Thursday, August 25, 2011

Miami Art Museum Mourns 9/11 with Joel Meyerowitz Photos

It's hard to believe that 9/11 was actually 10 years ago, but that is obviously the case. I was still writing for the Herald and my children were 14 and 16, still in middle school and high school. Now they are 24 and 26! And of course I am not writing for the Herald anymore, but blogging about what I used to do and art events currently happening in Miami. Today my topic is Joel Meyerowitz and 9/11.
I think it's great that Miami Art Museum is presenting "Joel Meyerowitz - Aftermath" in its Focus Gallery, through Nov. 6. You can see 24 of his recently donated photographs in that gallery. His book, Aftermath: World Trade Center Archives, was reissued this year in a special 10th anniversary edition. There'll be a public lecture at 6:30 pm Sept. 8 at MAM on this exhibit. Lecture is "What Remains," given by noted author and photography critic Vicki Goldberg, whose writing I have always admired. For more info, see
Since we are thinking about 9/11 and artists, I'd like to pay homage to the late artist Michael Richards, who died that day in his studio at Lower Manhattan Cultural Council in the World Trade Center. At the moment I am looking at the catalogue for the traveling exhibit, "Passages: Contemporary Art in Transition," organized by The Studio Museum in Harlem, which included art by Michael, who was such a talented, generous-hearted artist, another of the many, many people I feel lucky to have known during my time writing for the Herald. In the fall of 2000, this exhibit came to MAM; as I see I noted then on my checklist for the show, Michael worked in a residency for the ArtCenter/South Florida for four-month stints during the years 1997 through 2000. A particular work in that show, I remember, struck me then as prescient in a chilling way, even though it was created in response to an appalling chapter of racial discrimination in our armed forces. I remember that the first time I saw this 1999 resin and steel sculpture was at Ambrosino Gallery in North Miami. It is "Tar Baby vs. St. Sebastian," and shows a Tuskegee airman bombarded with dagger-like air planes, recalling the physical torment of St. Sebastian--but also, of course, Michael's tragic death.
On this 10th anniversary of 9/11, I think it is truly inspiring that LMCC (shorthand for Lower Manhattan Cultural Council) and its partners are presenting a series of programs aiming to explore how the arts can can indeed involve communities in an endless variety of ways to safeguard vital memories as well as cultivate dreams for change. As a result, communities may one day devise ways for taking action that can surely transform such dreams into reality. For more info about the admirable "InSite" LMCC program, see or google Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, then click on its Home page.
First things first: More visual arts news in Miami Today is a great opportunity to highlight residency programs in Miami for artists. Note that the deadline to apply for LegalArt Local Residency is Sept. 1. Learn more about this exceedingly special opportunity to live and work in a professional development residency in downtown Miami by checking out or email I visited the facilities earlier this year, and I must say I was impressed. Note also that the ArtCenter/South Florida has extended its deadline to Sept. 15 to apply for its juried residency program. For more info about the many benefits of this program and to find out how to apply, see Click on "Opportunities" when you get to that site. Interested artists can also contact Director of Exhibitions Kitty Bowe Hearty at or call her at 305-674-8278, ext 208. Creative folks may also want to mark their calendars for "Gene Hackman: Installation and Performance by Timothy Stanley and P. Scott Cunningham," from Aug. 22 to Sept. 30 at BasFisherInvitational , 180 NE 39th St, Suite 210. There's a Second Saturday reception 7-10 pm on Sept. 10, with performances daily at 5 pm. Check out how an intriguing writer's residency project is temporarily housed at BasFisherInvitational by visiting
