Saturday, February 26, 2011

Miami Art Bites in Orthodontist Office

Only in Miami can you find art by an internationally admired artist in an absolutely exceptional orthodonist office! That office, of course, would belong to the absolutely exceptional art collector Dr. Arturo Mosquera.

Mark your calendar for the third opening reception of "Lingua," an exhibit by Miralda, who lives in Miami and Barcelona, and whose gastronomically adventurous art was celebrated by a recent museum retrospective in Madrid. This free, special event takes place 7 to 9 p.m. Friday, March 4 at the Art @ Work Gallery, 1245 Galloway Road (87th Avenue) in Miami. For more info, call 305-264-3120. It's sponsored by Centro Cultural Espanol and FoodCulturaMuseum and is open to the public; the exhibit is on view through April 24, weekdays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

If you have not been to an Art @ Work opening reception, you are in for a memorable treat. If you have, then you know what friendly, engaging, and lively events these openings are. I always meet treasured artcentric friends when I go!

Arturo Mosquera, as I learned when I wrote about him for The Miami Herald in June 2003, believes he was born with a passion to collect.

Here is more of what I learned then about this remarkable man, who with his wife Liza continues to play a pivotal role in Miami's expanding cultural community:

Growing up in the western province of Pinar del Rio in Cuba, Mosquera amassed stacks of Marvel Comics and baseball cards. In Coral Gables, his collection of Latin American art extends to every corner of his family's home--from floor to ceiling.

A commanding portrait by Arnaldo Roche Rabell, as densely textured as a rain forest, dominates the wall of a small study, while the hip-hop flavored sculpture of Luis Gispert graces the living room. Cardboard cut-outs by Pedro Vizcaino dart like bloodied planes in battle across the ceiling of yet another room.

The Mosqueras' modern, 1960s Gables home--with sleek touches Frank Lloyd Wright might admire--generously mirrors some of the most interesting art that's been made by artists with ties to South Florida in the past decade or so. At least, that is, when some of the 400 paintings, sculpture, video, and drawings are not on loan to South Florida museums or to institutions in Venezuela and Brazil.

Art is a passion for Mosquera, who arrived in Miami in 1962 when he was 9. But few collectors have chosen to live and work with works of art in the way that he and his wife Liza Mosquera have done.

Their art blurs links between home and office, and this has nothing to do with telecommuting.

For the past two and a half years, Arturo has invited South Florida artists to make a changing series of installations and exhibits in the Miami office where he practices orthodontics and where Liza has worked as office manager. In the modestly-scaled waiting room, patients can alternate from flipping through well-worn Sports Illusrated magazines to taking in a novel series of contemporary art.

Many of the concise exhibits are by artists with works in the Mosqueras' expansive collection at home, which ranges from sculpture by Maria Brito and Florencio Gelabert, intricately constructed with reflections on exile, to poetic drawings by Jorge Pantoja and glistening Caribbean altar pieces by Charo Oquet.

Currently at the office there's a video documenting Carolina Sardi as she welds an ambitious group of painted steel reliefs fashioned to suggest suitases and natural treasures on sandy beaches. The works are part of her Miami-Dade Art in Public Places commission for terminals at the Port of Miami, called "The Journey: Water Project and Suitcase Project." There's also a group of several related, brightly-colored metallic forms by Sardi hanging on the office walls.

"It's wonderful," Arturo says about the changing shows in his office. "You get to see all the kids asking the most marvelous questions about the works. Some of the parents come by and ask questions, too."


The impetus to work with art, he says, goes back to pleasures he recalls as a kid watching his uncle, an artist in Cuba, paint tropical landscapes. This pleasure is something Arturo has always wanted to share with his patients.

Leaning back in the slimmed-down arm chairs common to orthodontists' offices, with mouths gaping as braces and retainers are fitted, patients don't have to close their eyes or stare at bland walls and posters as they wait for the work to end. Instead, they can follow the intriguing choreography of lines in the black-and-white, mixed-media composition by Odalis Valdivieso, in which a woman's body gently levitates above a sharp-edged fray.

