam van Tran, both artists working in two and three-dimensional space. Ochoa, born in CA and lives and works in Los Angeles, expands upon the limitations of two-dimensional space by presenting a scenario for a space that is suggetive of the potential of the three-dimensional reality that the viewer experiences. This small installation includes five skids, or wooden pallets stacked and arranged haphazardly in a small pile. Behind the skids, in the back left corner of the booth, two drawings abut one another that contain three stacks of skids arranged more systematically into vertical piles. The juxtaposition of the tall stacked drawings of skids in the background and the group of skids spilling onto the floor in the foreground created an almost city-scape and landscape-like frame of reference. These new works parallel Ochoa's interest in pairing perceptions of man-made materials with suggested geographical contents and contexts. Ochoa's installation is shown alongside a series of thee-dimensional paintings by Tam van Tran, born in Vietnam and lives and works in Los Angeles. These multi-media works combine fantastical and practical architectural reference along with reference to science fiction and pop culture. In a layered matrix-like composition, these works take action onto the whimsical and project out onto the space as thought they are coming to life. The intricately layered patterning that evolves within these structures is futher enhanced by the science fiction-like anthropomorphic suggestion of human-like body formations. Together in the Vielmetter's space both artists made up an intersting exploration of multi-media works and installation and covered a wide range of thematic concepts from architecture to science fiction, all presented with a keen sense of aesthetic compatibility. Bravo!
More highlights at the main fair included, mixed-media paintings by Penny Siopis at Michael Stevenson Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa. These ghostly red figures appear beneath a golden layer of oil paint, liquid ink washes and viscous glue, which creates a unique dream-like affect, although much of her work is driven by the aspects of human suffering. At James Cohan Gallery, New York, a large Roxy Paine sculpture, similar to Maelstrom, the sprawling installation atop the MET's Cantor Roof Garden which was presented until late Oct. 2009, was shown in its own niche. This gave a good bit of depth to the works presented and again highlighted ways in which galleries utilize their booth options. They are given the space dimensions and asked to provide a layout for additional walls and even Pantone swatches for any strategic wall painting. Some galleries even take the next step and install flooring within the space to offset the dark grey carpeting of the fair. Kukje Gallery, based in Seoul for example, had installed a light wood floor in their space, and kept most of the walls white except for one niche, created specifically for a Bill Viola video installation that was painted a very dark navy tone. This was decidedly different than their 2008 choice to have video work presented on the outer walls of the booth. This year I think it worked particularly well since they were exhibiting several new works by Ghada Amer, who is using very deep blues and reds that played nicely off of the Viola wall color as they dialogued with one another across the booth. It keeps coming back to space and how galleries are using the spaces this year to their potential. Yes, sales are always the big goal for the art fairs but I get a real sense of commitment to the minimal square footage that galleries are afforded that has made quite the impact.
At Galerie Lelong, New York, there was a beautiful homage to the late Nancy Spero. An early multi-panel gouache and ink on paper marked the entrance to the space. With playfully dancing figures it set the tone for an equally playful approach to the space. Among works from Lelong's exceptional artists included was a vibrant new painting by Italian artist Angelo Filomeno whose traditionally monocrhomatic palet was injected with a beautiful strip of aqua fabric running horizontal across the panel, dividing an ebroidered skull from a striped satin base of the work. For photographic works, a light box work called Sleep (alcove), 2006 by Catherine Yass added an other punch of color. Her exploration of hues derived from experimentation with color photography processing methods leads the viewer into auras of unexplained spaces, this work specifically a doorway, that play with our depth perceptions yet exudes a pull into a subconcious realm. Galerie Lelong also had a very nice section set up for works on paper by Kate Shepard, Helio Oiticica and more.
Nature Morte/Bose Pacia had works on display by Indian artist Aditya Pande, who lives and works in New Delhi. Originally trained as a graphic designer Pande's works have a strong element of design originating from ink jet prints, which are transformed into lush fields of information with the addition of applied art elements, collage, print-making and painting. Pande's scenes that often include a figure of figures within a space invite the viewer in with an explosion of color and texture and keep the viewer intriqued at the depth of information present.
The main fair wasn't the only place for well curated space and a look at some interesting emerging artists. NADA came out in full force at their new location for 2009, The Deauville Beach Resort. A few artists of mention at NADA were Justin Cooper at Monique Meloche, Chicago, whose photography and sculpture give insight into a new look at consumer consumption based on need and how this can still evolve into a reality of accumulation. Also, Ann Woo and Joy Drury Cox at Humble Arts Foundation presented a minimal photography and drawing exhibit which brought back interesting perspectives in color and line. Cox's job application drawings map out the blocks the applicants are meant to add their life experiences into, supposedly giving an brief yet compelling glimpse into their work ethic and Woo's C-prints from Sunset Series, which dispay a range of color produced in a sunset. These candy colored prints make a very soft range and also explore the affective quality of how natural color is translated in contemporary photography.
The De la Cruz Collection Contemporary Art Space, admired not only for the amazing collection housed here but for the amazing architecutre, was a new gem amongst the Wynwood Design Disctrict scene. Brand new and open to the public for the first time for Maimi Art Basel this 30,000 square foot space, designed by John Marquette is a curator's dream. Meant as a space for education in contemporary art, Rosa de la Cruz says, "With everything that’s happening in the world right now, we need to slow down and spend more time looking at works. So there will be the collection, and that’s it. And a little library," in a Dec. 2008 interview in Art + Auction. Her predictions seems to have played themselves out, not only in the way she has conducted her exhibition space but in the atmosphere of the entire fair this year. Curated by herself and her husband Carlos, the collection boasts astounding large-scale fiber works by Cosima von Bonin, born in Kenya and living and working in Germany, that steel the show. These massive fiber compositions hold pop culture references and expression alongside social recognition and relationships creating a puzzle of information for viewer's to piece together. The De la Cruz Collection is known for its support of Latin American artists and proudly displays many of the most beloved on the very top floor of the space including Guillermo Kuitca, Félix González-Torres, and Ana Mendieta. There is a room dedicated soley to a very intimate collection of Mendiet'as photographs, sculpture, video and works on paper with an informative text by Mary Sabbatino, Vice President of Galeri Lelong who houses the estate of Ana Mendieta. Done simply and tastefully, the De la Cruz exhibition spaces have the finish of an established museum-like environment with the infinate potential for new and exciting installations, acquisitions and creative thinking. The collection, the mission behind the collection, and the building were simply outstanding and I can't wait to see how the De la Cruz's use the space next year.
While my term at Art Basel Miami was brief this year, I didn't make it to Pulse or Scope, which are two of the other major venues, I certainly chose wisely under the advise of seasoned fair particpants. Of the four years that I have been attending Miami Art Basel, 2009 was certainly one of the best in many ways. It had its glitz and glamour, which I'll admit, I would be a little disappointed if that wasn't included (it is Miami after all) but the focus this year was art. Of course about buying and selling art but there was an energy this year that brought back the intellectual and sophisticated viewer and gallery.