By Myles Ludwig
Transparency, in terms of glass and ceramic works, seemed the most salient curatorial thinking behind the ArtPalmBeach 2020 exhibition at the Convention Center which runs through today.
This fair has often presented surprising and even clever work in past iterations, but I felt the organizing principle behind the current edition of the show was elusive, even confounding. There was a smattering of this and a smattering of that but little central focus, and though there were certainly some lovely handmade objects to be seen and appreciated, painting — the old art — appeared to take a back seat. We may be in a period of “post-conceptual” art and it is difficult to understand what follows.
According to organizer Lee Ann Lester of NextLevel in Miami, it was a “rebranding” period and the show was a mélange purposed to deal with such themes as collecting experiences, immersive art, equality, diversity, themes of social justice and politics-as-art. It was accompanied by a variety of lectures billed as Power Talks ranging from “Getting Noticed in the New Decade” to “Using Art to Untangle a Lifetime of Unrest from Angola to Revolutionary Portugal.” There was painting turned into fashion and some kind of moon installation that I failed to comprehend.
One of the most engaging galleries was Habatat of Royal Oak, Mich., which purports to be the oldest and largest presenter of glass art in the U.S. I was delighted to see Marlene Rose represented there with one of her intriguing sandcast Buddha heads emerging from a rock enclosure and a series of large blockish temple bells.
Also at Habatat was some new work I hadn’t seen before. Here are doll-like figurines with Asian features in glass but garbed in elaborate ceramic Chinese-style costumes designed and created by former fashion designer Vivian Wang. Their “textile-like” surfaces she says are purposely distressed or “antiqued” and embellished with semi-precious stones meant to “reflect the opulence and pageantry of court life in ancient Asia.” Life-like in miniature, sometimes single figures, sometimes a mother and child, they have an eerie beauty.
Although I had seen them last year, I stopped to talk to Andrew Brown about the elegant Viking ship forms crafted in blown glass and German oak wood by the coalition of Denmark’s Kattegat Gallery.
Named for the Kattegat sea outside their studio, the boat forms are “abstractions of the original Viking ships” and they are birthed by Nannah Backhaus Brown and her husband Andrew in blown glass, then intricately patterned in the Italian style of Battuto, by grinding and polishing. The ghost-like hulls are nestled in wood by cabinet maker Mette Benzene and fitted with swooping wood bow and stern pieces made by Lasse Kristensen, a nod to the cultural past of Denmark.
I liked the dimensional shadow box imagery, a narrative gown of butterfly forms made by Craig Alan exhibited by Ashley Thompson of the Washington, D.C.-based Guarisco Gallery, which shows a range of painting from impressionist to contemporary and also a painting made by Miles Davis, who turned to the brush later in life. The subtle tones, shadows and crevices of color seem very much in keeping with his often whispery trumpet of the great jazz player. The piece is a standout at Miami’s Manali’s Projects.
ArtPalmBeach is often seen as a kind of sandwich show and these are some of the tasty bits.
ArtPalmBeach 2020 runs from noon to 7 p.m. today at the Palm Beach County Convention Center, West Palm Beach.