Arturo is not merely hoping to take his patients' minds off their mouths, but also to turn this uniquely captive audience on to a vivid range of art.

His patients have been able to contemplate, for instance, delicately shaded drawings of imaginary architecture and instruments by Glexis Novoa.

Yet some paintings have turned out to be too aggressive for parents of young children, says Liza, remembering their concerned responses to Ana Albertina Delgado's sensual imagery of female figures, which often balance attributes of angel and streetwalker.

"They found it disturbing," she explains.

But as Greg Gordillo, a 22-year-old student at the Kendall campus of Miami Dade College, lifted himself out of an examining chair after his appointment ended, he turned around to see more paintings that he hadn't been able to view from his chair.

Says Gordillo, "I don't think there's art that you can't like. It's all art. It's just not your taste."

While recent conversations with patients and parents don't suggest that the exhibits here have prompted more folks to sample the offerings at South Florida museums and galleries--which the Mosqueras themselves frequent--mixing art and orthodontics has proven to be an eye-opening experience for both audience and artist.

"I like art. For me it's always interesting when he brings in a new artist--it's not the usual paintings of flower arrangements or portraits," says Lourdes Montejo, who works in her family's construction business and has been bringing her children to the office for the past five years.

Her daughter Natalie, 14, draws and paints in school and likes to discuss the changing exhibits, says Montejo, though son Matthew, 10, is less attracted to the art than to the flashing video game that's also a fixture of Mosquera's waiting room.

"But you know," continues Montejo, "if you want to get them interested in art, you have to start young."

One project she remembers in particular went on view last July. This was "Absence," a series of photographs and video by Elizabeth Cerejido, which was inspired by the recent death of the artist's father and by her mother's decline into the dementia of Alzheimer's.

Cerejido's exhibit also fascinated Roni Feinstein, a South Florida-based writer for the magazine Art in America, who's not a patient but is invited to receptions Mosquera holds for artists when a new show goes on view.

"I thought this piece was extraordinary. It worked well in such an intimate space," Feinstein says.

For Cerejido, Arturo's studio visit before her show prompted her to embark on a whole new body of intensely personal work, which she'll present next March at Bernice Steinbaum Gallery along with work by more widely-exhibited Cuban photographers Magdalena Campos Pons and Carlos Garaicoa.


The new direction transpired after Cerejido saw the collector's enthusiasm for a video she'd never intended to exhibit: It showed her mother sitting in a chair only to stand up in confusion a few seconds later in a motion she repeated restlessly after Cerejido's father died.

"I realized that I have some material here that I should be tapping. It's really been an eye-opener for me.

"For me, the show was very rewarding," the artist adds. "He treats it seriously. He really is reaching out to a whole group of people who might not be exposed to art that is remotely challenging. It's a perfect set-up because they are waiting and looking at something that's not Monet posters or nice little seascapes."

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Miami Art Collectors Cricket and Marty Taplin Support Culture at Sagamore Hotel

What would Miami be like without collectors who take risks to support the city's creative talent? I don't even want to think about how lackluster Miami would be--all sun 'n' fun, and no culture. Those folks from Basel would have never wanted to come here!

Cricket and Marty Taplin are among the dynamic collectors who make this city tick. During this past Art Basel Miami Beach, they hosted yet another fab brunch at the Sagamore Hotel on South Beach with spectacular art to see, as well as an absolutely exquisite dance performance. I recall how I have seen art there by Pablo Cano, Robert Chambers, and Jen Stark, to name just a few artists. Now I understand they are hosting an art talk for Francie Bishop Good, whose exhibit at David Castillo Gallery in Wynwood is one of several I have included for my February Critic's Choice on the cool website

Here's what I wrote about this dynamic duo for The Miami Herald in July 2002...


They agonized over the lobby most of all. Not a single artwork collectors Marty and Cricket Taplin hung next to the registration desk at the Sagamore, their recently renovated South Beach hotel, looked right.

When they taped up photocopies of a dozen implacable portraits by one of Germany's brightest art stars, the construction workers putting finishing touches on the lobby complained that the pictures resembled mug shots.