Many thanks to my talented MDC-Kendall colleague Tony Chirinos for sending me info about this event: Artcentric folks should for sure mark their calendars for "Pannaroma - Miami, " a distinctive group show featuring photographers--including Lee Friedlander, Tony Chirinos, Stephen Hilger, Gilles Peress, Raghubir Singh--who all used the Pannaroma 1 x 3 camera. This camera was designed by distinguished photographer Thomas Roma (a two-time Guggenheim fellow, author, Director of Photography and Professor of Art at Columbia University) at the request of famed photographer Lee Friedlander. It will be on view Sept. 1 to Oct. 29 at the gallery in the Martin and Pat Fine Center for the Arts of Miami Dade College Kendall Campus, 11011 SW 104th St.; opening reception is 6-9 pm Sept. 1. For more info call 305-237-7700 or call Tony Chirinos, Associate Professor of Photography, MDC-Kendall, at 305-237-2281 or email curators Tony Chirinos and Stephen Hilger at This traveling show was first seen at UNO-St. Claude Gallery in New Orleans. Don't forget to keep checking the website started by my treasured artcentric friend Rosie Gordon-Wallace for special opportunities at Also, check out my September Critic's Choice at
This just in: "Karen Rifas: Strung Out" can be seen at Bernice Steinbaum Gallery, 3550 N. Miami Ave. in Wynwood, from Sept. 10 to Oct. 29. I'm really looking forward to seeing this one, as I have followed Karen Rifas for years and I think she's exceptionally talented. Although many of us know the amazing work she has done for years by stitching dried oak leaves together (yes, that is what she does as an artist!), this show will present transparent forms made with colored cords to explore her long-standing fascination with geometric patterns. Don't miss the opening night dance performance at 8 pm on Sept. 10. Dancers, under the direction of Dale Andree of New World School of the Arts, will move within structures created by Rifas. For more info call Bernice Steinbaum Gallery at 305-573-2700 or visit
And kudos to Carlos Betancourt! "Of Kenya and Candles," his 480" long and 94" high wallpaper mural will be shown for the first time at Blue Star Contemporary Art Center in San Antonio, Texas from Sept. 1 to Nov. 6. Wish I could be there for the opening! Find out more about the exhibit "Carlos Betancourt: Archaic Substance" at Maybe someday it will come to Miami??
Here's my Miami Herald story about Joel Meyerowitz from September 2006.
On Sept. 11, 2011, Joel Meyerowitz was taking photos of a seaside town on Cape Cod, where he has photographed for years. After learning with the rest of the world that the World Trade Center Towers had been attacked, he rushed back to his Greenwich Village apartment. From Sept. 23, 2001 to June 21, 2002, he photographed the exhausting work of recovery and debris removal at ground zero.
During those months, he says he shot around 8,500 photographs. His new book, Aftermath: World Trade Center Archive (Phaidon, $75), features 400.
Books & Books hosts "Ground Zero Through the Artist's Lens: An Evening with Joel Meyerowitz," at 7:30 p.m. Thursday. Photography collector Martin Z. Margulies, who owns several of Meyerowitz's works, will conduct an onstage conversation with Meyerowitz.
"I've seen his work for a long time," says Margulies. "It's classic street photography. He was one of the pioneers in color photography."
Getting access to the smoldering site was tough. Right after the attacks, the site was cordoned off with yellow tape as a crime scene. Photographers were banned. After navigating red tape and appealing to the Museum of the City of New York and city officials, Meyerowitz landed his worker's badge to enter ground zero with his camera. He was allowed to move freely about the site.
