Monday, January 5, 2009

Art review: Loving contemporary art

A-Z, The Passion of Joan, by Aida Ruilova
(Photos by Katie Deits)

By Katie Deits

It's not always easy to make sense of contemporary art, even for someone like me, who's been studying it and creating it for most of her life.

But the more you know about it, the more you love it. I took in a great deal of new art last month at Art Basel in Miami Beach, so much so that it was almost overwhelming, even for a total art addict like myself.

Out of the 23 art fairs ongoing during the festival, my daughter Robyn -- an art gallery manager in Cheshire, England -- and I saw nine: Pulse Miami, Photo Miami, Scope, Sculpt Miami, Nada, Gen Art Vanguard Fair, Design Miami, In Fashion Photo and Red Dot Fair. With more time, we could have visited 11 local art museums as well as a long list of alternative venues, lectures, galleries, open artists’ studios, parties and theatrical performances.

Now that the holidays have passed, I can start making sense of everything I saw. What new innovations were there? From an art-history perspective, what works of well-known artists were exhibited that had not been seen before by the general public? What trends were revealed?

Knowledge of the history of contemporary art is helpful when trying to piece together its puzzle. And even though I have a college minor in art history, I found a series of lectures on this topic last fall at Miami's Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) helped me to clarify, distill and fill in the blanks.

If you missed the lectures, the museum is again offering the series of eight illustrated lectures on Wednesday evenings, starting this Wednesday, Jan. 7, at 7:30 p.m. The series, called Contemporary Art Boot Camp: 24 Strategies for Making Art During the '90s and Now, will be presented by MOCA's education curator, Adrienne von Lates.

MOCA's series is helpful enough in itself, and it's also good background material for the upcoming palmbeach3 Contemporary Art Fair, which runs from Jan. 15-18 at the Palm Beach County Convention Center in West Palm Beach. Palmbeach3 offers an excellent discussion and lecture series as well.

The cost for the MOCA series is $10 per class for members, $12 for non-members and $3 for college students with ID. For more information or to register, visit the MOCA Website or call (305) 893-6211, ext. 25.

Here's a look back at some of the other art and artists I saw during Art Basel, but didn't get time to write about and post at the time:

Palm Beach County photographer Cheryl Maeder, in front of her Dreamscapes photographs.

Cheryl Maeder: This Palm Beach County photographer exhibited at the Red Dot Fair, and her work can be seen next week at Galerie Mark Hachem at palmbeach3.

Maeder, an internationally known fine art and advertising photographer, studied at the Kunstgewerbeschule in Zurich before opening a studio in San Francisco. Her Dreamscapes Series, photographed along the Southeast coast of Florida, is innovative and minimalistic in style, giving the impression of the form, light and color of the scene.

Palm Beach artist Maria Karki exhibited her mandalas
in the Artist Fair at the Shelborne Hotel in Miami Beach.

Maria Karki: Palm Beach artist Karki exhibited in the Artist Fair held at the Shelborne Hotel on Collins Avenue in Miami Beach. Karki, who was honored with a one-person show last year at the Ann Norton Sculpture Garden, presented her interpretation of mandalas, which are ancient meditation symbols from Buddhist and Hindu cultures.

Aïda Ruilova created a photographic series of glimpses
into people’s lives and then made them 3-D.

Aida Ruilova: Gallery Salon 94 featured the work of this New York-based photographer, who produced a series of unusually posed portraits and then had the C-prints fabricated in Italy to be three-dimensional, in the manner of those old plastic commercial advertisements from the 1950s for cigarettes and other products.

The Nature of the Buddha on a Bodia Leaf, 2007, by Binh Danh

Binh Danh: At Photo Miami, photographer Danh's work was shown by the Lisa Sette Gallery of Scottsdale, Ariz. His work, such as The Nature of the Buddha on a Bodia Leaf, 2007 was innovative and interesting. The one-of-a-kind chlorophyll print and resin of this piece sold for $4,375.

Here's more information about the concept behind Danh's aesthetic.

Here are Robyn's festival favorites, in her words:

A Colin Christian sculpture dominates the space
at the Gen Art Vanguard Contemporary Art Fair.

Gen Art Vanguard New Contemporary Art Fair: Under the roof of the Gen Art Vanguard New Contemporary Art Fair, visitors were greeted by an epic Colin Christian sculpture reaching heights just below the roof while friendly servers offered free servings of Arizona Iced Tea. A dealer told us that the massive sculpture was sold to Kanye West.

Gen Art was founded by artist and curator Francesco LoCastro "to provide a fine art exhibition platform for emerging artists and to give leading contemporary art galleries access to an international network of collectors." Graffiti art -- slick “art park benches” and gallery-wrapped canvases by contemporary street artists such as Dolla -- is moving from outside the establishment to major galleries, auction houses and museums. (Watch to see if any of these spray-paint masters show up at palmbeach3.)

Kathie Olivas, left, and Brandt Peters.

Kathie Olivas and Brandt Peters: These leading American artists in the Lowbrow Pop Surrealism movement (at left) showed off their newly released art book Ghosts and Martyrs -- or Martyrs and Ghosts, depending from which side the viewer starts reading the book.

It is a collaborative work featuring Peters' collection of character developments, sketches, paintings and vinyl toys, as well as Olivas’ famous Misery Children.

Female Head/Madonna No. 14, by Gugger Petter,
a tapestry made from folded newspaper.

Gugger Petter: Finally, at Red Dot Art Fair, we found an artist with a solution of what to do with old newspapers (other than tossing them in the recycling bin). Gugger Petter meticulously wove a 6-foot high soulful tapestry, Female Head/Madonna No. 14, with folded newspaper.

Petter is represented by the Andrea Schwartz Gallery of San Francisco. More of Petter’s work can be seen here.

These exhibits all demonstrated that contemporary art is just what it should be: cutting-edge, thought-provoking, and never boring. Take some time to get acquainted with it -- maybe by attending the MOCA lectures -- and then you can take your new passion for art to palmbeach3 Contemporary Art Fair and appreciate it like never before.

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