Interviews from Art Basel Miami Beach by Pamela Beck (1/5)

There are as many ways to think about art as there are to create it. Join ARTdart columnist, Pamela Beck, in this 5 part feature interview series with 5 participants from Art Basel Miami, as she explores and considers the different perspectives that define the art world.

There are as many ways to think about art as there are to create it. Join ARTdart columnist, Pamela Beck, in this 5 part feature interview series with 5 participants from Art Basel Miami, as she explores and considers the different perspectives that define the art world.


Dr. Matthew McLendon
Dr. Matthew McLendon

Day 1 – Dr. Matthew McLendon, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at The John and Mable Ringling Museum


PB: How would you describe the particular energy or spirit of this year’s Miami art fair experience? Was it different than last year’s?

MM: The energy seemed less frenetic this year at the larger fairs (ABMB, Pulse, Art Miami) and these fairs seemed less crowded. The numbers, however, remain consistent with last year, so I’m not sure why it seemed this way. The big, blue chip galleries are reporting strong sales, so from that point of view it seems to have been another successful year.

PB: Which fair did you most enjoy? Why?

MM: This year I really enjoyed SEVEN. It was particularly strong, especially in video/new media. The work was obviously curated with a great deal of thought. The Winkleman Gallery showed a brilliant installation by Leslie Thornton, Peggy and Fred in Hell (archival edition), 1984-2013. I left SEVEN feeling I had seen some very good work.

PB: If you were organizing/curating these fairs, would you do anything differently? What would be your dream fair?

MM: My real complaint this year, and in talking with several of my colleagues I think there was agreement, was that the more innovative fairs like Pulse were disappointing in that most of the artists on display were also shown last year. I kept thinking to myself, I really loved this work—last year. The work on view was, of course, new, but I didn’t have as many of those great discovery moments. Galleries should freshen it up a bit. As for my dream fair, I would like to see something that is completely about a strong curatorial vision, a point of view. Obviously, however, that’s not the point of a fair. The point is to sell, no matter how much curatorial “window dressing” they try to layer on.

PB: Which activities did you most enjoy?

MM: Personally, I had a great time at the Aqua opening. The art was fairly strong and I was there with a great group of friends. The energy was young, light, and fun. However, if they serve the “blue stuff” again next year, I will stay far, far away. That hurt the next morning…

PB: Did you have any surprises or unexpected reactions at the fairs?

MM: In years past I’ve had major moments. I saw my first large Mickalene Thomas odalisque at ABMB a number of years ago. I came around the corner and knew my visual life had changed. Unfortunately, nothing like that this year.

Hendrik Kersten
Hendrik Kerstens “Bubble Wrap”

PB: Did you discover new artists whose art intrigues you?

MM: I was pointed in the direction of the photographs of Hendrik Kerstens shown at Danziger Gallery. Kerstens has been photographing his daughter in an “old master” style for the last 18 years, but always with a modern twist or prop. They were beautiful and, at times, quite witty. He’s been around a while, but he was new to me.

PB: What are the parallels/differences between the art you like as a curator and the art you would like to personally collect?

MM: The old adage that all paintings are self-portraits can hold true for curating as well, but I have to fight that impulse. I’m always listening to my colleagues and students about the work they think is important. It’s really not about “liking” it’s about thinking the work has something important to say. My own tastes are fairly traditional modern—Dada and Surrealist inspired, Minimalist, etc. But there is SOOOO much more than that. I have to present my audience with a broad array. That’s always the challenge.

PB: Can you share any specific interesting/funny incident/experience that happened to you in Miami?

MM: No matter how sophisticated my life might be, the small town boy in me is always shocked when a G&T costs $18…


To read more about Pamela, view these links:
http://srxq.blogspot.com/
http://whatdogsreallythink.blogspot.com/

Olda Reviews: Melting Metaphors and the RNC

Sometimes the most contentious relationships can be the most productive ones. Artists’ and politicians’ mutual suspicion (and at times outright disdain) of each other often serves as fodder for both groups: artwork for the former and budget cuts for the latter.

by Danny Olda

Sometimes the most contentious relationships can be the most productive ones. Artists’ and politicians’ mutual suspicion (and at times outright disdain) of each other often serves as fodder for both groups: artwork for the former and budget cuts for the latter. Although this scuffle between art and professional politics has been playing out internationally over the course of decades something special is unfolding in Tampa Bay at the moment. With the Republican National Convention set to descend on the area within the next couple weeks, a sort of case study of the interplay between art and politics will present itself.

Predictably, there will be an abundance of politically themed exhibits. Naturally, Tampa’s downtown museums will be serving up limp proxy events that convention delegates are sure to find just splendid. Corresponding offerings from Cafe Hey within the convention zone as well as the CL Space and West Tampa Center for the Arts just outside it promise to be more engaging exhibits. Further outside the convention area, throughout Tampa Bay, numerous other shows intend to vie for the increased sets of eyes and political interest. The profusion of political art exhibits may make it appear that the RNC only offers the Tampa Bay art scene a curating no-brainer. However, the art hints at something different.

danny olda, RNC
Promo photo for West Tampa Center for the Arts’ upcoming exhibit “Common Sense”

One piece, a “temporary” sculpture, will be installed in Tampa’s Lykes Gaslight Square on August 27th. The sculpture from artists Nora Ligorano and Marshall Reese is made up of the words “Middle Class” carved from a block of ice that is intended to melt quickly in the Florida summer sun. While the sentiment is a tad obvious in terms of contemporary art, the sculpture’s relationship to its intended audience is a bit more subtle. Gaslight Square is within the convention zone. That means the sculpture will almost exclusively be seen by convention delegates rather than the local art crowd. This is just one of many current pieces that appear to be directed at the RNC instead of art scene usuals.

Rather than speaking to an audience, it seems the work’s intention is to speak for one. In a way, these political works of art (if executed well) act as mediators – we allow the art to plead on our behalf. Art has the capacity for succinctness and emotional impact that can rarely be spoken or written. Informing a politician that the middle class is disappearing is very different from allowing a politician to witness it literally waste away.

However, this sense of “pleading” has a quietly sad quality also. The ample political art aimed at the RNC can feel like a desperate struggle to emotionally pique individuals that have sway over our day-to-day lives. This kind of personal authenticity is usually only reserved for last-ditch efforts because it’s so difficult to ignore. In this way the querulous relationship between politics and art produces the quietest protest downtown Tampa will see, but the most difficult to disregard.


Danny Olda is our Tampa Correspondent and publisher of
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Uprise Art Collective: ArtJam

October 20, 2011
ArtJam is a unique night of artists, musicians, and all creative types coming together spontaneously to create together.

October 20, 2011 (6 – 9:00pm)
Open Door Community Acupuncture
1487 2nd St., Suite A, Sarasota, FL

ArtJam is a unique night of artists, musicians, and all creative types
coming together spontaneously to create together. Uprise Art Collective has teamed up with Hayley Enright, owner of Open Door Community Acupuncture to share with everyone a venue of multiple rooms and installments. There will be indoor and outdoor sections.

This ArtJam will feature:

MUSIC JAM ~ Steve McAllister
LIFE DRAWING & MODELING ~ Erin Hood, Brooke Bolte, Russell Starr & Dennis DiBona
DANCE ~ Lindsay Gordon, Erica Lindegren
FASHION WORKSHOP ~ Midgeann Schotsch
WINE GLASS MUSIC ~ Holly Botkin
TYPEWRITER ROOM ~ Zachariah Skylab McNaughton
CONNECTING & FREE-ART WALL-SPACE