December 10th, 2007 5:33 pm | by RICHARD SPEER News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, CLEAN UP, CLEAN UP

A Letter from (Art Basel) Miami, Part 2

Reporting from Art Basel Miami Beach

The sunny skies were blue, but the eyes were green with dollars as splashy Art Basel Miami Beach art fair careened to a close Sunday night (Dec. 9). A constellation of Portland gallery owners, curators, and artists descended on the art fair (arguably the world's most exclusive and well-organized) last Wednesday (read my first Miami diary, here). By Friday, some fair participants were bemoaning the glut of auxiliary fairs, claiming they were diluting the collector pool. But Stumptown art spaces voiced no such complaints, buoyed by strong sales and positive word-of-mouth for Northwest artists.

At the Flow fair, Jane Beebe, owner of PDX Gallery, sold work including Nancy Lorenz's silver-leaf panels, with their delicate, raindrop-like patterns of congealed resin. Quality Pictures, headed by Erik Schneider, had a room on the second floor of the Aqua fair, where TJ Norris sold one of his and Scott Wayne Indiana's collaborations, a neon sculpture that played on the words “MAUSOLEUM” and “MUSEUM.” The gallery also featured an agreeably creepy video sculpture by Laura Fritz, a platform upon which a bottom-projected cockroach scurried around—one of Fritz's trademark “How'd she do that?” effects.


Jane Beebe, Nancy Lorenz's silver-leaf panels, Erik Schneider (above); TJ Norris; MAUSOLEUM” and “MUSEUM” sculpture (below).



Stuart Horodner, founder of Portland's own AFFAIR at Jupiter Hotel (which spawned the Aqua fair), strolled around Aqua's open courtyard, chatting up various movers and shakers, while PORT blogger Jeff Jahn checked out Seattle's Howard House upstairs, where Oregon artist Matthew Picton's map-based piece, Jerusalem, had just sold for a respectable $12,000. PAM Northwest art curator Jennifer Gately stopped by to chat with gallery owner Billy Howard, who represents Cat Clifford, one of the five artists Gately recently tapped for the first annual Northwest Contemporary Art Awards.

PORT blogger Jeff Jahn; Matthew Picton's map-based piece (below)


Over at Aqua's sister fair in the Wynwood District, Elizabeth Leach and her posse, David Peabody and Nathan Bowser reported strong sales, with pieces by Sean Healy and Matt McCormick selling in the fair's opening salvo. Also at Aqua, trippy Day-Glo abstractions by Venezuelan painter Omar Chacon were a highlight of San Francisco's Lincart Gallery. Chacon's take-no-prisoners show at Portland's soon-to-be-defunct Motel Gallery was WW's pick for “Best Painting Show of 2006.”


David Peabody, Elizabeth Leach and Nathan Bowser; work by Sean Healy (above); Omar Chacon painting; Markus Linnenbrink's epoxy resin and glitter paintings (below).



Chacon's work is similar to German artist Markus Linnenbrink's epoxy resin and glitter paintings at San Francisco's Patricia Sweetour Gallery. The guileless exuberance of these and other artists' work in the fairs confirms an overall impression that neo-Pop- and Op-style eye candy of the Dave Hickey “pleasure school” are fire-cracker ascendant, while ponderous postmodern “social practice” sinks into an abyss of increasing marginalization, headed toward footnote status. Add to the postmod Titanic the ephemerality and essential so-what-ness of much of the fairs' text-based and video work, well-lit photos of pale domestic WASPs with blank expressions, poorly executed graphic design-influenced painting and drawing, and bric-a-brac slapped together out of felt, magazine clippings, and other nonarchival claptrap [see below].

Miami example of nonarchival claptrap.

Attending Basel proper—with its constellation of modernist, Pop, and minimalist stars—then slumming at the smaller fairs—with their Brooklyn- and Berlin-pedigreed Holly Andres and Chandra Bocci upgrades—reinforces the sad truth that 85 percent of the art being made by Generations X and Y cannot by any measure compare to the work of our mid-Century and 1960s predecessors. We have lost a sense of perfectionism in execution and confused the idea of seriousness of rationale with over-seriousness of rationalization. But this is a broader topic, better suited for rainy-day salons in the Pied Cow than balmy South Beach nights, Art Deco neon glowing blue on your face, sand on the toes, sea-salt sweat on sunburned skin.

In this part of the world, deconstruction takes a back seat to glittera(r)ti sightings, which brings us, finally, to the best random quote overheard at the Art Basel lunch-and-cocktail lounge:
“I heard Lenny Kravitz and Lance Armstrong were here yesterday!”
“Yeah, Ricky Martin, too! He's a big collector, you know.”
“No, no! Not Ricky Martin! It was Steve Martin who was here!”
[Bewildered look] “What's the difference?”
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