Saturday, October 23, 2010

Miami's Living, Breathing Cuban Diaspora

This October's ArtTable panel discussion at Books & Books in Coral Gables was quite fascinating. What a trip down a treasure-filled memory lane!

Kudos to El Nuevo Herald art critic Adriana Herrera for putting together this panel on Miami's Cuban Diaspora and of course to the panelists themselves: collector Arturo Mosquera and artists George Sanchez Calderon, Ana Albertina Delgado, and Pedro Vizcaino. Scholar and Florida International University professor Juan Martinez did an inspired job of moderating. Of course, he had such knowledge to bring to this job!

I remember when he gave a talk at Cernuda Arte on Carlos Enriquez, one of my favorite artists. I brought Juan's terrific book to the lecture, Cuban Art and National Identity: The Vanguard Painters 1927-1950. He was so nice to autograph it for me then. "To my colleague and friend," Juan wrote.

It was a remarkable discussion. A special memory the discussion sparked: when I heard Arturo speak about his collection, I thought how I had recently been to the opening of the exhibit of his collection at Miami's Freedom Tower. I had been so touched to see there one of Carlos Alfonzo's haunting black paintings, painted near the end of his life. You could see a fetus form, redolent of life and death, curled up inside this beautiful abstraction.

I remember interviewing Carlos at the Bass Museum when these black paintings were exhibited, and then how sad I was when he died some months later.

It is quite wonderful now that there's a website devoted to this absolutely astonishing exhibit about Arturo's collection at the Freedom Tower gallery, part of the Miami Dade College Art Gallery System. Visit the website at

In the audience I saw many artcentric friends, including Robert Chambers and Mette Tommerup. Robert told me a bit about his new public art project. I wish I could describe it here as well as he did for me. Robert, perhaps you could post a comment on my blog telling us about it in more detail? Perhaps Brandi R of Miami's fab public art program could also chime in?

Also I saw Ileana Fuentes, now cultural consultant for the Cuban Museum in Coral Gables. I recall how she was a co-editor, along with my Miami Dade College colleague Ricardo Pau-Llosa, of the catalog for "Outside Cuba: Contemporary Cuban Visual Artists,"which opened at the Zimmerli Art Museum of Rutgers University in 1987. It traveled to several institutions, later coming to the Center for the Fine Arts (now called Miami Art Museum) in 1988. I remember meeting Ileana when she was working for the Cuban Museum in Little Havana, and had curated a show with, I believe, Cesar Trasobares, Pablo Cano, and Lydia Rubio, and of course many other Cuban artists working then in Miami.

Ileana had some exceedingly thoughtful comments to make that night. Again, I wish I had written them down more carefully. Ileana, perhaps you could recap some of those comments by posting a comment on my blog? And it would be wonderful if you could update us on the latest with the Cuban Museum in Coral Gables.

It is quite exciting to feel so much generously artcentric energy in Miami these days.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Still Falling Hard for Art in Miami

Last night was the gallery walk in Wynwood, plus my birthday, so it was a double treat! As I live and breathe, I am still quite nuts about this very special art community in Miami.

The evening began when Eric and I had a wonderful dinner at Fratelli Lyon in the Design District to celebrate. I had been there before, but he had not. My fave dessert wine coupled with the salad with arugula, melon, and candied figs was an absolute delight. Yes, I am guilty as charged of having an incurable sweet tooth.

On this balmy night in Miami, when the humidity had finally lifted, it was more apparent than ever to me that engaged, artcentric folks can take part in how Miami is a nexus for new ideas. I discovered new ideas that I woke up this morning still thinking about and wanted to rush to my desk to write this blog.

Our first stop was to see the show by Gean Moreno and Ernesto Oroza at Gallery Diet.

Outside the gallery was a small group of people laboring away at typewriters. Typewriters in this digital age! Did that bring back memories! Gean explained to me that this was a group in Miami who would write a poem for anyone for $5.00. Gean, perhaps you can post a comment on this blog to explain more about the group...

Inside Gallery Diet was a cluster of palms and quite intriguing artwork by Gean and Ernesto that seemed to mingle concepts about contemporary art and urban design. I picked up the the gallery's newsletter to read more about it and found the artists' essay, "Notes on the Pre-City." After reading this essay, I don't think I will ever look at plant nurseries, as I drive by them on the road in Miami, the same way. What does it mean to live in a place surrounded by mini-jungles and maxi-plant-manicure-centers?!

Across the street we stopped in at Artformz to wish Alette Simmons-Jimenez and her artist friends a wonderful trip to Valencia and Barcelona in Spain. Alette promised she'd tell me all about it when she comes back, and I can't wait to hear.

Eric and I made our way on to David Castillo Gallery, where I was so glad to catch Pepe Mar's show, with its own lavishly-colored mini jungles of sculpture, and then it was up the street to Alejandra von Hartz Gallery, where I was simply dazzled by the very fab color combinations in the show "Color Climate: Matthew Deleget / David E. Peterson." Alexandra explained to me how Deleget takes inspiration from the salsa musicians Fania All-Stars, and that each painting pays hommage to a specific musician. Since I was in a birthday party mood, I loved learning about this info.

Well, I realize that what I am writing now is not really "proper" art criticism, but that does not bother me....well, maybe not too much...

After all, to paraphrase Cyndi Lauper, birthday girls just want to have fun!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Falling Hard for Art in Miami: "The Wolf" Sets the Pace

Miami's captivating cultural chorus leads by example. Bravo for museums and galleries! They belong to exciting initiatives raising high the baton for the culturally curious. A symphony of sights, sounds, and ideas overtakes the city. As I live and breathe, Miami this fall is now a stimulating place for ideas to ferment in the outrageously varied cultural feast we find from South Beach to the streets of Little Havana to the city's western reaches near Florida International University.

It's like another education--even for those of us who have been there, done that with writing papers for college. These lively learning opportunities are free or cost just pennies compared to the cost of a college education. How can you resist?

Begin your fall with a bang by sprinting to see "Speed Limits" at the Wolfsonian-FIU. It's an astounding exhibit with so much to see and talk about that you'll want to plan a return trip. I'm already planning mine with my terrific ArtTable pals. This remarkably-designed show will make you actually feel the consequences of our ever-accelerating need for speed when drivers navigate extra-expressways constructed around the world. And it does more than that by helping us contemplate the currently contradictory desire to slow things down, to give our bodies a rest from fast food, life in the fast lane, and texting till we drop. No wonder "The Wolf" calls itself the museum of "thinkism." See

And while I'm thinking about it, I want to give a shout-out for the catalog "Speed Limits" for this exhibit. It's an impressive publication. It is edited by Jeffrey T. Schnapp, co-founder of the Stanford Humanities Lab and professor of French, Italian, and Comparative Literature at Stanford University. I've been diving into this catalog for about a week now. There's so much to discover, and I can't wait till I can find the time to spend more time reading it!

As a former scholar in comparative literature who adores the writing of Marcel Proust, I was delighted to encounter his essay "Motoring Days" on page 243. I'd love for readers of this blog to tell me about other essays I should be sure not to miss.

In the best spirt of comparative literature scholarship that I recall from my coffee-blasted grad school days, Schnapp has done an outstanding job of evoking the "zeitgeist"--or spirit of the time--for our currently time-obsessed moment.