Saturday, September 17, 2011

Miami Artist Sebastian Spreng Amazing Multi-Tasker

I started this blog entry in Sept. 9, 2011, and actually now today is December 20, 2011. Sebastian Spreng is not only an accomplished artist but an accomplished music critic as well--I believe I even saw his byline on the Knight Arts Blog. Very pleased that I could review his show at Kelley Roy gallery in Miami for the Sept. 2011 issue of ARTnews. So more about Sebastian soon in this blog post. . . . I have been so busy with writing gigs that actually pay, plus of course with teaching at Miami Dade College, that I just have not had the time to sit down and blog.
As of course everyone in Miami's art community knows, Baselmania is quite exhausting and takes a toll!! Very nice that this year I was hired to give Miami Art Museum docents (now, THERE's a story in what is happening with that museum's name!!) a 45-min tour of blue-chip art at Art Basel Miami Beach this year. It went well, though I must say I was a bit nervous about planning and executing it because I have never done this before. Still, it was nice to make some $$ at the fair this year with the knowledge I had used to earn a living at The Miami Herald for so long. Many Many Thanks to my BFF Rosie Gordon-Wallace for making that gig possible!!!
First things first: More visual arts news in Miami
I missed soo many things this year at Basel Miami. Here is info about just two events I wish I had been able to attend. 1) The Daily Breakfast on Thurs. Dec. 1 at CIFO during which Miralda was featured in a Kreemart program called "Digestible NEWS." I must say that Miralda is surely one of the most charming men on the face of the earth, plus quite a terrific artist. Miralda and I go WAY BACK. For more info about Miralda, pls check my blog archive to see my July 2010 post, "Miralda and Ishmaelita Meet in Miami." 2) "On the Edge of Light"at Maor Gallery, 3030 NE Second Ave, ph. 305-573-9995, Tina Spiro, whose painting "Aurora Amada" is featured on the post card announcement, emails me from Jamaica that she was quite pleased with the attention that this group show received during Basel week. (Also in the show: Janet Slom, Fernando Calzadilla, Paul Stoppi, Yasmin Spiro, Prof. Hans Evers, and selected sculpture students of DASH, Design & Architecture Senior High in Miami; curated by Arthur Dunkelman and Tina Spiro) Among the visitors: curator Elvis Fuentes of El Museo de Barrio in New York. Very glad that this show will be on view through Jan. 31, 2012. Also note the upcoming Chanukah celebration Wed. Dec. 21 at this gallery from 7:30 t0 9:30 pm. At this event, you are invited to collaborate in building a Menorah with recycled materials to honor art, light, and unity. What's NOT to like about that??!!
Now, a few words about Miami NOW, AFTER Basel: Look for exhibition of drawings by Ramon Carulla, on view through Jan. 15, at the West Art Gallery, Miami Dade College, West Campus, 3800 NW 115 Ave., Doral, FL. So nice to hear from Ramon again! I have followed his impressive work for years. He emails me this tip about seeing the show: "When you arrive you must check with the Security Guard to get the gallery open."
Adalberto Delgado, another terrific artist I've known for years, emails me that his Little Havana exhibition space, 6th Street Container ( ) recently had its first anniversary of doing a show every month, alternating between older artists and younger ones without representation. Also that it has been mentioned in more than half a dozen publications, including, he says, "my old alma mater," The Miami Herald. This LiHa space is, he notes, an "out of pocket endeavor;" however, HURRAH for Adalberto, because he adds, "It has been very hard work but worth the effort!"
On my calendar for sure: "Miami Dade Community College 1970s Faculty Exhibition" at Bridge Red Studios / Project Space, 12425 NE 13th Ave, #5, North Miami, now through Jan. 29, 2012. Hope I get to catch the free and open to the public Sunday brunch pre-closing reception from noon to 4 pm on Jan. 8. If you miss that, call 305-978-4856 for an appt or email Kristen Thiele at This promises to be a fascinating look into the Miami art scene in the 1970s, when very talented artists were working and teaching here--there was, of course, no Basel hoopla and hype to create an infrastucture of galleries to exhibit and sell their work, and of course Miami museums were not really interested in what the artists here were doing. As Robert Thiele told me once for the Herald about those pre-Basel days, he and other artists here "were doing our work but not aiming at a larger audience, when museums. . . .generally had a hands-off policy in terms of the homegrown product." Artists whose work is presented in this exciting historical look back at Bridge Red Studios / Project Space: Duane Hanson, Robert Thiele, Shirley Henderson, Jim Couper, Elmer Craig, David Gossoff, Charles Hashim, Michael Klezmer, John Kokko, Salvatore LaRosa, Mark Lynch, Peter McWhorter, Ron Mitchell, Gary Monroe.
