By Sandra Schulman
The edgy political climate worldwide has resulted in a mega Art Week that seems to be taking a more conservative approach to the art and exhibits, with many shows looking back wistfully, from the glamour gals of Miami to the roots of Indigenous people.
Using art as a respite from the world seems more of a necessity than an indulgence.
The local galleries got ahead of the pack with a Progressive Art Brunch that kicked off last Sunday with new shows at galleries in the Little River and Milk Districts. A gorgeous installation by Mette Tommerup called Love, Ur took over the entire gallery at Emerson Dorsch, her fourth solo show there and a precursor to a show at the larger Locust Projects next year.
A self-described painter and storyteller, this exhibit installation explodes with colored painted canvases in a madcap variety of frames, draped on wood scaffolds, scattered, wrapped around live models writhing on the floor, and hung in amusing shapes. This immersive environment is giddy with earthy color as it evokes Ur, an ancient Sumerian city, a world striving for a connection to nature.
Up the road at Mindy Solomon Gallery, uber-curator Bill Arning, formerly of the Contemporary Arts Museum of Houston and a New Wave 1970s band called the Student Teachers, brings together Mark Flood and Sam Jablon in Dirty Words, two very different painters’ work from different decades that employ text to amuse, offend and engage. Jablon’s colorful painted text abstracts words backwards and forwards; while Flood screens slides, checks and newspaper articles on canvas to elevate the mundane.
Pan American Art Projects in the new Milk District has a real hot-button show of political paintings banned in Cuba called Waiting for the Right Time from artist Jose Toirac. In them, Fidel Castro postures beneath American logos for Obsession Perfume and Coca-Cola, capitalist luxury items far out of reach of most Cubans.
The realistic hooded figures at Fabien Castenier’s Time is Now II show made me gasp, as they sat in chairs at the entrance and stuck their heads into the walls, while in the centerpiece sat a lifesize boxing ring with the referee apparently knocked out by the boxers.
Carlos Betancourt, one of Miami’s most successful and innovative artists, unveiled an installation called On the Edge: The Hopeful Forest in the lobby of the EAST Hotel downtown, five totems made from repurposed, abandoned objects found in the community. Playful and elegant, the totems reflect the serious new skyline of Miami’s skyscrapers and tell a larger story of his personal memories living within.
The name On the Edge also correlates to the city’s physical location, on the eastern edge of the Florida southeast; also giving in to the broader idea of being on the edge – trying to find balance and harmony in a place filled with both wealth and poverty facing climate change.
A major figure in Miami’s history as a model, photographer, businesswoman, author and feminist, Linnea Eleanor Yeager, who came to be known as Bunny Yeager, is featured in two new shows in Miami, one at Swampspace Gallery in the Design District and one in the spacious lobby of the Copper Door BnB in Overtown.
The Swampspace show, called Three Graces, is a rarity, as the lush photos taken of and by Yeager are on display as well as a glass enclosed case of letters, invoices, books, and invitations that give a more rounded picture of just how ambitious and groundbreaking Yeager was as a businesswoman, and perhaps a reluctant feminist by necessity. The exhibit at Copper Door is of beautiful African-American and Caribbean models.
Through her entire professional career, Yeager showed an interest in exploring the glamour and beauty of models who were overlooked by other mainstream pin-up and glamour photographers, shot in Overtown and Ocho Rios in Jamaica. A panel talk on Yeager’s work happens today at 1 p.m. at the Copper Door, featuring myself, Miami Herald photographer Carl Juste, and Grapefruit Moon Gallery co-owner Sarahjane Bum.
A new mural in Wynwood honors the Miccosukee Tribe, who have been in Florida longer than the millions of tourists flocking to see murals in Wynwood. A new artwork by Pawnee Indian Bunky Echo Hawk to honor the tribe and make their presence known was unveiled in late November that covers four walls of a warehouse building in the painted heart of Wynwood at 2600 N. Miami Ave.
This is the first public art the tribe has done outside of their reservation and it features the words “The Everglades isn’t just our passion, It’s our home and more needs to be done to protect it. Learn more about the Miccosukee Tribe at www.Everglad.es.”
It shows the strong proud face of Chief Buffalo Tiger wearing traditional Seminole patchwork clothing in vibrant shades of turquoise and red and yellow. Next to him is a Miccosukee woman also in traditional garb, her neck ringed with rows of beads. A row of patchwork runs along the top border of the mural. The adjacent image is a powerful political one as a gas-masked Native reaches out to a growling open-mouthed alligator.
Next up, the Art Fairs open, while three new museums debut in a new art district.