Kaveh Mojtabai, Nancy Nesvet and friends escaped the snowy north to land in chilly South Beach for a week of art gazing, talks and shows at Art Basel Miami Beach 2019 and the shows of Miami Art Week 2019. “The Art of Listening: Under Water,” sponsored by Audemars Piquet, maker of fine watches, featured the sound installation of Jana Winderen, a Norwegian environmental artist. In a large circular space, the quiet crowd listened intently for the sounds underneath Arctic Waters, disturbed by the dripping noise of glaciers melting and their gradual cracking.
Fish swimming underwater, inundated by crashing ice into the Barents Sea, juxtaposed the sounds of underwater life recorded in the Miami Harbor, underlining the diverse places suffering the effects of climate change. The absence of visual stimuli only led to a more concentrated listening experience never experienced before, and a realization of this beautiful Nordic world announcing its demise.
Intentionally interrupting the original meaning by changing the context, the next exhibit visited by the arts-obsessed duo was entitled “Disruptions”. The exhibition in Collins Park, the foreground of the Bass Museum, was sponsored by Art Basel Cities Buenos Aires, an Art Basel Initiative. Argentine artists of different ages, generations and practices provided a view of the art scene in this beautiful South American nation. The immense form of “Invisible,” 2018, in the shape of a keyhole by Maria Orensanz, of cast iron rusted to mimic wood, provided a frame around several visitors posing within its angular walls.
Matias Duville’s “Big Bang America,” 2019, of rock, bent steel tube, cactus and cypress, creates a bent steel V shape into whose cradle lies a rock. The vegetation wraps around the ends of the steel tube. This seeming bending of the strong steel tube by a heavier, naturally occurring rock alludes, for this writer, to the power of that rock to bend and break a technologically produced form. The ends covered by natural plants further announces the domination of natural over manmade material.
The dominant question of this exhibition is what happens when those man-made museum walls are brought into the natural space of the park. The work breathes, is unencumbered and towers toward the sky.
Design Miami was a mixture of beautiful woodworking by George Nakashima to several crystal and rock installations. Although sculptures were covered by natural materials in environmental green, much of the work appeared hard-edged and of materials not inviting touch. The exception was a hanging chair at the Cape Town, South Africa-based Southern Guild gallery’s presentation, “Fluroheliate Monoxide (Molecule),” made by Cape Town, South African artist Porky Hefer. Covered in leather, and lined with sheepskin, the cushy surroundings invited me not only to enter but to remain, cocoonlike away from the madding crowd.
Meridians is the new sector of Art Basel Miami Beach 2019, housing large installations. Alex Smith’s “Fools Gold,” 1982, mixed media on painted wall, at Garth Greenan, New York, portrays a cowboy scene under a blazing sun subtitled “Sometimes Men Went Crazy from the Heat”, perhaps portending what awaits us as our world warms. Taiwanese artist Wu Chi-Tsung’s Cyano-Collage 64, 2019, at Sean Kelly, New York, was a magnificent display of a seemingly traditional mountain scene in cyanotype, contemporized by crushing the cyanotype paper, then flattening it and exposing it to light, creating what appear to be snow lines and curves over the dark mountains. Allan McCollum’s “Constructed Paintings, 1971-73, at Petzel US, New York, were a humorous but expertly painted series of animals, plants and guns, recalling the element of the world of and threats to wildlife and fauna.
Throughout the shows was a concentration on the juxtaposition of the natural and made world, and the threats to it. It was a show for thought and consideration, to be experienced by artists and all of us.
(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.)