Look for "Fly Over" by totally fab artist Teresa Diehl, now through Jan. 14, at Praxis International Art, 2219 NW 2nd Ave, Miami; ph 305-573-2900 or ; for more info contact Julian Navarro at Teresa was born in Lebanon, grew up in Caracas, Venezuela, and now lives and works in Miami. She's shown all over the map, including Mexico and the Czech Republic.
News from another totally fab artist: William Cordova recently emailed me that he received an exceptionally terrific award.Way to go William! Why am I NOT surprised! He is one of 25 to receive the 2011 Painters and Sculptors grants in the amount of $25,000 each from the Joan Mitchell Foundation. For more info, see
Today I am going to blog about Sebastian Spreng. This is my March 1995 Miami Herald profile about Sebastian Spreng.
In this porous city, swirling with the accents and customs of many cultures, Sebastian Spreng seems especially at home: a man with a porous imagination who moves freely among the worlds of music, painting and language, multicultural in a way most of us never dream of becoming. "Chamber Music," Spreng's show of oil paintings through April 5 [remember, dear readers, that this was in 1995] at the Americas Collection in Coral Gables [he is now represented by Kelley Roy Gallery in Wynwood, 50 NE 29th Street, ], is a splendid example of that rich confluence. His work features atmospheric landscapes with fabulous gardens seen from a distance and shimmering with expanses of water in which a solitary swimmer often floats. They speak of interior worlds where the imagination roams free.
Spreng, who has been confined to a wheelchair since he was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy at age 14, acknowledges that these swimmers are references to the free movement that eludes him except in the water. But, he is quick to add, the landscapes are meant to be poetic metaphors.
"I paint my interior landscapes. By coincidence, [they are] landscapes I'm living now," he says, referring to Miami's tropical luxuriance and his attraction to its "strange, oneiric" summer nights. "It's like what I have inside."
Even though his work is at times more sweet than compelling, Spreng wields a restrained vocabulary with great sensitivity. And the pieces are, indeed, analogous to the chamber music of the exhibition's title: intimate and subtle with finely etched repetitions and variations.
The parallels highlight Spreng's wide-ranging knowledge of classical music. A native of Buenos Aires who moved to Miami in the late 1980s, Spreng, 38, is the Miami correspondent for the glossy magazine Clasica, published in Buenos Aires by Radio Clasica, S. A. (Florida Philharmonic fans may be already familiar with his paintings, which appear on five of the orchestra's nine playbills this season.)
Even the catalog for the show begins with a poem from James Joyce's youthfully romantic collection, Chamber Music. The opening lines of the first poem--"Strings in the earth and air / Make music sweet"--inspired American composer Samuel Barber's 1935 song, whose title is taken from that line; it was one of many songs Barber set to lyric poetry during his career.
"They are exquisite pieces of music," Spreng says. Making a reference to the lovely, bittersweet quality of the 1935 song, as he does in this show, was a way of putting together music, painting, and literature.
It's a synthesis Spreng deals with daily, spending some eight hours listening to classical music while painting. And, of course, there is his work for Clasica, which includes interviewing visiting musicians such as violinist Pinchas Zucherman and soprano Barbara Hendricks. "It's fascinating," he says of these interviews. "You are in contact with another world. When you by chance mention that you are an artist, that you paint, the whole thing is much more relaxed. I'm not trying to do a critique but to have an interchange of ideas." What's equally fascinating is the way music and water have shaped Spreng's own artistic sensibility. He recalls visiting Teatro Colon, Buenos Aires' turn-of-the-century opera house, as a high schooler.
"We toured the bowels of the theater. It was like Phantom of the Opera," he says. "The orchestra was 10 meters above us, playing Wagner, and the music was like water, falling over us, as if you could touch it.
"My love of music started there," he says. "It was so important in cultivating a sensibility."
If his feelings for music developed during high school, Spreng's longing for marine vistas began much earlier, during his childhood in the Santa Fe province. "I was always fascinated by the ocean, always," he says. "In Argentina I lived in the middle of an ocean of wheat, the pampas." As a child, he drew and painted obsessively, making maps of imaginary countries. There was much time for these solitary pursuits since Spreng had had trouble walking from the age of 3. For years it was thought he had cancer or tuberculosis; it wasn't until he was 14 that the MD diagnosis was made.
Only when pressed will he talk about his disability--and then he recounts, in a thin, tense voice, a harrowing tale of a narrow escape from Argentine police during the turbulent 1970s.
Spreng prefers to talk about his newest work, a group of nine 24-inch-by-24-inch paintings commissioned by Metro-Dade's Art in Public Places program. The works, to be unveiled this fall, will hang in the Stephen P. Clark Government Center as a memorial to George Armitage, a local advocate for the disabled who died in 1991 at the age of 66.
