Miami Basel

A Review by Maria Kozak (MFA 2011)
Think what you may about the commercialization and commodification of art but it is unavoidable. Art fairs, though the pinnacle of the trade show business model, are a critical part of maintaining a contemporary dialogue and can be an integral part of exposure for many artists. If anything, art fairs are a reassuring reminder about how vast the art world really is. Though they occur globally and at multiple times during the year, none offers the spectacle and debauchery of Miami in early December.

Basel began in Switzerland in the 1970's and started in Miami in 2002. Though it is the moniker for the high brow show an the Miami Beach Convention Center it has come to be an umbrella term to include the many satellite fairs surrounding it. There is an endless amount of art, people watching,and parties. South Beach is overrun by collectors, advisers, press, artists all looking to have a good time. This year was seemingly an art buying frenzy; perhaps to encourage buyers but spirits generally appeared high. One dealer I spoke with said she was astonished by the amount of work sold with in the first hour of opening. Hopefully this is a sign of years to come. Some trends I noticed were explosions, artists using holograms, a great deal of figurative work and Massimo Vitali. His hyper real beach photographs were everywhere. So was Terrence Koh, the person.

Below I have complied some of the work I was most drawn to from the various fairs and my general impressions:

B A S E L 

My time at the main fair was brief this year but here were some of my favorites. James Cohen Gallery had an amazing booth this year. There was a wood inlay by NYAA visiting lecturer Alison Elizabeth Taylor who finished our Fall 2010 Art & Culture Lecture Series.

An incredible taxonomy of paint by Roxy Paine;

A room dedicated to the supermaxilist drawings of Houston artist Trenton Doyle Hancock;

I was also taken with Sperone Westwater. They had this hyper realistic sculpture of a bust by Evan Penny;

This painting of Chet Baker by Liu Ye;

an intricate thread painting by Emil Lucas;

and a very Americana painting called the Bowery Girls (detail) by Kim Dingle.

There was an beautiful painting by Ena Swansea at Arndt (Berlin) called Rowboat, 2010;

A complex porcelain sculpture of melting figures by Rachel Kneebone at White Cube (London);

A classic Munteen and Rosenblum at Team Gallery;

And finally there was one of Ivan Navarro's interactive 'infinity spaces' at Paul Kasmin.

N A D A ( New Art Dealers Association)

NADA is one of the younger hipper fairs and takes place at the Deaville Beach Resort. You can constantly look at the ocean while checking out the art. It showcases many of NYC Lower East Side galleries. Mostly works on paper though the booths are a bit smaller so its fitting.

The first booth I encountered featured works by Nick van Woert who shows with Yvon Lambert. Modern Painters believes he is an artist to watch. I did get the issue free at the fair, but he has been popping up in a few collections. Though the show featured several gestural works on paper, van Woert is known for his classical casts covered in goo.

Then I ran into Eve and Adele, two of my favorite Basel fixtures. This German artist duo is the subject of many a work of art; hundreds of people photograph them and then Eve and Adele make drawings from the photos.

Leo Koenig had a small but beautiful painting of a woman lying and reading in her bikini titled Rooftop, 2010 by Ridley Howard.

At Paul Petro (Toronto), I was captivated by the work of Stephen Andrews. The Canadian artist's work imitates various modes of mechanical reproduction such as the CMYK dot matrix in print, film or television technologies. The pictures are painstakingly rendered by hand in an attempt to represent both the message and the means by which it is delivered.


Pulse features younger galleries that are a bit more established. I saw a great deal of figurative work there including the work of NYAA alum Amy Bennett who was showing with Richard Heller. There was a red dot.

Freight and Volume was showing this slick oil painting by the multi talented Richard Butler, who also founded the Psychedelic Furs.

This amazing Brueghel-like painting (detail below) by Erik Thor Sandberg at Conner Contemporary (Fl);

This drawing by Michael Waugh (detail below) of a wolf made out of writing, also very much a trend.

A watercolor by NYAA visiting critic and friend Kim McCarty at M+B;

And another beautiful porcelain figurative sculptures by Caro Suerkemper;

There was also this little beauty by Gretchen Ryan at Blythe Projects (LA). Painting child pageant queens was something I had always considered. There is so much art at the fairs its hard not to recognize yourself in some of the work. Seeing someone else carry out an idea you share has one of two outcomes; you either try to do it your way, or realize you don't need to anymore.

S C O P E / A r t A S I A 

Scope was showing with artAsia again this year in the Wynwood district. I ran into NYAA faculty member Jean Pierre Roy at the Rare Gallery booth showing some of his recent paintings.

JP (right) in front of his paitnting, The Broken Sleeper. See more at Rare Gallery.

Christopher Henry gallery had an amazing room installation by knit bandit OLEK whose knitted pieces you may have seen around NYC. The closest to school is the bike on Greene street between Canal and Grand.

There was this take on Arcimboldo and Delacroix by Ju DuoQi called "Liberty Leading the Vegetables"

A sensitive set of drawings by Corrine von Lebusa at Silas Marder Gallery (NY);

Some beautiful figurative work by Yigal Ozeri;

This fanciful flight painting by Jose Garcia Cordero.

Scope also had a section of walls this year featuring murals and design including wallpaper by Brooklyn company ESKAYEL, designed by artist Shanan Campanaro.