"It was great work," Marty says, but, continues Cricket, "It had no punch." In the end, finding the right punch turned out to be a picnic--or more accurately, a few hundred picnickers lounging on velvet green stretches of a crisply landscaped park in Paris. The Taplins eventually decided this picnic en masse, captured in four large panels by Italian photojournalist-turned-artist Massimo Vitali, was the piece that should hang next to the registration desk.

In fact, as soon as the couple saw Vitali's picnic while strolling the aisles of last year's Art Basel fair in Switzerland, they knew it was a must-have photograph. And buying it became a pivotal moment in their thinking about the Sagamore, which they've furnished with stunning examples of contemporary art.

"That was the zinger," remembers Cricket. It brought their choices for the hotel, she explains, "to another level. We could only go up, not down, after that."

Though Vitali's subjects are caught unposed and not always from flattering angles, his large-scale works captivate with radiant, painterly streams of color and fascinating, sometimes strange, voyeuristic glimpses. Certainly his wide-roaming eye for unguarded leisure suits a place such as South Beach, where the goal is to see and be seen.

Open since February to guests as well as people off the street just curious about art, the 93-suite Sagamore, at 1671 Collins Ave., actually made its debut in December, hosting a bevy of international collectors, dealers, museum professionals, and artists at a Sunday brunch. The event, staged by the Taplins, collector Martin Z. Margulies, and several Miami-Dade County museums, was one of several events that took place in lieu of the postponed Art Basel Miami Beach.


Seven months later, on a July morning more cloudy than clear, the Taplins, who have a habit of finishing each other's sentences, are speaking about their collecting over coffee in the casual, high-end comfort of the Sagamore's library.

There were risks to this venture, they say, and anxious moments. And there were concerns about protecting the valuable art, now bolted into place. But accidents still happen, such as when an installer recently dropped the monitor for Jason Rhoades' video installation.

Dressed in a summery linen shirt and sky-blue pants, Marty is not shy about confessing that his taste in art is more mainstream than his wife's. As a real estate developer and attorney running his first hotel, he says that "in the back of my mind I was thinking that maybe we were overshooting the market, that this was a little bit too sophisticated, because this is cutting edge."

That's why he looked for some unvarnished feedback.

"I was hanging out in the lobby looking at people's expressions and [rap mogul] P. Diddy checked in with a group of his people," he offers. "I said to them, 'I just want to be honest with you--tell me the truth, is this too much?'

"P. Diddy's reply, " he says, "was, 'Man, this hotel is in a zone by its own.'"


Andrew Mark, a New York engineer, was also taken with the Sagamore's collection and its library. He collects photography, and though he says, "no one will ever accuse me of knowing much of anything about art, it is an art hotel, one that, to my taste, provides as much beauty as the hotel provides wonderfully warm, exciting accommodations."

The raves are comforting, the Taplins says, because the idea of turning their hotel into an exhibition space almost didn't happen.

"We never really knew until the white tile was down that we were going to have an art gallery [in the hotel]," explains Cricket, who curates the Sagamore collection. "But you know, it evolved."

In that evolution, guided in part by historical architect Alan T. Shulman and conceptual designer Patrick Kennedy, the library's humble origins as a galley kitchen have been completely submerged by its chic, minimalist decor. A series of brooding, moss-shrouded landscape photos by Olafur Eliasson occupy one corner. Wicker chairs are pushed up next to a marble table nearly as long as a fashion show's runway and dozens of art books are stacked invitingly on shelves nearby.

There are tomes on Andy Warhol, Walker Evans, and Graciela Iturbide, publications on Miami artists, and a paperback with the guaranteed-not-to-intimidate title of Instant Art History from Cave Art to Pop Art.


And in another novel touch, the library is larger than the bar.

"I love how they've left a lot of material around for people to read," says Dahlia Morgan, director of the Art Museum at Florida International University. "A lot of the general public doesn't go to museums, and I think this would be a very encouraging way for people to live with art.

"When people walk in the door they know they're in a very different public space. [The Taplins] could have just gone the way of buying knock-offs, but they worked very hard to buy serious work by a lot of younger artists."

