More Art Basel Miami Beach, Pulse and Design Miami

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Art Basel Miami Beach always divides its activities and gives each a name, all prefaced by Art: Art Nova, Art Positions, Art Kabinett, Art Salon… Someone else may find these useful but I find it a confusing mess.

Keith McCulloch selling zines at 'Workshop Workshop' in Design Miami
Keith McCulloch selling zines at ‘Workshop Workshop’ in Design Miami

Rashid Rana 'Offshore Account-1' 2006
Rashid Rana ‘Offshore Account-1’ 2006

They did rearrange the fair significantly to bring new work previously sited in shipping containers on the beach into the fair itself; then they moved many of the artist’s talks, panel discussions etc. outside to an arena on the beach designed by Pae White (with assistance from Creative Time).

Sergey Bratkov 'Vulcanoids' 2004
Sergey Bratkov ‘Vulcanoids’ 2004

They also grouped galleries showing recent work and I found myself unable to distinguish art made in Mexico City from that made in Moscow or Mumbai unless it involved language, and even then one could be confused: a recent piece by Valie Export at Charim Galerie  (Vienna) had English text. Regina Gallery (Moscow) was showing multiple photographic works and lightboxes by Sergey Bratkov while  Gallery Chetmould (Mumbai) had similarly-polished photo collages by Rashid Rana. I couldn’t decide whether that’s just fine – artists everywhere have been to art schools and read Artforum – or whether there weren’t interesting things being done beyond that uniform aesthetic which might be brought to international attention at fairs like these. I’m not convinced that regional is a value judgment of quality.

Gerard Byrne, one of a series of images of backs of paintings
Gerard Byrne, one of a series of photographic images of backs of paintings
Cornelis 'Reverse of a Framed Painting' (1670-1672) Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen
Cornelis Gysbrechts  ‘Reverse of a Framed Painting’ (1670-1672), oil on canvas, Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen

A photograph of the back of a painting caught my eye; it turned out to represent the verso of a 17th century painting by Cornelis Gysbrechts  in the Statens Museum, Copenhagen (above), which itself portrays the back of a painting and is part of a larger project by Irish Artist, Gerard Byrne; the photograph (above) is titled KMS 1989, a depiction of the reverse of a framed painting, photographed in the Statens Museum, Copenhagen 348 years after it was painted, and reproduced here at 56.25% of its original size. Byrne utilizes primarily photography and film to explore many of the questions which interest me as someone concerned with conservation: what is the work of art? Does it become an artifact rather than art after the passage of time and significant physical intervention (this painting had been lined and put on a new stretcher)? Does its presence in a museum alter the artwork?

I had a long talk with Byrne’s dealer, Jerome O Drisceoil of Green on Red Gallery, Dublin. I know the gallery as one of the very few in Dublin that consistently shows conceptual work and art that wouldn’t be bought for decorative purposes. Did that art actually sell in conservative Dublin? Apparently not. It’s not the only gallery I know that survives off national and international sales at fairs rather than support at home.

Siebren Versteg ‘Heaven and Hell’ 2009 live-feed video
Siebren Versteeg ‘Heaven and Hell’ 2009 live-feed video

The first work I saw on entering Pulse was a fascinating video piece with a multitude of tiny images and a broad frame that could have been made by (or for) Richard Artschwager. Heaven and Hell (at Max Protetch Gallery ) by Siebren Versteeg uses live feed, pulling 1000 images of heaven and 1000 of hell off Google; these change over time, as does the piece.  The images are adjusted so there appears to be a horizon line, giving the work the appearance of a Last Judgment scene without Christ. Since good and evil are concepts that transcend organized religion, the piece should find broad acceptance; it would do as well in a frat house as in a church, community center or on someone’s living room wall.

The artist happened to be there and we had a discussion about artists using technology, Google’s labeling methodology, the impossibility of searching according to visual ideas, etc.  I mentioned another live feed piece that  impressed me last year at the Margulies Collection; it employed Coca Cola’s red and white with its distinctive typography for content pulled from a web-feed of current news. Turns out Versteeg did that, too!  We also talked about fashion in artists’ subject matter. Several years ago chandeliers appeared everywhere at all the fairs, while this  year animals, particularly deer, were much in evidence.  Versteeg said a restaurant in his Brooklyn neighborhood had a chandelier made of deer antlers. Not sure what that means.; perhaps they’re ahead of the fashion in art subjects.

'Workshop Workshop' at Design Miami
‘Workshop Workshop’ at Design Miami
'Workshop Workshop'
‘Workshop Workshop’

The surprise of the fairs this year was the presence of several artists’ collectives which created variously unconventional art fair installations. At Design Miami , Workshop Workshop was the product of a loosely-connected group of artists and poets, Workshop, who produce micro-editions of zines (see above), many fewer than twenty. They were selling them (3 for $5, price negotiable) out of one end of a rambling and extremely home-made structure that they built from the construction detritus of the other exhibitors at Design Miami. The project was an inversion of Samuel Mockbee’s Rural Studio which includes vernacular references in custom, architect-designed homes that it builds for the rural poor. Workshop brought Dogpatch to Design Miami, building what looked like a homeless encampment in the midst of design with a capital D.  Given the source of the materials, at least it was fashionably green.

Okay Mountain's 'Corner Store' at Pulse
Okay Mountain’s ‘Corner Store’ at Pulse
interior of 'Corner Store'
interior of ‘Corner Store’

Okay Mountain (an Austin-based collective) was brought to Pulse by the artist’s space, Arthouse . They constructed Corner Store as a site-specific installation, complete with a combination of artist-made versions of convenience store merchandise (for sale at considerably more than convenience store prices), illusionistic painted merchandise and a perfectly believable tabloid insert that advertised the weekly specials including Boogers in Sauce and Get-A-Baby-Drunk Raspberry Flavor. They said they’d been invited to show in Philadelphia, so watch out for them.

G.H. Hovagimyan revealing the working parts of Artists Meeting's Art Machine
G.H. Hovagimyan revealing the working parts of Artists Meeting’s Art Machine

The very last booth at Pulse was occupied by Artists Meeting’s Art Machine.  The New York based collective produces various interventions based on proposals they receive. Member G.H. Hovagimyan showed me around and inside the Art Machine, which would do Rube Goldberg proud.  They developed it to free artists of the pressure of worrying about pleasing patrons, and relieve patrons from having to choose among so much art. For a standard $20 one gets a token to put into the contraption which then makes a random selection from either a series of small, bagged artworks suspended from a rotating mechanism (designed for another purpose which I forget) or from the paintings done on butcher paper (archivally acid-free) which are held by a re-purposed paper-towel dispense (above); the paintings are torn off the roll, just as towels are,and all the art is credited to the collective. For demonstration purposes I was given a token which yielded a painting (below) looking remarkably like a rejected Warhol serigraph of a dollar sign. It was duly stamped  Artists Meeting at Pulse  Miami 09.

 

Machine Art from Artists Meeting

 

Tags

art basil miami beach, art machine, arthouse, artists meeting, calie export, cornelis ghysbrechts, g. h. hovagimyan, gerard byrne, max protetch gallery, okay mountain, pulse art fair, rashid rana, red on green gallery, sergey bratkov, siebren versteeg, workshop design miami

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