Z O O M 

Zoom is the Middle Eastern Art Fair. The Middle East is such a dynamic part of the art world right now; on one hand you have a burgeoning art scene ie. the projected Louvre complex in Abu Dhabi, on the other many artists and writers imprisoned for their beliefs. Its hard to imagine what its like to be working under a restrictive political regime or in exhile from it. What questions they must face; to make work as protest, whether to avoid cliches or reinforce them.

At Galerie El Marsa in Tunisia I was taken with these paintings by Hicham Benohoud;

Robischon Gallery (CO) had these haunting photos by Halim Alkarim;

Another painting in writing, (artist unknown);

Other Openings and Activities

Outside of the fairs there was a range of openings and exhibits including a small island show sponsored by LAND (Los Angelas Nomadic Division) and Opera gallery sponsored a vacant condo building of Mr. Brainwash's work, the graffiti artist whom the Banksy film 'Exit the Gift Shop' is about. The beachfront 'Exhale Pavilion', funded by Creative Time, was done by architect and industrial designers Phu Hoang and Rachely Rotem. It was constructed of seven miles of reflective and phosphorescent ropes. Designed to interact with its environment, the ropes move with the breeze and even glow depending on the wind speed.

And then there are the hotels, palatial monuments to nightly activity, most of it poolside. You can see the whole cast of characters; such as the art consultant from the Mona Lisa Curse, calling out to Larry Gagosian in the lounge of the W where Steve Martin speaking about his new book on art. Its pretty over the top. The best party, as usual, was thrown by Jeffrey Deitch. He had LCD Soundsystem play a show at the Raleigh and danced the whole time. The man never ceases to amaze me.

Finally, there is the beach; the perfect place to spend your last day in Miami.

The "Post-Crit Elixer"

How to move forward after a critique.
By Catherine Howe, instructor

As one who has given and received countless critiques in the (too many to mention) years since I was in grad school myself, I would like to share with you some tips for making the most of your Thesis Project critiques.

  • The most important thing I can tell you is keep is talking! Do not clam-up or shut-down/shop-for-the-holidays just yet... Talk with your fellow students. Share ideas while the experience is fresh.
  • Write down the main ideas and comments that came from your critique and any questions you have about them.

So, what do I do with those ideas now?
Separate the ideas into the "macro" and the "micro"- in other words, identify the main points versus the trivial. This can be done with others if it is more fun.

1) Look through them and make a list of any structural or BIG issue comments that resonate with you but which will need to be addressed before moving on.

2) These macro issues will require some extended thought in the form of dreaming, scheming, what-if? explorations, and conversations with yourself. You may need to pull down some existing idols or get a New Year's makeover.

3) Re-visioning. Give yourself time but keep making things while you do it. The works you do while you're re-visioning can be "unimportant," and never need to see the light of day. Ask yourself questions and let the answers stew. Draw diagrams, write poems, look at paintings somewhere, read books, muse.

The "Micro" comments will be easier, if you agree something needs to change, change it.
You may have to go back to “the drawing board” in order to try something out. There’s no way to make something for the first time that isn’t, at some level, a risk. Sounds obvious, but it is hard to put new ideas/material in the middle of a work you have been laboring over. There is, however, no other way. You have to experiment, see what works, be willing to get it wrong.

4) Once you think you have something that might work, don't second guess yourself, try it!

5) Keep in constant dialogue with yourself. Do not change what does not, to your way of seeing, need changing. Do not assume that other people’s suggestions will always be the right ones to address a problem. Identify the problem underlying the suggestion and see what the "critter" inside has to say about solutions.

Catherine Howe, (detail of a work from the series, "Klytie", 2007), oil/canvas 52 x 48 in.

Portraits of a Crit

By Catherine Howe, instructor at the Academy
It was Sunday, 3:30 pm, December 12, the third and final day of Mid-Year Critiques at the Academy. I was sick at home, but instead of just thrashing about in a feverish "As if I could BE there" sensibility, I thought I would share some glimpses of the "Crit-ers" and the "Crit-ees" from the first two days, along with some gems I jotted down before I became senseless with flu.

A stellar cast of "Crit-ers" participated, encouraging the students and sharing critical feedback essential to their progress through their Thesis projects. Wade Schuman, Lisa Bartolozzi, Patrick Connors, John Jacobsmeyer, Vincent Desiderio, Bob Simon, Bruce Gagnier, Kurt Kauper, Harvey Citron, and Margaret Bowland were among those who shared the following insights. See if you can guess who said what...

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On painting with a system - " have to turn a system into an aesthetic, it is like some contemporary jazz; it sounds like it is fun for them (the musicians), but it's not for me."

On "accuracy first" in the painting process - "Manet always started with an accurate underpainting before proceeding to simplify things. This accuracy fed his abstraction."

On the Ineffable in art - "Rodin would say that the most important part of great architecture is the part no one talks about: the AIR inside it."

An apt metaphor - "Please don't give me something that is predigested!"

On habitat - "Criticism is in the past tense and painting in the present. An artist can be imprisoned with each mark, virtually painting within that cloistered place of certainty, or the artist can paint from an observatory, where sensation defies absolute description."

On originality - "The artist must be a good parking attendant- it is usually best to back in while trying to avoid bumping into the cars of famous people."

On bad television - "All the painting tropes have been absorbed by popular culture. The artist must consider that paintings now carry the detritus of everything else."

On the monstrous - "You have to think how the parts relate to the whole, there must be an overarching idea or a system of integration or the result is nothing but an accretion."

On depth of experience - "The painter should express ideas through the paint itself: you have to take me there and make me care!"

And, finally - "Cough, sniff."
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