"There will be three levels of three paintings to form a puzzle--like a big painting because I cannot paint big," Spreng says of his serial composition. "This disadvantage gives me an advantage. I try to see my whole life like this. . . .The lower levels are like webs, labyrinths, jails. The figure inside is very dark. In the upper level, you have this magnificent ocean." In the ocean Spreng will paint a swimmer, a reference to the one activity in which he himself can move freely.
He's not concerned that his work will hang in this specific context. "Everybody has some kind of handicap," he says, adding that the series is really about "the path from darkness to light." Vivian Rodriguez, executive director of Art in Public Places, agrees. The commissioned works, she says, will make a poetic statement about "dealing with universal disabilities, whether they are physical or from being an imperfect human being."

Miami Art Critic Makes Final Trip to Herald Newsroom

So now I am making my 5oth blog post. It is precisely 6:19 am on a dark Saturday morning as I start this. My house is quiet and empty. I am alone here with my dogs, my thoughts and my memories. Looking at my notebook from the excellent memoir-writing workshop I took with Greg Bottoms in early May 2011 at Florida Center for the Literary Arts at Miami Dade College , now part of The Center @ MDC, I begin to blog.
Today, I thought I would blog about the day I made my final trip to the newsroom of The Miami Herald. It seems to make sense, now that the Herald building has been sold. In about two years it will be gone from the face of Miami, and I suppose all that will be left of the newsroom that was once there (although I'm told it will reappear some place else in Miami) are the memories people have of that place where so many people once worked so very hard and told so many, many stories in the service of prize-winning print journalism--or for that matter, reviewed so many art exhibits and profiled so many artists and other art world denizens. (Actually, that is an expression I always wanted to use in my Herald copy, but don't think I ever did. But now, with my blog, who is stopping me??)
First things first: More visual arts news in Miami
My artcentric buddy George Sanchez Calderon has just emailed me about this promising exhibition: "Daniel Newman Puente/Texas Flickers" at Tomorrowland, 1368 N. Miami Ave, Sept. 18 to Oct. 8; opening reception is Sept. 18, 8 pm to midnight; for more info email
Hey George, thanks a bunch for keeping me in the loop. That very smart, very busy Arthur Dunkleman is one exceptional curator! (Oh, Arthur, why did I never get to profile you for the Herald when I had the chance??!! And, yes, George, it would have been lots of fun, I am quite sure, to profile you also. There are, however, some people in Miami that I am absolutely thrilled that now I will NEVER even have to THINK about profiling!!!...If you are reading this, you know who you are.) Arthur tells me about this reception: "On the Edge of Light: Preview" is Thurs. Sept. 22, 6 to 8 pm at Maor Gallery, 3030 NE 2nd Ave., Miami, with artist's talk and presentation at 6:30 pm and at 7 pm L'Chaim toast welcoming the Jewish new year 5772 by guest of honor Stewart Merkin. Then at 7:15 there's a performance by Fernando Calzadilla. RSVP Look for these artists in this exhibit curated by Arthur the Extraordinaire: Tina Spiro, Fernando Calzadilla, Paul Stoppi, Janet Slom, Yasmin Spiro. "On the Edge of Light" will take place during Miami Art Week and Art Basel Miami Beach 2011. For more info see
Note this 9/12/2011 news flash from the very helpful Cuban Art News service. So glad I get their emails too! Jose Bedia is having a retrospective at the Fowler Museum at the University of California's Los Angeles campus. See Show is "Transcultural Pilgrim: Three Decades of Work by Jose Bedia." Also "Fowler in Focus: Bedia Selects" puts on public view more than 30 seldom-displayed objects in the Fowler collection from Central Africa. You can see them through Jan. 8, 2012. Cuban Art News service is a fab project from the Farber Foundation, started by one of my fab artcentric friends and collector, Howard Farber and his wife. See So glad I got to meet him too when I worked for the Herald, and it is so nice that now that I now longer work for the Herald we keep in touch via email.
This just in from another fab email buddy from my Herald days: Gean Moreno. He sent me his September [NAME] Newsletter: Look for the launch party/fundraiser at Gallery Diet on Wednesday, Sept. 28 at 7 pm; gallery address is 174 NW 23rd St. in Wynwood. Among the artists [NAME] is working with this year: Hernan Bas, Bhakti Baxter, Christy Gast, Bert Rodriguez. They'll be at the New York Book Fair at the end of this month. Most of [NAME] publications are at this site
Congrats to NWSA! New World School of the Arts celebrates its 25th anniversary! A highlight from its email newsletter: NWSA's art history curriculum is now becoming much more impressive thanks to this cool collaboration with the Bass Museum of Art (I remember when I used to give NWSA tons of art books that publishers fairly inundated with me at the Herald--those were "review copies" that of course there was never space for me to cover in the newspaper. Wonder what is happening to them now....but I just love it that this is NOT MY PROB anymore!) . Now there's a one-year art history seminar for every first year student in NWSA's Visual Arts College Program. As of this month, 40 students will come to the Bass once a week for a two-hour course taught by Dr. Adrienne von Lates , Director of Education at the Bass.
