Our second day dawned bright and early on Miami Beach, the morning chill warming up as the day and the dizzying flow of art as we went from one place to another kept the dynamic duo going. It would also hold our first view of the main event, Art Basel Miami 2019, the lollapalooza of art fairs, during its First Choice VIP Preview.
Pace Gallery had some great work on display including Fred Wilson’s “Oh! Monstuosa Culpa,” 2013, constructed of Murano glass and light bulbs, that could have been a ringer for Gerhard Richter’s black chandelier painting; an amazing relief sculpture/painting by Loie Hollowell, “Standing in Water,” 2019, oil, acrylic, medium and high density foam on linen over panel; and Lydia Benglis’ “Calypso,” 2017, cast, pigmented polyurethane, looking like a cracked sun that only added to the gothic and sense of impending climatic doom as Venice stands in water and Benglis’ sun seems to crack under the pressure. It all came together for me as I remembered Calypso threatening Odysseus on his voyage on the sea to reach home.
Going on to the Mnuchin Gallery booth revealed Miro’s “Femme et Oiseau,” 1980, oil on burlap, and the aptly named “Le Triomphe de Nautilus” by Salvador Dali, painted in 1941, continuing what was becoming a theme, the aim toward apocalypse, then and now. Idris Kahn’s “Unhearing and Unseeing,” 2019, oil-based ink on gesso and aluminum panel, at Galerie Thomas Schulte showed three painted squares, yellow, indigo blue, and black, back to front, recalling Albers squares, but darker and moodier. The landscape connection, with the bright sunny yellow overtaken by indigo and ultimately, cancelled out by the large black foregrounded square, showed how abstraction can represent the apocalyptic theme.
Pia Camil came to the rescue with her “Lover’s Rainbow,” 2019, corrugated steel rod, galvanized and mounted on steel plates and electrostatic paint, at galerieomr. Made of painted rebar, used to delve into the earth to support large structures, here it supports a rainbow that towers over us. Will we need a manmade rainbow? In this inside fair, we do. Again, it made me think of the ramifications of climate change and air quality.
In Vibha Galhotra’s “Untitled (from the series Life on Mars),” 2019, nickel coated ghungroos fabric, polyurethane coat, at Jack Shainman Gallery, I interpreted a textile piece to be a beautiful aqua tree on a brown field surrounded by creeping brown stalks. Beauty emerged from a dark field. Like the green ends of plants emerging from the black painted stems shown at the Venice Biennale 2017, Galhotra’s “Untitled” seemed a tree refusing to die and rising again from the ashes. Ghada Amer’s “The Words I Love the Most,” 2012, bronze with black Patina, at Marianne Boesky Gallery was a sphere made of bronze Arabic letters spelling out love, again and again. Yes, love will save us all. South African artist Mary Sibande continued her practice, with red clothed figures holding the reins of lions in this iteration of her exploration of constructed identity in post-apartheid South Africa, at Kabinett. In the next booth, Kavi Gupta, artist Willie Cole’s “Spike,” 2019, high heel shoes and wire, created a frightening mask in black and red from high heel shoes and metal spikes. I never knew those heels could be so threatening.
At Maureen Paley Hong Kong’s booth, I was looking at Lawrence Abu-Hamdan’s “The Recovered Manifesto of Wissam (inaudible (2017) when word came that he had shared the Turner Prize with three other artists in an agreement among them to cooperatively share it. That gesture was an apt culmination of a day of paintings pointing at our threatened world, and small gestures that are a start to save it. Let’s all be inspired by these artists and do our bit to save all humanity and the natural world.
(Art Basel Miami Beach 2019 takes place from December 5 through 8 at the Miami Beach Convention Center; if you attend, stop by the Artscope Magazine booth in the Magazines sector to pick up a copy of our November/December 2019 issue. Artscope’s Nancy Nesvet will be reporting from Art Basel and other Miami Art Week fairs throughout the week.)