Monday, December 27, 2010

Miami Artcentric Gift Keeps on Giving

Immediately I was riveted by this story by Manny Fernandez in The New York Times: "Back From the Brink, an Art Student Loses Her Sight but Keeps Her Vision."

It told the harrowing, heart-stopping story of how an art student, Emilie Gossiaux, has made a miraculous recovery from a traumatic brain injury, which she experienced when a truck hit her while she was riding her bike to her internship at an art studio. Too much of this story sounded familiar to me, as I also suffered a brush with death during a car accident, when our car collided with a truck, and I was then plunged into the debilitating ordeal of surviving a traumatic brain injury.

I read this story on December 22, 2010. Soon after I received a related email message regarding an act of stunning coincidence and generosity:

Emilie Gossiaux was on her way to the Brooklyn art studio of Daniel Arsham, an extremely accomplished artist I've known for years from the time when he worked in Miami. I remember visiting his studio here when I profiled him for my Critic's Pick in the March 2007 ARTnews.

Daniel is raising funds to help Emilie begin her life anew. To do this, he is selling paintings from his series "Platonic Solid Constellations." All works are unique gouache on paper and are 8.5 x 11 inches. Each painting is $250 ("or more if you can," as he says in his email) If you want to purchase one or more of these paintings, please make your check out to E. Gossiaux and mail it to Emilie Gossiaux, c/o Daniel Arsham, 60 Box Street, Brooklyn, New York 11222.

I would describe this series as one of svelte, elegant compositions with exploding geometric forms. It may recall the 30-foot high sculpture that Daniel created for Merce Cunningham Dance Performances at Adrienne Arsht Center's Ziff Ballet Opera House in Miami. I believe you can see a photograph of that sculpture if you see today's post by Dennis Scholl on the Knight Arts Blog, which is linked to my blog.

This is indeed a Miami artcentric gift that keeps on giving. The example of Daniel's generosity and Emilie's perseverance is, in a way, an inspiring gift to all of us who want to make the coming year an improvement over 2010.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Miami Curators Sparkle Plenty This Season

Creative curators thrive in Miami. It's especially clear now that our delightfully pleasant (when it isn't chilly and rainy!) winter is here.

Miami curators can create a compelling theme and story to lure the curiosity of people looking at an art exhibit in a museum, gallery, private collection, or art fair. As curators, they select art and artists to illustrate related aspects of that story, in all its intriguing variety. Smart curators find stories to tell with art and imagery that linger long in our minds, perhaps like a wonderful dream or a favorite poem or song.

By looking at promising exhibits developed by Miami curators, we see that it's the season for culture to sparkle like stars on crystal-clear Miami nights, especially during our balmy winters when late summer's humid haziness has finally lifted.

"We wanted to know who we were and how do we relate to each other," reflects independent curator and artist Gean Moreno. He thinks that exhibitions, especially those curated by Rene Morales and Ruba Katrib, have answered those questions. "Now we want to know," he explains as he looks forward, "how do we stand together in a globalized world?"

In Miami, Moreno investigates the local community and the world at large, noting how they intermingle. There's a grandly "glocal" spectrum of talent in the city. For Dennis and Debra Scholl collection, at World Class Boxing in Wynwood Arts District, he's curated "Drawn and Quartered." It offers an engaging look at photographs from this outstanding collection. Reflecting its international focus and sweep, artists in this exhibit range from Thomas Demand to Cindy Sherman.

Recently I had a special opportunity to appreciate our city's international focus, as well as the crystalline winter skies of Miami. This was when the city's skyline sparkled like so many outrageous jewels during a gorgeous December sunset, from the vantage point of a Miami Beach balcony overlooking downtown Miami. It was a truly breathtaking view. I was invited to gather there with several of my wonderful artcentric friends to celebrate the approval of a sure-to-be iconic public artwork for Miami Beach: "Lighthouse" by internationally famed artist Tobias Rehberger for South Pointe Park.

As many of us sipped Champagne and I downed a couple of White Russians, one of my very fave sweet cocktails, we applauded how our art community had come together to advocate for the approval of this superbly-sited public artwork. Yes, Miami is more than coming of age as an international city for internationally-known art and artists. I am hoping we can all gather again to celebrate when this project is completed next year.

