DECEMBER 4, 2018 — The first stop on day one in Miami Beach for the art fairs and exhibitions was the Bass Museum of Art, where Los Angeles-based twins Nikolai and Simon Haas presented their installation, “Ferngully.” The environment evoking renewal and rebirth in altered physical states is inspired by the animate 1992 film, “FernGully: The Last Rainforest.”
In that film, the fairy Krysta and the lumberjack Zak try to save their rainforest home from nature’s destructive forces. The beasts, Martian-like in their appearance, with antennae and eyes often on stalks, alternatively resemble worms and centipedes covered in sumptuous materials, including fur and beads. Icelandic sheepskin browns and whites, curly cow fur, brown goat fur, carved ebony and cast bronze recall prehistoric Animalia and minerals in these creatures of diverse personalities, sizes, genders and races, both human and animal.
This inventive taxonomy, reflected in Uma Worm-an (2018), Spotley Crue (2017), constructed of glass beads made in collaboration with the South African Haas sisters and “Hair Witch Project” (2015) are made of sumptuous material, animal or earth-derived.
At Context, Brainwash’s 2018 silkscreen and mixed media work on paper, “Everyday Life,” a painting of a monkey spray painting a canvas of Andy Warhol inspired objects, soup cans, Coca Cola refrigerators, Snoopy caricatures, with the words, “Your Dreams,” furthered the theme of animals adapting to present day human life, reminding us that monkeys can be artists, too, with political opinions expressed in their spray-painted murals.
Cuban artist Jose Bedia’s iron and ceiba wood “Eshu with Crescent Moon” showed one deer headed figure holding a rifle, while an antelope-headed sculpture held an eight-pointed star at New York’s Tambaran 2 Gallery’s booth. While the context of the deer as the hunter with the rifle reverses the roles of hunter and hunted, the antelope with the star seems to account for the antelope’s travels with the star as guide, traversing the earth as animals do now and humans once did.
Arno Elias’ “Simba 5” (2017), at blankspaceart, of acrylic, gold and silver leaf and diamond dust on an archival pigment print, presented a proud, but sympathetic lion amid symbols of the culture native to the land he inhabited. Elias’ huge elephant at blankspaceart of similar materials was another archival photographic print, showing the documented photograph amid signs of a culture vanishing around it. So many creatures, seen repeatedly at the Bass and at Context are out of their usual surroundings, or made up of coverings not belonging to them. Is this the end of the world as we know it? Is it the change in animals and environments that technology has wrought?
At Context, the death motif was utilized in several media, from Gil Bruvel’s stainless steel skull, “Descent,” at Laura Rathe Fine Art to “Piccolo, to Tobia e il Rhino,” Stefano Bombardini’s 2017 bronze sculpture of a captured rhino in a metal sling, to Antonio Sannino’s glittering metal sculpture of an open-mouthed captured lioness at ZK Gallery’s booth.
At Design Miami, digital printers by Jason Jacques digifabshoop produced a life-size altered metal animal, white-headed, hare-eared, dog-footed, at Jason Jacque Gallery’s booth, while his Dutch blue and white tile juxtaposed insects, skulls and flowers, all forms of life and death. That natural world was used to great effect in the water-laden sculptures at Fendi’s galleries, as water poured over and within molten glass forms, reminding us of recent flooding over the earth caused by climate change.
Generally, Design Miami was full of metallics and glitter. Even London-based Stephen Webster’s guitar, featuring hand-chased designs on its body was, as its title corroborated, “Goldstruck.” Although metallics are bright and shiny, we are reminded of their production from mines deep within the earth, producing that energy that fuses technology. It is that technology that threatens to alter our civilization as we now know it.
At Art Miami, Federico Uribe’s sculptures at Adelson Galleries, Boston, New York and Palm Beach, my favorite, “The Lion’s Head” (2018) was made of bullet shells as was his “Giraffe” (2018). The bullet shells were golden, creating a luscious contrast between the golden and the destructive. This was a dystopian world where Animalia changed to survive but wait! Lenny Campello’s charcoal and conte drawing of a woman holding, in her uplifted arms, the limbs of a tree at Alida Anderson Art Projects, Washington, D.C., or possibly, strokes of lightening that she, goddess-like, controls. One hopeful figure, with tree limbs emanating from her outstretched hands, called forth a new natural world, hopefully a better one.
I keep having reason to quote Mark Bradford’s title of his installation in 2017 at the Venice Biennale, “Tomorrow,” is another day. For that is what artists do. They create alternative worlds and alternative species to survive the devastation and dystopia of the real world. We imagine. For you, readers of Artscope, tomorrow will be another day at this Mecca of art, Miami.
(Artscope Magazine’s national correspondent, Nancy Nesvet, will be reporting throughout the week from Art Basel Miami Beach 2018 and Art Week Miami 2018.)