To his surprise, as he recounts in his book, workers were already taking pictures with digital cameras. For his part, he wanted access to the site not to make art but to record history.
"I was taking pictures for those who didn't have access to the site," he writes in his book. The pictures, he hoped, would help New Yorkers or anyone else "to grieve, or simply to try to understand what had happened to our city." The World Trade Center Archive he started soon after he had access to the site is now in the permanent collection of the Museum of the City of New York. The archive has traveled throughout the country.
As he explains in a phone call from his home on Cape Cod, "I wasn't projecting on the event an artistic intention that would involve my ego. I was able to use the tactics I normally use as a street photographer. I did not feel like I had enough of a point of view from an artist's perspective to make a comment on the event. The best I could do was to go in and see what it looks like."
For nine months he saw what the site looked like, as the somber, grueling process of recovering human remains and artifacts morphed into debris removal.
The wreckage was so massive, so awesome, he says that no one thing a single individual could make could come close to describing what it was like.
Looking at the photographs in his book, you are continually pushed from minute manifestations of this tragedy to its monumental scope. You see steel girders dangling like strings, escalators leading nowhere, workers in hard hats amid plumes of smoke, and lights of city skyscrapers as they ring the gaping hole of ground zero at night. On nearly every page there's commentary by Meyerowitz about the work at ground zero as it continued day by day.
His book records tiny, strange coincidences unearthed in the layers of wreckage. There was the time when police Lt. John Ryan found his Police Academy graduation picture. There is the sooty, mangled steel to which scorching heat had fused a Bible. The battered Bible, he writes, was open to Matthew 5:38, the verse that begins "An eye for an eye."
Another photograph shows at least two floors of an office that seem to have been pillaged by a tornado. Ceilings have crashed among file cabinets, desks and computers. His comments on the scene are terse. The sound of creaking steel, a reminder that many parts of ground zero were wildly unstable, made him abruptly exit this corner of mayhem. He recalls how these particular office ruins were "a kind of contemporary Pompeii."
As he speaks of his days and months documenting the aftermath of 9/11, he remembers how he often came across odd relics of tragedy that had as much mystery and power as art in a museum. One was a three-foot pile of debris, from telephone cards to slats of Venetian blinds, stacked in an office corner covered with concrete dust that had hardened from rains falling on the decimated towers.
It looked like, he says, "conceptual art that people do all the time today, but this was the real thing. This was made not by a person but by the force of the event. It memorialized the event--all the randomness, color and violence--phenomenally."
IF YOU GO What: Books & Books presents "Ground Zero Through the Artist's Lens: An Evening with Joel Meyerowitz," a slide show by photographer Joel Meyerowitz about his book Aftermath, followed by a conversation with collector Martin Z. Margulies. Where: Lincoln Theatre, 541 Lincoln Rd, Miami Beach When: 7:30 pm Thursday Cost: Free
[Blogger's Note: Still getting the hang of doing this blog. Please note that in my previous post re Roberto Behar and Rosario Marquardt, I gave an incorrect date for the closing of a very fab show featuring photography and other work by Sandra Ramos at Dot Fiftyone Gallery in Wynwood. It closes Sept. 6. For sure don't miss this one. If I have given any incorrect info in this post, my apologies. You are welcome to post a comment with corrections and other insights helpful to readers.]