As I looked out over the city, I noticed so many landmarks, especially the building for The Miami Herald, where I worked so hard for so many years. I could hardly read the name on the building though I could see its signage in blue lights twinkling faintly. But that all belongs to my past, and there is still so much to anticipate in Miami's future.

Then my eyes looked for another landmark, a real beacon for the future, that I am proud to play some small role in as this Miami institution plans for our city's future. I no longer work for the Herald; now I work for Miami Dade College. Of course I was looking for the historic Freedom Tower of MDC.

It was the venue for yet another sparkling curatorial effort this December in Miami: the smART exhibit, organized with impressive leadership by Host Committee Chair Solita Mishaan. This exhibit, with carefully chosen art for sale, and gala opening raised more than $5 million for student scholarships! I understand that this amount is historic and truly raises the bar for what can happen in our still young but ever-evolving city.

The smART exhibit brought together work by 86 artists from 8 countries in our hemisphere, and offered 131 artworks for sale. By contributing in this dazzling way to the American Dream Scholarship fund, these artful efforts from MDC will surely make our city sparkle for years to come!

Friday, December 3, 2010

More Miami News You Can Use for BaselMania

This was my first day of actual "baseling," as people often say, and did this Basel begin with a bang! It was a bang that ricocheted from Miami to Haiti and all through the Caribbean, then across the Atlantic riven by the blood, sweat, and tears of the Middle Passage, and then to Africa and back to Miami.

I'm talking about my visit to the must-see exhibit "Global Caribbean II: Caribbean Trilogy, Focus on the Greater Antilles" at the Little Haiti Cultural Center. There are absolutely riveting, knock-your-socks off artworks on view by Edouard Duval Carrie, Jose Bedia, and Jose Garcia-Cordero. The best of these can make your heart weep.

I'm also talking about a spectacular performance of excerpts from a new contemporary opera, "Makandal," produced by Harlem Stage of New York City. ( As Harlem Stage executive director Patricia Cruz explained before the performance I saw this morning at 11 am, what we saw was about a half-hour "collage" woven from the mighty collusion of visual arts, dance, music, and song. To some extent it was inspired by the continually astonishing art by Duval Carrie, who for years has given the rich visual art history of Haiti a special voice in contemporary art.

This collage of an opera-in-progress wove together the story of Makandal, an 18th Century Haitian revolutionary who led a failed slave revolt, with the story of 21st Century illegal immigrants from Haiti, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic embarking on a perilous boat trip to Puerto Rico to find a better life, to find the the right to live freely and with dignity.

Yet my summary here fails to capture the poetic richness and texture of this hauntingly memorable, operatic "collage." Sometimes the stage was veiled with three transparent scrims on which were projected a figure, drawn in ghostly white, suspended among stars amid a deep oceanic blue, perhaps a beautiful lost soul dreaming of the vast and frightening journey to freedom. Sometimes drums, then strings enhanced this story as it floated, then roiled, forward with dynamic spoken words, fluid dance, and gorgeous song.

Here are notes on those words that I scribbled in the dark. (I realize I may not be quoting them with perfect accuracy): "He came here against his desire to help tobacco and indigo grow...Even before the earthquake, every day is poverty...Makandal was free before he was free..." And then there was this spellbinding refrain, sung low, over and over: "The sea, she's greater than me."

When this performance was over, Patricia Cruz reminded us that this commissioned opera itself represents a long creative journey, one that is not yet finished, but has flourished thus far thanks to many supporters, including the Warhol Foundation.

"Makandal" is rooted in the continuing quest for freedom that defines the tumultuously rich and diverse culture of the Caribbean, something that continually shapes our daily lives in Miami. Seeing a performance like this reminded me once again, as she said, that art allows us to realize our connectedness, our essential humanity.

But blogging is so brief. I know I did not capture all the richness of this performance or exhibit. I invite others to continue the conversation about this wonderful event at the Little Haiti Cultural Center, including the many artcentric friends I saw there today, among them Mary L, William K, Tina S, and Lilia G. I look forward to posting your comments on my blog!