Mario Algaze is having a show at Throckmorton Gallery , 145 E. 57th St., 3rd floor, in New York City. Opening reception is Thurs., Nov. 10, from 6 to 8 pm. "Mario Algaze: Forty Years" presents four decades of his truly stunning and perceptive photography in the Caribbean and Latin America. Note that his art is collected by many museums, including Houston Museum of Fine Art, Norton Simon Museum, Cleveland Museum of Art. So glad that I recently saw his gorgeous photographs at Dina Mitrani Gallery in Wynwood. There's a book to accompany his New York gallery show: Mario Algaze: Portfolio, published in 2010, price is $125.
Miami's Museum of Contemporary Art aka MOCA announces its many programs for the fall. Note "Contemporary Art Boot Camp," a lecture series by MOCA curators and art professionals, which covers key figures, themes and trends in contemporary art. Jillian Hernandez, Moca's Outreach Coordinator and PhD candidate in Women's and Gender Studies at Rutgers University, will present "(Re)thinking Sex Through Contemporary Art: The Politics of Scandal, Pleasure and Disappointment." (Can't WE ALL relate to those issues??!!) This two-part lecture series, presented Oct. 19 and Nov. 16, will draw from queer theory and interdisciplinary sexuality studies to examine the way contemporary art affects the way we think about sex. "Contemporary Art Boot Camp" is $10 for members and $15 for non-members. MOCA is located at 770 NE 125th St., North Miami. For more info, call 305-893-6211 or see
Emilio Sanchez is celebrated in a new monograph and current exhibit at Bronx Museum of the Arts. Sanchez (1921-1999) is a Cuban-born American artist well worth celebrating. Try your hardest not to miss this presentation of Hard Light: The Work of Emilio Sanchez and book signing with author Rafael Diazcasas and editor Ann Koll happening in Miami at my totally fave bookstore ( Mitchell Kaplan: whatever would Miami do without you??) Books & Books, 265 Aragon Ave, Coral Gables on Wed., Oct. 5 at 8 pm. For more info, call 305-442-4408 or see Also see Note also that "Urban Archives: Emilio Sanchez in the Bronx" is on view through Jan. 2, 2012 at Bronx Museum of the Arts, 1040 Grand Concourse at 165th St., Bronx, NY. For more info, call 718-681-6000 or see
For sure don't miss the grand opening of South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center on Oct. 1 and 2, 10950 SW 211 St., Cutler Bay. For tkt info call 786-573-5300 or see This $15 million multi-disciplinary performing arts center sounds extremely exciting and I for one cannot wait to see it!
Rogelio Lopez Marin (aka Gory) is showing "Selected Photographs, 1985-1994" at Farside Gallery, 1305 Galloway Rd. (87th Ave.) in Miami Sept. 21-Oct. 28. Opening reception is Sat. Sept. 24, from 7 to 9 pm. This show can be seen by appt on weekdays, 11 am to 5 pm. The totally terrific and totally fab Farside Gallery is elegantly and graciously sponsored by Mosquera Orthodontics.
Also this just in from another fab artcentric friend, David Rohn. He tells me about the opening reception for "David Rohn: Small, Medium, Large" at 7-11 pm Sept. 23, 2011 at Carol Jazzar Contemporary Art, 158 NW 91 St, in Miami. At the opening you will see his "installation-cum-performance." He explained it in much more interesting detail than I have time to go into in my blog, unfortunately. Carol Jazzar has a very cool gallery in Miami Shores, but David, dahlink, I could not see the address on your email! Maybe it was my fault, and I missed it. Anyway, I think you are so clever and so interesting and so amusing that I googled the address and website for my blog. See (After all that, hope I got it right! If not, readers can always post a comment on my blog with corrections and clarifications.)
Well, it is about 8:06 am on Sunday, Sept. 18 and I am getting really bleary-eyed. I have been blogging off and on since yesterday morning. I am getting too tired to count how many hours I have been doing this, so I am just going to stop and double-check my facts for the umpteenth time. Would, however, like to add that Robert Huff and Barbara Young and I had a totally fab and fascinating evening at Art and Culture Center of Hollywood yesterday when we heard Shamin M. Momin deliver the inaugural lecture for the center's very cool Hot Topics Discussion series. She is such a charming and smart curator. No wonder she has accomplished so much! She even remembered meeting me several years ago at a fall barbeque party at the home of Debra and Dennis Scholl. Finally, I guess at about 8:48 am on Sunday, Sept. 18, I am ready to publish this blog entry. Also ready for some real breakfast and another cup of coffee!!
I am typing here what I wrote by hand during my final and very productive "free writing" session in that memoir-writing workshop in May 2011. I have revised it somewhat--maybe you know how writers are, we always want to do something extra to our copy...
