Recently I was in Miami at the annual Art Basel Fairs. I was at Dolan Maxwell’s booth there at INK, the paper/print fair with Margo Dolan and Ron Rumford. It’s a pleasure I look forward to each December that gives me entry to DM’s world of rich and interesting prints and an opportunity to spend time with Ron, a dear friend. INK draws a large crowd of lookers, serious collectors and industry folks. For anyone who shares my love paper and paper happy media this is a very physically satisfying place to be.
I arrived in Florida on the Monday evening of fair week and got to the hotel on Tuesday morning for set up, driving into Miami on that wildest of rides: Route 95. Anyone who knows this road knows it’s a lawless free for all, though for the purposes of this trip it may also have been an apt gateway into the weekend; building excitement, sharpening the senses, raising the stakes and exposing me to the color, light, temperature, and architecture that serves as inspiration and backdrop for many Miami based artists.
I’ve been coming to Miami for about a decade to investigate what’s made there, who makes it, and how it defines the culture. At first sight I was as enamored as most first time visitors. The city is bright and alive with an intertwined core of talent surrounded by interested gallerists, patrons, developers and architects that work to get the work seen in a variety of public and private spaces. There is a theatrical aspect to the street life, which can be as gamey as it is gorgeous. The architecture both hunkers and bunkers in response to the heat and rises in celebrates of new thought and modernism with great flair, sometime with too many voices to be clear. The Latin culture has been landed upon by the American Midwest and Northeast, and there is a hem of European décor sewn around the edge of the etiquette. I felt an invigorating sense of simultaneously dropping in and dropping out.
Over the next few years I explored the family collections. Rubell, Maguilles, de la Cruz and some others drive the city from a different source in a new direction. But I remained confused and was often challenged by what seems a necessary departure from the artistic standards I’d unconsciously adopted from years in the northeast. The closer I got to a central artery the more insubstantial things seemed and the use of materials seemed not to be driven by ‘high’ and ‘low’ (a welcome relief from the academic semantics that strangle so many artists) but by passion, devotion, collection, movement, temperature and texture. Nonsense and the narrative. I saw lots of work I would have left behind in New York studios and some really magnificent stuff too. Violence and humor.
It was only last year sitting in a lecture at the de la Cruz Collection when I experienced a shift. The presenter had put the audience off enough so that most were bored. Restless too, I checked out the crowd and saw all kinds of Miami there when suddenly the space just opened up. What helped was that the night before I’d had dinner with a Cuban friend and the conversation had turned to what it is like to live a life interrupted; a life in a new and foreign place often imposed on children, many times without reason or explanation. There are many stories of success and many of struggle but I was imprinted with the feelings of being lost in a new land.
So there I was sitting at this lecture in this space that just all of a sudden opened up, the one I was finally able to share with the other people in that room. I imagined it as dark and endless, made of a lack of light and coolness, with the scale define by noise rather than light and perspective. I looked around the galleries and saw the art differently and possibly for the first time. This bright, colorful, often unpleasant detritus was being made either to fill or to explain that space….that lost dark place of being displaced.
I guess I’m old and traditional enough to prefer a way into work, or maybe not. Maybe I can also be impassive but it seems that the work I’ve seen in Miami does not want to allow me to relate to it as an object but rather as some situation or as part of something ongoing that is less like a dialogue and more like blood or oil, flowing and filling corners and dark and beautiful and repulsive and insistent.
At INK on Tuesday we spotted the hang and reviewed the work, a section from Stanley William Hayter to Judith Rothchild to Steve Ford and many others. There was a breakfast reception on Wednesday morning after which all roads led to the big fair. On Friday I went with friends to Basel, Design Miami and saw Aqua. I only wish I’d seen more of Art Miami which is now the recipient of consistent praise during the fairs. Pulse also gets a nod as does Aqua. I was also thrilled to hear that Michelle Weinberg’s Available Space project at Pulse did well.
On Saturday Ron and I ran over to look at Aqua, also located on Collins Ave. a few blocks south of Ink. I headed for Gregory Lind’s room. I enjoy what he selects and presents and saw some new work from Chris Corales that did not disappoint with Lind’s eye for formal work fulfilled with warm and honest materials.
We also met Ree Willaford and her husband Jason at Galleri Urbane. Ree and Jason had set an alive and articulate installation in an artfair-world of squishy and pungent material. It was apparent right away that they love the work they represent and what they do for their artists. We particularly enjoyed an installation of six stacked paintings by Gail Peter Borden. I also continue to love the work of Don Voisine at McKensie Fine Art who also had some work from Gary Peterson which was great to see in person.
So what does it say that I was blown away by the brand new electric Audi at Design Miami? Maybe I just caved from being surrounded by so many beautiful people, so much lustful marketing and my love of Audis in general. I even touched this shiny prototype after one of the spokesmodels told me not to. Funny was that she shamed me but her expression and demeanor didn’t change at all. We bonded beneath the skin in a moment of shared apathy for our respective actions. The rest of that fair was fast and fun though it seemed a bit thin, like the organizers had sacrificed something possible for the customary huge expanses of space we’ve come to need to surround Le Corbusier furniture and its many younger relatives.
Driving north on Sunday I felt like an addict after a fix, now older than that memory and suffering painful knees rather than more acute consequences. I had not been in contact with friends all week, and other business obligations had been set aside, I had barely addressed my own care having eaten badly and pushed through low moments with sweet Cuban coffee, certainly my home and lover wanted for some care and attention. And I thought,’ I love this unusual life that is made in chapters and fed from looking’.