With many people feeling it’s futile to watch the news or read about current events because one minute later they are not current at all and something more important has grabbed the headlines, the immediate result, at least judging by the work exhibited during Miami Art Week 2018, is that artists did not comment on politics through their work to the extent that they had in recent fairs. Instead, they depicted humor, kitsch, film and music personalities because those have more staying power, and are a break from the mind- and earth-crushing forces that impede our daily lives.
The Art Miami, CONTEXT Art Miami, SCOPE and Aqua Art Miami satellite shows in Miami and Miami Beach during Miami Art Week from December 6–9, 2018, were entertaining and uplifting, providing much needed relief from life outside the art world.
At Art Miami and CONTEXT Art Miami, two tented shows located side by side near Biscayne Bay in downtown Miami, featured artists from as far as Lagos, Nigeria, including Victor Ehikhamenor, who made proud portraits of fellow Africans at Bolo Art/Rele Gallery. At CONTEXT, Alfred Conteh’s “Kirby,” acrylic and Conté on paper, with a seemingly-wood background, at Galerie Myrtis of Baltimore, Maryland’s booth seemed to span the centuries of the black man. Not only did this bring in the handcraft of woodworking, but seemed a pillar against which Kirby, the lion, peaceably lay.
At CONTEXT Art Miami, the wise and friendly lion, “Simba 5” (2018, acrylic, gold and silver leaf, diamond dust on archival pigment print) by Arno Elias, posed behind a slithering snake of red, white and blue, while a flag and other cultural symbols float in the background at Blank Space Gallery’s booth. The lion seemed to be presiding over this primary-colored world.
It is fine with me that lions seem to be a motif, as I especially loved the roaring “Silver Lion Head,” 2018, one of Federico Uribe’s sculptures. Uribe used bullet shells, turning symbols of violence into art, at Adelson Galleries’ booth at Art Miami. This allusion to both MGM’s lion, as well as environmentalism and the animal world, speak to both contemporary culture and global concerns. The serious and the entertaining can merge in the art world, as it successfully did in the satellite fairs this year during Miami Art Week.
Cuban artist Rubén Alpízar’s “Crónicas del Paraíso”(Chronicles of Paradise), at Estudio Arte Contemporaneo’s booth at CONTEXT, appropriated icons turned into symbols of his cultural imagination. Divided into windows, he turns his environment into vignettes of surrealist experiences and references to contemporary, renaissance and medieval art, presenting a humorous compendium of art history and its relevance to current day topics. The opening “window” features the word art, in three rows, one upon another, with a man and woman in business suits assembling the signature work. A Campbell’s soup can of white meat soup with a Botticelli-like Venus emerging from it, a golden stamper featuring the words, “Made in China,” precede a painting of the Iwo Jima Memorial’s statue in Washington, D.C., which flies a dollar-bill flag in place of the Stars and Stripes.