Miami Art Critic Makes Final Trip to Herald Newsroom by Elisa Turner
I had often dreamed about the day I would go back, almost the way I have dreamed about returning to the actual yellow brick building where I graduated from high school in 1970 in Shelbyville, Illinois. In my dreams, I can hear the clatter of lockers slamming shut and feel how tense I became when I could not get my stubborn combination lock on the locker to open. Shelbyville High School is very different now. Because of the school's declining student population, a kindergarten now occupies the place where there was once a huge study hall during my freshman year. It was always packed to capacity then.
So would the Herald newsroom be very different when I went back? I wanted to see if the charming and riveting photos documenting Miami's upstart and colorful past would still be displayed prominently along a corridor in the newsroom connecting the Metro section to the Sports section.
Would there be the odd, sweet black-and-white photograph of a little Micosukee girl standing on an alligator? Maybe I would finally have time to see if there was a date on that photo. Would there be the famous shot of the Cuban rafters, their mouths wide open in anguished cries, their faces dripping with sweat and tears, their arms reaching out for help that might not come or grabbing flimsy inner tubes in desperation as they bounced along in the crystalline blue waves of the merciless Florida Straits?
Would there still be the three TV monitors hanging from the ceiling, the colorful talking heads looming over the backs of print journalists ever mindful of how the 24-hour cycle of breaking news was forever changing their business, diminishing their livelihood?
Would I see if the glass-windowed conference room, with its spectacular picture postcard view of MacArthur Causeway arching over Biscayne Bay, was still named, as I recalled, the Knight Conference Room? I remember stitting at the head of the conference table inside that room, outlining my plans for how the Herald could cover the first Art Basel Miami Beach in 2002.
I never found out the answers to these questions on the day in 2009 I made my last walk through The Miami Herald newsroom. I was too focused on accomplishing my mission. Yet questions like these still haunt my dreams and disturb my sleep.
"I used to work here," I say firmly to the guard inside the entrance to The Miami Herald building at One Herald Plaza. It is a gray, muggy midsummer morning in Miami. This is my final visit to the Herald building. I hand him my photo ID as I am about to walk through the metal detector. I place my purse on the conveyor belt for hand-held packages.
The guard looks skeptically at my photo ID, which says Miami Herald, INDEPENDENT, ELISA TURNER, FEATURES CONTRACTOR. He turns it over in his calloused hands.
"They didn't ask for this back?" he grunts. My heart leaps to my throat. After all the legal effort that has been expended for me to get to this point, I am absolutely not going to turn in my Herald ID to a guard who has no idea about how long and hard I have worked for this newspaper.
"No, I still have my ID," I say in a firm, even tone of voice. I reach for my ID back. I tell him the name of the woman with whom I have an appointment that day. "She's expecting me, " I say.
And with that, I briskly walk through the metal detector, retrieve my purse from the conveyor belt, and press my ID card on the metal plate next to the glass security door at the inner entrance to the Herald lobby on the ground floor. The door opens immediately and I walk through. I walk quickly to the elevator, step inside, and I push the elevator button for the fifth floor for the last time.
When the elevator door opens on the fifth floor where the newsroom is located, I hardly recognize this lobby. It gleams with a new, clean coat of off-white paint. I don't recall seeing that day the framed Pulitzer awards or the famous page one headlines from the past.
My walk through the newsroom to the library is eerie. It gives me the creeps. Ceiling lights are dim or non-existent. Rows of desks are empty. Computer screens are black, rows and rows of them. They look like death warmed over. No phones are ringing. I see hardly a soul. A ghostly pall hangs over this place that once hummed with hectic activity. I am shocked to realize I barely recognize the newsroom as I walk the about five-minute trip it takes to reach the Herald library. It actually makes my skin crawl. A knot in my stomach tightens.
I shove these feelings out of my mind. "Stay calm," I tell myself. "Be focused and clear. You have a mission." Yes, I do. I own the copyright to all my work for The Miami Herald for 21 years. I am there, I remind myself, to get my goddamn stuff back. It is mine, and I want it.
Nevertheless, the place feels like a morgue. Death hangs in the air. As usual, the air-conditioning is uncomfortably high, only adding to the creepy, gloomy, deadening atmosphere of the place, so silent and virtually empty.
At last I reach the library. The woman I am there to meet smiles and shows me a desk where I can accomplish my task. She shows me how to use the Herald's library computers so I can download all my stories for The Miami Herald onto my own flashdrive. I am not totally sure what year I began writing for the paper although I know I stopped in 2007. We determine that my first story was in 1986. I start the process of downloading it all on my five-gigabyte flashdrive.
That day I bring two flashdrives with me. I do the downloading twice on two separate flashdrives, just to make sure nothing is lost, that I will never lose access to this part of my life again.
