Many see Miami Art Week as a challenge to see every contemporary art experience the city has to offer. The desire to see everything can result in experiencing nothing, so my mantra for the largest art week around is the Delphic maxim: know thyself. If not, it can be easy to lose yourself in events that have little to no meaning to the way you enjoy and experience (and, if you’re in the trade, profit from) art.
While the quantity and range of fairs allows for important and often unexpected discoveries, it can also result in a gluttonous consumption of art. Yes, there is such a thing as consuming too much art. It is for this reason that I generally like to divide my time between seeing artworks and spending time with art people. If I don’t make it to even half the fairs or key events, performances, and films, so be it. For me, the ability to connect with people spread throughout the world is an important part of the fair experience.
The other reason it is vital to clearly understand your nature and motives is that the result of selecting the right art experiences and people is often the difference between feeling empowered and feeling disheartened. It is common to see artists and gallerists alike bemoaning their existential dread over the social and financial hierarchies at play. Here the market-driven hegemony of what constitutes ‘’good’’ art (not to mention sales) and the jockeying for who has access to the most VIP experiences can have disillusioning effects. So again the right mantra can be a strategic and successful defense in a sea of popular opinion.
With this approach, I visited five fairs (out of twenty-two) in four days:
Art Miami is the oldest and longest running fair in Miami, presenting 200 galleries this year—125 in its main section and 75 in its Context section—which focuses on young artists. Directed by Nick Korniloff, 2014 marks the 25th anniversary of the fair.
Peter Blake Gallery (Laguna Beach, CA) participated at Art Miami for the first time this year exhibiting a group show that is representative of Peter’s great eye and strong program of contemporary practices engaged with geometric abstraction, hard-edge formalism, mark-making minimalism, and California Light and Space. An absence of color, strong yet refined lines, and thoughtful choices in high contrast, dual-tone works came together to create a harmonious and stunningly beautiful collection of 20th and 21st-century painting and sculpture. Highlights included both leaning and freestanding urethane sculptures by Peter Alexander and a John McLaughlin painting that is the best example by the artist I’ve seen in some time, perhaps ever.
A beautiful layered line painting by L.A.-based artist Steve Burtch was another high point. Burtch creates delicate line drawings with ink on cast acrylic that have an elegant multi-dimensional quality. His works float on the wall in a manner similar to Robert Irwin’s white relief sculptures from the 1960s and have a settling meditative aura that makes seeing them a restful and restoring experience. Burtch’s work is juxtaposed nicely with a work by San Francisco-based artist Hadi Tabatabai, who shares a similar aesthetic to Burtch with an interest in lines on acrylic panel. Interested in the repetition and balance of grids, Tabatabai’s work plays homage to the structural beauty of geometry, which is deeply rooted in Islamic aesthetic traditions—no doubt an influence for the artist who was born in Iran. Considering the quality of the works exhibited, exhibition design, and curatorial coherence, Peter Blake Gallery has my vote for best in show. Bravo PBG on your first year at Art Miami—way to come out strong.
Exhibiting together, Vincent Vallarino Fine Art (New York, NY) and McCormick Gallery (Chicago, IL) brought a wonderful Ray Parker that converses with a beautiful example by fellow color field painter Friedel Dzubas, just across the aisle at Hollis Taggart Galleries (New York, NY). This year marks the 50th anniversary of Clement Greenberg’s Post-Painterly Abstraction exhibition at LACMA so it’s a special moment to see works by artists included in the seminal show. Other notable artists included in the survey and seen at Art Maimi include a large green and blue painting by Helen Frankenthaler from 1969 at Yares Art Projects (Santa Fe, New Mexico) and a high key painting by Kenneth Noland at Loretta Howard Gallery (New York, NY).
Sam Francis was well represented at this year’s edition of Art Miami with the best work coming from ARCHEUS / POST-MODERN. An early painting dating to 1955, Deep Blue and Black showcases the artist’s favorite color (blue) and an impressive exhibition history extending from Switzerland to California. Works from the ‘50s are particularly desirable because from 1950-59 Sam Francis lived and worked primarily in Paris, which demarcates an exceptionally creative period in the artist’s oeuvre. Latin American Art also was had a discernible presence at Art Miami (as well as Art Basel) and, in particular, with works by Venezuelan artist Jesus Rafael Soto. Leon Tovar Gallery (New York, NY) had the best example by the artist at Art Miami.
It only seems sensible to conclude this review with a Warhol dollar sign painting (offered by Hollis Taggart), which perfectly reflects the tone of Miami Art Week. ”Money is my mood,’’ Andy Warhol notoriously stated. If Miami Art Week had a mantra, I’d bet this would be it.