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Miami Artists Roberto Behar and Rosario Marquardt Featured at Fort Lauderdale Museum of Art

I have been wanting to blog about Roberto Behar and Rosario Marquardt for some time now, and I am so glad I can do it now. They are a superb artist-duo working in Miami, and I treasure the memories I have of getting to know them during the time I worked for The Miami Herald. You can see their work through Sept. 4 in the group show "Site Specific: Explorations in Space, Vision and Sound" at the Museum of Art in Fort Lauderdale, of Nova Southeastern University, located at One East Las Olas Blvd in that city. For more info, call 954-525-5500 or see I believe you can also see some of their work in my Summer Critic's Choice at

In particular, I remember how Eric and I ran into them when we both went to Cuba in late 2000. I went there to cover the Havana Biennial for the Herald, and Eric went with me as a translator and also because we wanted to visit some of his relatives living there. We brought them a small suitcase packed with medicine.

As some readers may know, the sidewalks and streets in Old Havana are not exactly as smooth as glass, and soon after we had all arrived, Rosario turned her ankle. Eric was able, as I recall, to find a bandage to wrap it up and suggested some stragegies for Rosario to use so that she would not have to spend her time there hobbling around in intense pain. Actually, I saw so many more people I knew from Miami on that trip to Havana!

I am such an incurable packrat, and I have tons of objects saved from my time at the paper, even though I have already donated a lot to the Vasari Project at the Main Library downtown, just across the plaza from Miami Art Museum.

As I am writing this, I am looking at my ID card for that assignment: It says "Participante, Bienal De La Habana 2000, Elisa Turner, USA." I'm also looking at a yellowing 11/19/2000 edition of Granma, the notoriously propaganda-filled newspaper in Cuba. As I recall, when my Herald editor at the time, Kevin B, wanted me to take this trip, he had me come into the Herald offices and speak to the Latin American editor, Juan Tamayo, about going on assignment to Havana. Juan, I remember, told me in no uncertain terms that Herald reporters were not allowed in Cuba; as a result my own editor suggested that I just go undercover and "use my best judgment."

Um, and what would that be?? I loved my job, but I had no wish to risk a stay in Cuban prisons! So of course we went legally with a university group that I knew was going from Florida's west coast because I had just profiled one of their members for ARTnews. My story about this assignment for the Herald was published later, in January 2001. I am EXTREMELY grateful for the opportunity to have done this, and for the other international assignments I would later take. Nothing will ever change that!!

(I don't plan to be blogging for about ten days or two weeks because I do need a break; readers can read some of my past blog posts if they wish. There are quite a few since I have been blogging since 2009. See the blog archive. I'm really having a blast with my blog, but I do need to take a break, and that's why this one is posted earlier in the week than usual.)

First things first: More visual arts news in Miami Let's hear it for those caring, entreprenurial artists nurtured by Miami's New World School of the Arts! (You can read more about their groundbreaking exhibit, "Young Blood: So Fresh" at Flagler Arts Space in my previous blog post re Carlos Alfonzo.) They're presenting "Art Crushes Cancer: A Benefit at Flagler Arts Space," on Saturday, Aug. 6 from 6:30 to 10:30 pm at 172 W. Flagler Street. It's a silent auction, hosted by artist Ana Fernandez, with all proceeds to benefit The Jim Hunter Memorial Scholarship fund and American Cancer Society. For more info see

Ok, maybe this is not exactly visual arts news, but it is a very cool event re blogging happening at my fave bookstore, Books & Books, so here's the scoop: On Sat. Aug. 6 at 5 pm at Books & Books, 265 Aragon Ave, Coral Gables, you can hear, via video from Cuba, widely acclaimed Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez read from her new book, Havana Real: One Woman's Fight to Tell the Truth, as well as other folks in Miami discussing her considerable contributions to journalism accomplished despite political oppression as she lives and works with her family in Havana. Call 305-442-4408 for more info.

Here are some more shows I hope I will get to see: "Sandra Ramos's 90 Miles: Living in the Vortex," opening Aug 13 from 7:30 to 10 pm at Dot Fiftyone, 51 NW 36th St, Wynwood Arts District. For more info call 305-573-9994 or see It's up through Sept. 16. Curated by Janet Batet, this exhibit primarily consists of a 32-foot installation evoking a symbolic bridge between Havana and Miami. It's made up of 12 photos of the Straits of Florida taken by internationally known artist Sandra Ramos from an airplane during her trip from Havana to Miami in May 2011. Photos are displayed in lightboxes, allowing visitors to walk on the actual images. This experience seems meant to suggest that it is possible to overcome over 50 years of anguish dividing the the two cities. The second part of this ambitious project by Sandra Ramos will be shown in Havana during the Havana Biennial in March 2012.