Seeing all the titles with my byline intact, year by year, is comforting. (I was so hurt to realize that my byline had been "disappeared" from my stories archived on the Herald website, but I am sort of getting over that, or basically getting used to the fact that this hurt will never completely go away.) It's also something of a shock to see my stories flash by so quickly, as I click on them each to be downloaded on my flashdrives. They flicker past on one computer "page" after another. It is almost like seeing my life pass before my eyes. I am reminded of people and events I wrote about so long ago that I had forgotten them until this moment.
There is no time to read, to pick and choose. Now that I am there, I want it all. Everything. All my "data," as Ana, my personal computer "techie," calls it. She carefully prepped me for this moment.
I am determined not to be distracted by nostalgia or sentiment today.
The whole process takes, I think, about two hours. Or maybe less. Or maybe a little more. I honestly am not sure. I am sure that it was an utterly surreal experience.
After I complete my task, I suppose I should feel elated. But I don't. I feel quietly relieved but also drained and flat, almost a kind of gray to match the heavy gray clouds hanging over Miami that humid summer day.
Then I walk back to the newsroom and stop to chat briefly with my two dear friends, Kathy and Margaria, who are working in the cold and lonely Features department. They are happy to see me, knowing why I am there that day. I notice that the two window offices in that department are closed and dark. The offices look as if no one has used them for quite some time. That is where the editors who ran the Features department, including my last editor who called me "too artcentric," used to sit.
I make my way quickly to the elevator. I can't wait to leave this gloomy place. Inside the elevator, I push the button for the ground floor. When the elevator opens, I head for the doors to leave the building. As I step outside and breathe in the hot, muggy air, I don't look back.
Then I walk to my car, leave the almost empty Herald parking lot, and drive home. I am exhausted. Every now and then as I drive, I cast a quick look over at my purse, which I have placed securely on the passenger seat next to me. Inside, I know, are those two five-gigabyte flashdrives with all my "data, " next to my Herald photo ID.
"Fuck The Miami Herald," I think.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Miami Art Collection of Debra and Dennis Scholl Featured at Bass Museum of Art

Thought I would blog today about one of Miami's remarkable art collections, that of Debra and Dennis Scholl. "Vanishing Points: Paint and Paintings from the Debra and Dennis Scholl Collection" is now on view at the Bass Museum of Art in Miami Beach through Oct. 30. For more info, see One of the particularly informative features about the Bass website for this show is that you can find a transcript there in which Knight Curatorial Fellow Kristin Korolowicz interviews Gean Moreno, the Miami-based writer and artist who guest-curated this exhibit.
First things first: More visual arts news in Miami
Art and Culture Center of Hollywood announces its Hot Topics Discussion Series, beginning Sept. 17 with a talk by Shamin M. Momin. She is director, curator, and co-founder of Los Angeles Nomadic Division (LAND). Momin is a former contemporary curator at Whitney Museum of American Art and co-curated the 2008 and 2009 Whitney Biennial exhibitions. This is the first of five lectures by leading figures in the contemporary visual arts world. They will address current trends and the vital role the arts play in communities. Each lecture includes a reception for guests and time for Q&A. Reception for Momin starts at 5 pm. Her lecture starts at 6 pm. Location is Art and Culture Center of Hollywood, 1650 Harrison Street, Hollywood, FL. Cost is $10 for non-members and $5 for members, students, teachers, and seniors with ID. There's a fab roster of future speakers for this series. For more info, see
Note also that for the first time in its 30 plus year history, the Art and Culture Center of Hollywood is presenting winners of the South Florida Cultural Consortium. Exhibit for the 2011 winners of the 23rd Annual South Florida Cultural Consortium Visual and Media Arts Fellowship Awards runs Sept. 10 to Oct. 16. Opening reception is Sept. 9, 6-9 pm, with free admission and music by DJ Le Spam. Miami-Dade County artists in this exhibit are Tony Chirinos, Aymee Cruzalegui, Cristina Lei Rodriguez, Martin Oppel, Leyden Rodriguez-Casanova, Asser Saint-Val. Other winners are from Martin, Palm Beach, Broward, and Monroe counties.
Formed in 1985, the Consortium shares resources among counties in South Florida. Funding comes in part from the National Endowment for the Arts and various Florida government agencies. Check the Center's website for list of prestigious regional and national arts experts who chose this year's winners.