Presiding over the phone booth on the first floor, for example, is a miniature wardrobe of frilly frocks and broad-shouldered suits. With the precision of a couture seamstress and more than a dash of feminist irony, sculptor Donna Rosenthal has created these party duds from the pages of romance novels, now all yellowed and crisp from layers of shellac.

The title each outfit bears--not to mention the romance writers' breathless phrases that float in and out of your consciousness as you place a phone call--might be lifted from hotel trysts or bar chatter.

"He said he'd always hug me," says one dress. "She said she'd never cheat on me," says one suit.


The Sagamore was built in 1948 by Albert Anis, and though its angular modern lines seem less playful than the nearby Art Deco hotels, the artfully renovated building embraces the legacy of those earlier architectural landmarks, says William Cary, design and preservation director at Miami Beach's planning department.

"Many Art Deco hotels had beautiful murals and a high attention to art," he says. "When Marty and Cricket had the fire in their heart to bring their own personal art collection to the Sagamore, it added a wonderful layer of richness to what Miami Beach has to offer. It's truly a unique historic hotel and a special gift to the public and hotel guests."

The Taplins' art collecting goes back to 1988 and their days as newlyweds, when they asked Margulies to help them choose art for their home. Like many novice collectors, they took notes from a seasoned veteran of the international art circuits--in this case, Margulies.

"You spend time with someone who knows so much, and he really brings you along," says Cricket, who made the rounds of 30 New York galleries with Margulies in a single day.

"It's exhausting," she laughs. "I just listen and absorb. He's my mentor."

Now, it seems, part of Cricket's task as the Sagamore's curator is to bring her husband along. Toward that end, she gave him an extremely red-lipped self-portrait by Israeli photographer Hilla Lulu Lin, who ominously masked the rest of her face in tight white cotton.

"I wanted to put it in our house," she says of the anniversary gift, "and he didn't want it."

"You know what that's like?" he asks, over her laughter. "It's like a cowboy buying his wife a saddle for his wedding."

So Lin's riveting photograph, commissioned by Israel's major art journal, now hangs in the Sagamore lobby above a table of delectable green apples. The combination is tempting and a bit terrifying.

"But it works in South Beach," says Cricket. "It's got that sex appeal. It's a little edgy."


The Sagamore is still a work in progress nearly six months after opening, and more changes and artworks are on the way. Till Freiwald's lifelike watercolor portraits will be moved from the bar to face a haunting corridor of sculptural heads by Christine Borland, small pieces that provoke big questions about links between art and science.

In December, the hotel plans to show vintage photographs by Manuel Alvarez Bravo and Walker Evans, and perhaps sooner a spicy new piece by Tracey Rose, who took part in last year's Venice Biennial.

Marty hasn't seen Rose's new photograph, so Cricket hands him a photocopy of it, showing a young woman astride a red fire engine.

"I'm a more conservative person," he sighs. "She's a lot of steps ahead."

"He's not as rigid as he used to be," counters his wife. "And now that we have the hotel, he sees that there are many personalities, younger people, and he can get with it quicker. I suppose I was always interested in art, but I didn't know how to express it. Could I sit and draw? No, but I always admire people that do. So this is my canvas."

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Miami Artist Maria Brito Honored by Frost Art Museum

February is the shortest month of the year, but this February is truly a bonanza month for artcentric folks in Miami!

Not only have we had a fab ArtTable meeting at Books & Books on February 8, but for the first time we can look forward to a second such gathering in one month.

ArtTable members and guests, mark your calendars for this event: 11 a.m. Saturday, February 19 at the Patricia and Phillip Frost Art Museum of Florida International University.