Also in Wynwood, I hope to see "Summer Time Blues" at Fredric Snitzer Gallery, 2247 NW 1st Place, on view Aug. 3-Sept. 5. They'll be a Second Saturday opening Aug. 13 from 7:30 to 9:30. For more info call 305-448-8976 or see Such a clever idea for a show! In the time of our own summer "blues," during which Miamians battle heat & humidity not to mention a possible hurricane or two, this show takes a look at how artists are inspired by various shades of blue, nodding also to how art of the musical Blues and Picasso's Blue Period drew inspiration from hardships. The artists all sound intriguing: Alice Aycock, Zack Balber (a very smart young artist I met when I lectured several years ago for a day in an art criticism course taught by Mark Coetzee at NWSA--quite sure that we're going to see some very impressive art from Zack one day!!), Loriel Beltran, Timothy Buwalda, Sean Dack, Jacin Giordano, Luis Gispert, Gavin Perry, Bert Rodriguez, Diego Singh, Michael Vasquez.

In the Design District, hope I will get to see "The Family of Man," by George Sanchez-Calderon, a site-specific installation in the Project Room of the De La Cruz Collection Contemporary Art Space, 23 NE 41 Street, opening 7-10 pm Aug. 13. I've watched George develop for years as an artist, and I'm very curious to see what he's doing now. His show is up through Oct. 8. Also that night you can see three projects created by artists during the summer workshop series at this art space (sounds like such a great idea!). For more info, call 305-576-6112 or see

Here is my profile of Roberto Behar and Rosario Marquardt from The Miami Herald in May of 2001.


For Roberto Behar and Rosario Marquardt, there's an art to capturing a child's appetite for wonder. And this is the very sort of art that feeds the communal soul of a city bloated with traffic and sprawl.

These two South Florida artists have a talent for offering wonderful, traffic-stopping surprises. In April they completed a capacious living room that appears to have landed magically on the corner of Northwest 40th Street and North Miami Avenue.

It's their most recent Design District mural, one in a series commissioned by developer Craig Robins. A tour de force completed on the side of a vacant building, it's called, well, "The Living Room."

The effort, Behar announces excitedly, is all about "trying to bring attention to the fact that ultimately we are alive."

Marquardt, his wife as well as his collaborator, gently reigns in his focus.

"Surprise," she prods him.

"We're trying to be surprised," he continues, "like when we were kids, and to look at a place like it's the very first time."


A paradoxical piece that features an out-of-doors interior, "The Living Room" beckons to passersby with a sleekly modern sofa of fuschia cushions and a pair of white reading lamps. Its backdrop is a 42-foot-high wall aswirl with 300 pink-and-orange flowers, painted and interlaced like vintage wallpaper. In tropical hues reminiscent of hibiscus hedges, ripening mangoes and coral reefs, the wallflowers frame a 10-foot-high window framed by gauzy white curtains. Through the window is a glorious view of clouds, sky, even a bird roosting on a telephone wire.

Exposed to the sky and street, the mural welcomes a world of imaginative possibilities. It's a kind of larger-than-life, virtual version of Surrealist Rene Magritte's famously dream-like paintings of clouds. And with its proportions both human-scale and huge, the room casts a delightful spell. For a wonderful second, you feel like a child entering a gigantic doll house.

"It's not easy to make a curtain this big, it's almost 40 feet long," explains Marquardt. "But we wanted to have it homey, open to the street. The idea is to have an open home spread around the [Design] District."

Another room in that home is two blocks away. That mural, "The Salon," graces the front of the Buick Building at 3841 NE Second Ave. and presents a grand pair of oval portraits, like old-fashioned family cameos, that also look both mythic and strange.

One is of Mackandal, a rebel slave from Haitian folklore who escaped the French by morphing into such creatures as the yellow and black butterfly arising from his shoulders in the portrait.

His companion is La Malinche, the native Mexican bride of Hernando Cortes.

She's portrayed as a New World Madonna cradling a lizard and regarding her complex past, present and future with a trio of eyes.

"She's also one of us, in the process of trying to invent ourselves in a new place," says Behar, finding in both portraits a mirror of Miamians who moved here from so many other places and pasts to reconstruct their identities.

On the other side of the Buick Building, visible from Northeast 39th Street and Federal Highway as well as from Interstate I-95 is "The Bedroom," another colorful pair of murals.