Two cool events on one night: At Farside Gallery , 1305 Galloway Road (SW 87th Ave.), at 7 pm Sept 15, Ana Albertina Delgado invites you to an informal tour of the the exhibit "Ana Albertina Delgado: Selected Drawings." At Art @ Work, 1245 Galloway Road (SW 87th Ave.), ph 305-264-3355, at 7:30 pm on Sept. 15, Ernesto Oroza invites you to an informal tour and discussion of his exhibit "Enemigo Provisional." Here's another show I hope to catch: "SET: Tom Schmitt, Odalis Valdivieso, Kerry Ware" at Bridge Red Studios / Project Space, 12425 NE 13th Ave., North Miami. Too bad I was just too pooped to get to the opening reception Sept. 4 from 7-10 pm, because the last time I was there I saw so many fab people I used to write about all the time!! (Yes, I started this blog around Thurs., Sept. 1, but I am actually finishing it on the morning of Labor Day.) I'm hoping to make the closing brunch Sunday Oct. 23 noon to 4 pm. Before that brunch, if you want to see the show call 305-978-4856 to make an appt. Also I'm looking forward to this one: "Crushed Candy" at David Castillo Gallery in Wynwood. It's David's 6th anniversary exhibition with art by Jonathan Ehrenburg, Shara Hughes, Meredith James, and the TM Sisters (Tasha and Monica Lopez de Victoria). Anniversaries, his press release notes, present an opportunity for "remembrance and revelry." (I've been thinking the same thing, as my next blog post will be my 50th blog post!! As we say in that tiny Midwestern town where I grew up, whodathunkit??!!!! Maybe that will call for TWO white chocolate martinis!!!) "Crushed Candy" at David Castillo Gallery, 2234 NW 2nd Ave., runs Sept. 8 to Oct. 1. Reception is 6-8 pm Sept. 8. For more info, call 305-573-8110 or see
Many thanks to my fab artcentric friend Mary Malm (we don't even want to THINK about how long we have known each other!) for emailing me about "Mary Malm: Bathers" and "Kristen Thiele: Paintings," both running Sept. 9-30 at Edge Zones Art Center, 47 NE 25th St. in Wynwood. Preview to meet the artists is 7-9 pm Sept. 8. Note also that Amable Lopez Melendez, chief curator of Museum of Modern Art in Santo Domingo will speak 7-10 pm Sept. 22 at Edge Zones Art Center. See
News from another fab artist Jean Chiang: Wish I had energy to put in all the info she sent me, but I just don't. She is in a group show, "The Sincerity Project, at Studio 18, 1101 Poinciana Drive, Pembroke Pines, ph. 954-961-6067. Look in that show for her wood panel painting, "The Meandering Yellow River." As of Oct. 17, she'll be back from upstate New York and will start teaching at Little Haiti Cultural Center.
Congrats to ArtCenter/South Florida ( ) artists W. Andre Allen, Babette Herschberger, Alfonso Corona. Their works will be showcased by Celebrity Cruise Lines on the labels of three special wine and champagne vintages. ArtCenter/South Florida instructors Leslie LaCombe and Armando Droulers are currently teaching in the Mediterranean on board Celebrity's newest luxury ship, Silhouette. For more info about this, see , then go to section on Company Information and click on News; see May 9, 2011 press release.
And on the subject of Miami art collections featured in museum exhibits, note also that "Thirty Americans," organized by the Rubell Family Collection of Miami can be seen in Washington, DC at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, from Oct. 1 to Feb. 12, 2012. This is a most enlightening exhibit about contemporary African American artists. I was especially glad I got to review it for ARTnews magazine. In my March 2009 review, I wrote that I thought this exhibit "offers a reminder that even as the discussion of race [in this country] has moved beyond clear-cut terms of black and white, ghosts from the past remain." Among those artists I mentioned in my review: Lorna Simpson, Robert Colescott, Carrie Mae Weems, Renee Green, Wangechi Mutu, Xaviera Simmons, Kara Walker, Purvis Young.
I had hoped to find in my personal archive of my Miami Herald stories my specific profile of art collectors Debra and Dennis Scholl, but I could not. (Probably just as well, since my plan for a book based on my Herald stories appears to have all the market value of a typewriter!!) However, I think this May 2003 article, which includes a review of a South Florida museum show based on their collection, will nevertheless be quite interesting for my blog post this week.
In Living Color by Elisa Turner
This month two shows to the north entice us back to the lovely but loaded pleasures of childhood. There's "Imperfect Innocence" at the Palm Beach Institute of Contemporary Art, with photographs of risky role-playing from the Miami Beach collectors Dennis and Debra Scholl. [Really too bad for contemporary art lovers that the PBICA in Lake Worth, directed by Michael Rush, is no more. I always looked forward to the chance to chat with Michael, after I had made that long drive up north to Palm Beach County from Miami. He is so smart, and I always learned so much from the terrific shows he curated! I miss his presence here a lot.] Then there's the gaudy carousel of color that is "My Reality: Contemporary Art and the Culture of Japanese Animation" at the Norton Museum of Art in Palm Beach.
At the Norton, you'll see a mix of paintings, sculpture, video and installations populated with comic book characters pretty in pink, and pretty frightful in pink and purple. The art owes much to such heroes and heroines who fight battles on a galactic scale and dazzle with balletic leaps. Their wide-eyes gazes speak of both childish sweetness and sinister control.