It's on the occasion of a wonderful show there by Maria Brito, as well as the publication of an award-winning book about her by FIU professor Juan Martinez. Juan and Maria will discuss her exhibit, "As of 24/03/07," at the Frost on February 19, during this 11 a.m. gathering for ArtTable members and guests. Light refreshments will be served. There'll also be a book signing of the book Maria Brito. To RSVP or get more information, call 305-348-2890 or visit

Carol Damian, the Frost's dynamic director and chief curator, agreed to make this ArtTable event happen. I'm not surprised by her energy and resourcefulness. Tonight I'm going to see "A Visual Journey Through Art & Music," performed by the Miami Symphony Orchestra, and based on a text by Carol Damian. It will be at the acclaimed New World Center on Miami Beach, so I think my husband and I are in for an outstanding evening! (For more information about Miami Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Eduardo Marturet, see

Renowned FIU Alumna Maria Brito at the Frost

I was so lucky to write about Maria Brito for the FIU Magazine that I want to share much of what I wrote with readers of my blog this morning. She is one of the many extraordinary people I got to know so well through my work on the visual arts beat for The Miami Herald.

Your first encounter with Maria Brito's show at the Frost Art Museum could be confusing. You may even wonder why it's there. If so, you'll please Brito, a rebel at heart who likes controversy. Celebrated Miami artist and FIU alumna, Brito traces her rebellious spirit to the long ago moment she concealed gold jewelry in clothes she wore on a Pedro Pan flight from Havana to Miami. Everyone knew that doing this risked terrible consequences, she recalls, but she couldn't leave the jewelry, a small bracelet still in her possession, behind.

Her longstanding aversion to doing what's predictable, as well as considerable talent, has led to "As of 24/03/07," Brito's mixed-media installation at the Frost. A small shrine--dedicated to a mysterious figure and recalling saints' altars--is an ominous part of this work. In ways not amenable to conventional religion, this shrine recalls Brito's conservative Catholic upbringing, especially for girls, in the Cuban community transplanted to Miami in the early 1960s.

Brito endows simple, familiar objects with disturbing symbolism: this installation evokes a modest scientific laboratory where human forms are created in a clandestine manner. "It has to do with social, ethical issues related to the manufacturing of human life," says Brito, intrigued by news reports about biological experimentation.

This will be the first solo exhibit at the Frost Art Museum for the FIU graduate, although her art has been in group shows at the previous museum space. The Frost also has sculpture by Brito in its permanent collection.

Brito's art has been shown in every major exhibition of Cuban American artists and in venues around the world: the Second Iberoamerican Biennial of Lima, Peru; the Olympic Sculpture Park in Seoul, South Korea; "Cuba Twentieth Century: Modernism and Syncretism" at the Centre d'Art Santa Monica in Barcelona, Spain; and in "The Decade Show: Frameworks of Identity in the 1980s," in New York City at various venues, including Studio Museum in Harlem. Her art was part of the traveling exhibit, "Arte Latino: Treasures from the Smithsonian American Art Museum."

Frost Art Museum director and chief curator Carol Damian has known Brito for more than 20 years. As a professor, Damian includes Brito in her art history courses, especially given her own interest in women artists. Brito is "an artist of great complexity that can be inspirational to my students," said Damian, "especially in South Florida with all her references to growing up here as a child of exile."

"Maria has long represented herself and her life experiences in multi-media works that combine ceramics, painting, sculpture, and installation in constructions that embody issues of loss, femininity, women's roles, and identity," Damian explains. "She has never wavered from her commitment to create works that are dense with serious personal symbolism and yet can be quite humorous."

In 2009, FIU art history professor Juan Martinez wrote the book Maria Brito, published by UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center Press of Los Angeles. A year later, at Book Expo America in New York City, his book was awarded "Best Arts Book--English" by Latino Book Awards.

This exquisitely illustrated volume about Brito belongs to the series "A Ver: Revisioning Art History," which explores contributions Latina and Latino artists have made to American and world art history. It highlights Brito's signature installations--mixed-media interior spaces imbued with symbolism and emotion--as well as her paintings and sculptures. "As Brito and her art have broken cultural, social and artistic barriers," Martinez writes, "they have made a notable contribution to the diversity and dynamism of contemporary art."

His book looks at Brito's artistic career in the context of recent Miami history, touching on how interest in Latin American culture increased significantly in the 1980s in the United States. This cultural shift, along with growing opportunities for women, coincided with her hard-working life as an art teacher, mother, and artist.