One shows a man sleeping under a sky-blue blanket, another a view of his dreams in which his good side slugs it out with his bad side in a profoundly human match between boxers costumed as devil and angel.

"When you say devil in English, it has a diabolical meaning. But when you say it in Spanish, it means more like a trickster," Behar says. "In Latin American culture, at least in Argentina, if one doesn't have a little bit of the diablo, then one has something wrong, one becomes very dry, very boring."


Dry is something this Argentine-born husband-and-wife team are not, asserts Vincent Scully, the eminent architectural historian now teaching at the University of Miami.

"What they are doing is very unusual, full of life, and witty," he says. "It's wonderful art for Miami because it draws on South American imagery, but it comes into its own in a jangled urban landscape that goes from high-rises to villages."

The willowy, soft-spoken Marquardt and the shorter, vivacious Behar have been a couple since they were 18 and studying art and architecture in the Argentine resort city of Mar del Plata, where Marquardt ran a puppet theater. In the 1970s, they participated in protests against Argentina's military dictatorship, even hiding a printing press in their studio. They knew many who were killed or disappeared.

Marquardt's 24-year-old sister was shot dead in the street, and her brother was jailed for five years. Only after he was released did they leave the country, arriving in New York in 1982. They attended the Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies for a year, then settled in Miami where Marquardt began to paint and Behar took a job teaching architecture at UM.

"I think that period had an effect on our work," Marquardt, 46, says of those dark years in Argentina. "When the dictatorship came we were critical, we tried to act in our way to stop it."

Their public work here--a vivid fusion of art and architecture, like the red four-story "M" resembling a giant alphabet block at the Miami Riverwalk Metrorail station--is also, they say, a critique of the status quo.

"We try to resist that tendency of the city to forget about the public spaces of the streets," Marquardt says, "to just leave the street for the cars."

With this tendency, bemoans Behar, 47, "we are preventing the possibility of meeting with each other. The contemporary city is about private space and comfort, it's not about public space and beauty."

Their critique is laced with nods to the radical acts of Gordon Matta-Clark who, in the 1970s, carved vast holes in abandoned buildings in New York ghettos, documenting his opened-up architecture with photographs that became emblems of his belief that most urban housing blocked a sense of community.

Other sources are the Baroque plazas in Rome that made Marquardt feel as if she'd entered "big rooms open to the sky."


Closer to home, their painted walls play on the tradition of hand-painted signage in nearby Little Haiti, where goods such as papayas, fish and hair gel are illustrated in flourishing detail on storefronts.

These examples show how the two are "very cosmopolitan and yet they apply that knowledge to very local situations," says Miami Art Museum senior curator Peter Boswell, who met the artists when he was the fine arts director at the American Academy in Rome.

Their murals create "a very livable space, and people really respond to it," he adds. "There are big stretches in Miami-Dade County that are really quite ugly because no one has taken the care to make them look better. What they've done is a real enhancement."

[Blogger's Note: Too bad that now, in 2011, when I've last seen Roberto and Rosario's remarkable "Living Room" mural in the Design District, it looks nothing like it did when I wrote this story. Also, I want readers to know that I worked very hard to make my foreword to the book Miami Contemporary Artists by Paul Clemence and Julie Davidow as accurate and error-free as possible although I wrote it when I was still working hard for the Herald and was also quite confused, stressed and anxious in my brain-injured way about, um, shall we say, some irregularities there. So I sincerely regret that I did not discuss the remarkable contributions made by COCA, the Center of Contemporary Art (1981-1996) in North Miami, under Lou Anne Colodny's dynamic leadership, as documented in a letter Lou Anne wrote in November 17, 2007, to Julie and Paul. Also, on page 11 of my foreword, in the second paragraph of the second column on the page, I mistakenly write that Cheryl Hartup curated a show at MAM with Rosario and Roberto. It was NOT Cheryl. It was Peter Boswell.]