As children born in the wake of a nuclear holocaust and raised in shope-till-you-drop prosperity, such sharacters are the girls, guys and cyborgs of comic books the Japanese call manga, and of anime, Japan's animated films based on such larger-than-life characters.
Since the 1980s, anime stars like Astro Boy and Sailor Moon have powered their way onto American television. It was only a matter of time before artists in the East and West would bound onto the manga and anime fan wagons.
Still, "My Reality" suggests that it's often easier to talk about than to master convincing exports and imports of an aesthetic shaped by Japanese comics. In this exhibit, artists of Japan and Korea tend to be more successful than those in the United States. That disparity would not surprise one young Korean-born Miami artist, whose video and drawings are also saturated with the bright, narrative allure of manga and anime.
"I don't think enough people appreciate it. American superheroes are very muscular, but most of the superheroes in Asia have a feminine quality. They are very beautiful and delicate," says Jiae Hwang, a college junior at New World School of the Arts. "It's like they are doing a dance. Then they shoot this laser and there's this flowing, delicate movement. A lot of people copy images of manga because it's cute, but it's more than cute." [Really terrific to run into Jiae earlier this year when I was touring the facilities of LegalArt. Not at all surprised that she won a residency there. Her impressive and persevering career is surely yet one more testimony to the impressive track record of NWSA!]
Certainly manga-made fantasy and escapism is written all over "My Reality."
The minute you enter the show, for instance, you could be forgiven if you thought that the bankrupt FAO Schwartz--in a delusional move to relive its former glory--had not only decided to take up residence in an art museum, but had also commissioned Jeff Koons to create giant inflatable rabbits as a catchy twist on Schwartz's signature, oversized stuffed animals.
Instead, the exhibit's first gallery is bathed in shocking pink light and dominated by the towering, toothy grins of a pair of big pink rabbit ballons by Momoyo Torimitsu. The rabbits make up a facile piece, "Somehow I Don't Feel Comfortable."
Comfort is definitely not Torimitsu's strong suit, and her art also probes anime's freakish, futuristic fusion of human and machine. In a booth at Art Basel Miami Beach last year, her mechanical mannequin of a man in a dull corporate suit jerkily crawling on the floor to get ahead was wacky and disturbing.
The atmosphere of zany, over-the-top toy store plays no small part in this show. This makes things all the more lively when the funny business fades and the more ominous but lavishly crafted quality of these play things prevails.
That darker strain slithers beneath cute colors and wide-eyed playfulness in a smooth-as-porcelain painting like Mika Kato's "Sunrise," in which a broken blood vessel stains a girl's sweet but fixed stare, and in Kenji Yanobe's perky miniature cars--or are they puppy cyborgs?--outfitted with Fisher Price-ish lights and Geiger counters.
Inka Essenhigh, an American who really understands this kind of art, made one of the most challenging, nearly abstract, pieces in the show. Like a Cirque du Soleil acrobat falling and flying, she is a painter who evokes both the apocalyptic and the angelic.
"Imperfect Innocence" is a bitingly apt title for most of this PBICA show.
Something like the Japanese anime-inspired art at the Norton, many of the photographs here spring from a childish innocence interrupted or one drifting away. That's not to say that collectors Debra and Dennis Scholl have chosen work weighted with nostalgia, and cuteness isn't a part of this often discomforting art. Instead the couple, since 1992, have striven to acquire photography--and now film, video and some installation art--that reveals the most adventurous forms of visual expression.
They experimented with ways photography could reflect a cinematic preoccupation with role-playing tinged by feminist transformations of good girls. And, like Gregory Crewdson, many artists loved to manipulate the artifice of tableaux slyly modeled after film sets.
Timely themes in contemporary photography weave smartly through this show. Many works have to do with the body, beguiled or beleaguered. In an anime-influenced video by Mariko Mori, she's a blissfully ethereal princess, reigning over a mind-numbing, futuristic fantasy in pink and silver. Then there are delicate portraits of girls on the cusp of maturity by Rineke Dijkstra and especially Hellen van Meene--whose gauzily dressed girls with self-inflicted bruises and bitten-down pink nails seem to say that what they really want is more time to grow up.
Anna Gaskell's hypnotic film "Untitled (floater)" wonderfully sets the stage for such sharp imperfections. It shows a girl floating in a pool of turquoise water. She could be a dead body or swimmer--and then it's clear she is alive, treading water, tilting her head back farther and farther.
As the camera comes closer, the top of her head fills the screen. Briefly, it offers the startling sight of a baby's head crowning, on the verge of birth. Then her head swings back farther so that all we see is a red mouth. At last it opens onto a kind of rabbit hole, a frighteningly dark chasm inside as her young self vanishes from sight.