"For me, getting married and having a family was what I was supposed to do," Brito said. Still, she says, her father emphasized the importance of being educated so that she could support herself. "If you have a good education, no one can ever take that away from you," she recalls that her father would tell her. This was indeed a mantra for the close-knit Cuban-born family transplanted to Miami.

"I didn't know about the educational system here, but I knew that after finishing high school I could go to community college," she says, explaining that she attended what is now the north campus of Miami Dade College to study art. She eventually earned four degrees: a bachelor's in education from the University of Miami in 1969, a master's degree in education from FIU in 1976, a bachelor's of fine arts from FIU in 1977 and an MFA from UM in 1979.

"I had my children, but I just kept going to school," she said. "Honestly, I never thought I would be creative enough to become an artist."

Martinez notes how Cuban culture has transformed Miami since the early 1960s, when she came to the city along with thousands of other Cuban exiles. Miami was much smaller, with fewer opportunities for artists than exist today. Early on, Brito gained attention as a member of "The Miami Generation," several Cuban American artists featured at the Cuban Museum of Arts and Culture in Miami. She was the only woman included.

Brito's breathrough came in the 1980s, Martinez writes, "in the context of multiculturalism and the growing recognition of women artists."

Brito and some Cuban American artists of her generation are inspired by Renaissance and Baroque painting, Martinez said. Perhaps this is because Catholic imagery in this art is so familiar to these artists. "They were raised Cuban Catholic in a time that was very intense," he said. "But notice her relationship to Catholicism is complex. If you look at some of the mixed-media that deal with Catholicism, Catholicism is seen as kind of oppressive and overpowering."

These complex themes are present in Brito's installation at the Frost Art Museum. But don't look to Brito for interpretations of her shrine-as-laboratory. As viewers enter her single-room installation, she says, "I hope to leave them with more questions than answers, which is what I love to do with my work. I want to get people to think."

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Miami ArtTable Members & Guests Meet February 8 at Books & Books

I am probably going to miss this wonderful ArtTable meeting--it will be the first I have missed since we started doing these in June 2009, thanks to the support of Miami's totally fab independent bookseller Mitchell Kaplan.

This meeting will be held February 8 at Books & Books, 265 Aragon Avenue, Coral Gables. As usual, we will have networking from 5:45 to 6:30 pm. Meeting starts at 6:30 pm. Panel discussion starts at 7 pm. Our events are free and open to the public. Books & Books is so kind to offer a 10% discount on food and drink to those who attend.

Today I am going to blog about all the great info that moderator Sandi-Jo Gordon shared with me. Her title for this panel:

"Artists' Books - Discovering Another World."

This is how she describes the panel:

"Artists' books as a distinct artform is relatively unknown to the general art-viewing public. The wide range of books and book-like objects encompass scrolls, fold-outs and loose items enclosed in a box, as well as 'pages' bound by sewing or gluing, to name only a few. Every medium imaginable has been used to create them. The one common denomiator is the hand of the artist, whether created as an an edition or a 'unique.'

The three women on our panel, all represented in such major collections as the Jaffe Center for Book Arts at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton and the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, DC, will show and discuss their individual and varied approaches to creating artists' books.


Rosemarie Chiarlone has been receiving grants, awards and fellowships since 1982, exhibiting widely for the last three decades. Her 'books' are often an outgrowth of the development of her installation and video work.

Claire Jeanine Satin is a book artist, sculptor and designer of public art installations. With five works in the Library of Congress, Claire is most known for her ongoing series of conceptual 'books' entitled 'Pentimento.'

Carol Todaro, recognized as both an artist and a poet, combines the two activities in her 'books' and her teaching. 'Floating World,' her solo installation of large-scale book works, was presented at the Miami Book Fair International.

Moderator is Sandi-Jo Gordon, creator, admirer and collector of artists' books."

Why why would I even dream of missing this remarkable meeting? I've signed up for a course in writing a memoir that the Florida Center for the Literary Arts at Miami Dade College, part of the college's School of Community Education, is offering on Tuesday nights.

I am hoping that anyone who attends this meeting this meeting, including of course the moderator and panelists, will want to post comments about it.