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.]

No comments:

Post a Comment