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Around Town: Miami

New York Foundation for the Arts Interactive, September 22, 2004 (read there)

Franklin Einspruch is a Miami-based artist who blogs about the art world at Artblog.net . His upcoming show at Dorsch Gallery in Miami opens October 9. For this column, NYFA Current asks artists to visit several exhibitions in their home city and comment on them.

Miami Art Museum:

MAM showed this year's winners of the South Florida Cultural Consortium Fellowship, one of the nation's largest grants given to individual visual artists. I placed as a first-round finalist (total award: zero bucks), so I noted with excessive soreness how uninspired most of the work looked. Two realist painters, Felipe Aguirre and Marlene Koenig, showed more skill than inspiration. Leyden Rodriguez-Cassanova's manipulated family photographs elicited my shrug, as did Odalis Valdivieso's recreation of a slick, modern living room with a TV that displayed a contrasty video of skateborders. I got over myself enough to admire Kimberly Maxwell's evocative arrangements of stained acetate, which she tinted with organic splotches of color, and Clifton Childree's well-crafted, creepy installation that included signs painted in the style of old carnival billboards and a faux-1920's silent film that featured a runaway hat.

Moore Space:

Silvia Karman Cubina curated The Pattern Playback, a group show, around an eponymous machine built in the '60s to study the relationship between pattern and sound. This theme ought to have eliminated the best work in the show, a sculpture by Christina Lei Rodriguez that resembled a chaotic, Frankensteinian manipulation of plastic flowers and leaves. Gean Moreno translated his graphomaniacal doodling to large canvases, and they predictably lost the density that energizes his smaller works on paper, but the paintings stood out as some of the stronger objects in the room. Frenetic videos by Aida Ruilova, edited to seconds-long segments, perhaps would appeal to someone with a shorter attention span.

Kevin Bruk:

I felt gratified to end my Thursday evening here - an installation of drawings by Mark Fox served up a generous helping of brio. The artist rendered several hundred oversize drawings of objects around his house in ink on paper, and pinned them loosely to a wall that cut through the main space diagonally. The paper had a green backing and the wall had a dusting of chartreuse spray paint, all of which gave the installation a glow-in-the-dark aura. Fox's work showed command and conviction. I couldn't say the same for the paintings of Michael Rodriguez in the project room, which repetitiously used pattterns of weird paint effects in cross-shaped compositions that had no measurable punch.

Locust Projects:

For the strongest piece in this show, Raymond Saa tiled monochrome drawings of plant patterns like shingles on a roof, creating a dense, wall-sized collage that formed an abstract, atmospheric landscape. Although limited in hue, his materials included charcoal, sumi-e ink applied with a bottle of shoe polish, spraypaint, and black and white latex painted on cardboard and wallpaper. Saa has a good feeling for both bold graphics and airy shadows, and used both to build a statement that compensated prolonged looking. A video in the back by William Cordova showed the artist smashing a bass guitar repeatedly against the floor while Air Supply's "All Out of Love" played in the background. Bombast serves him poorly; he has also made delicate little collages and drawings that evince much more flair. Furthermore, this video offered less fun and humor than one by Cory Arcangel back at the Moore Space that showed two guys dancing awkwardly in front of a zippy animated background that seemed to have been generated on an old black-and-white Macintosh.

Ingalls and Associates:

Lucky Beldevere showed sculptures made from Chenille stems (which, despite having now learned the proper term, I will continue to think of as "pipe cleaners"). He uses them in order to make his pieces hover between high art and low art; unfortunately, they also hover between successful art and failed art. Some evoked stalagmites and landscapes thereof, but for the most part their kitschiness did them in. The room dedicated to Ingalls' partner, Lemon Sky Projects & Editions, featured photo-collages by Charles LaBelle made from countless, one-inch-square shots taken around Miami. They came off as overly decorative at first, but they grew on me. LaBelle arranged careful, attractive transitions of hue and contrast from square to square, and the ensembles composed handsomely.

Frederic Snitzer:

Alexia Stamatiou's charming works on paper document scenes from a war fought by tiny cartoon bunnies, as well as its bloody aftermath. Ideally viewed from five inches away, they depict skulls buried in the ground, ships made of bricks headed for confrontation, and bleeding rabbit heads on stakes, using a comforting drawing style and attractive neutral colors in the backgrounds. Visually opposite the live-feed realism of television news, somehow they seemed prophetic - a reminder to think coolly but honorably about the long-term impact of the conflicts we find ourselves in.

Dorsch Gallery:

Dorsch represents my work, so I consider this cavernous place home. Jay Ore's exhibition, I Can't Believe They're Real - a humorous meditation on UFOs and UFO culture - headlined. Proving that goofiness doesn't prevent beauty, he collaged Polaroids of fakey glowing orbs into Cubist starscapes. The lower half of a female figure, carved with astonishing precision out of Styrofoam and painted, hung from the ceiling as if in mid-abduction; her pink flip-flops remained on the floor. An accompanying exhibition of paintings by Marc Roder had handsome moments but recalled Philip Guston and Raymond Pettibon with excessive frequency, and a third show (I'm not kidding about cavernous) of the work of three Dorsch Gallery interns featured a couple of knockout interior scenes by Harumi Abe - vibrantly colored and carefully observed down to the wrinkles in the bedsheets.

Rocket Projects:

I admired the concept of Animal Farm - an exhibition of art involving stuffed animals and taxidermy. But as a wavering vegetarian and someone who doesn't even like killing the ants around my bathroom sink, the execution (pun intended) horrified me. A straight taxidermy piece stole the show, one that arranged two infant deer, taken from the belly of their roadkilled mother, into the yin-yang position they had assumed inside of her. Crocheted lion pelts by Marina Vendrell didn't coalesce into anything as moving, and most of the rest of the exhibition came off as merely icky.

Thus ended the first weekend of openings of the Miami season - with a hasty exit, but with some fond memories in tow.

Word count: 1069

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