By Sandra Schulman
In Miami-Dade County, the return of Art Basel Miami Beach and dozens of satellite fairs dominates December, but strong shows by female artists Teresita Fernandez and Mickalene Thomas are star attractions at the museums. Art After Stonewall brings major names to the theme, while regional art stars shine at MOCA.
Art Basel Miami Beach: The biggest art fair in America returns to the newly expanded Miami Beach Convention Center in the first week of December. Last year’s edition found the center still placing furniture and carpeting at the start of the show, but now a year later the multi-block behemoth can comfortable handle the 200 top international modern and contemporary art galleries with paintings, sculptures, installations, photography, film, video, and digital art.
Expanding the inside offerings, Art Basel houses editioned pieces by young artists alongside museum-caliber masterpieces. The Nova sector features never-before-seen pieces fresh from the artist’s studio and allows curators, critics, and collectors to discover ambitious new talents from across the globe. Other sectors include magazine and book booths, a huge space on the top floor for performance, outside sculpture gardens, a rooftop lounge and two self-service food markets catered by Miami’s star chef Michelle Bernstein, as well as in the new sit-down Restaurant by Michy’s that is open to the public.
Films are still screened at the outdoor symphony hall wall, while panels and talks give insight to the global art scene. Celebrity sightings mainly happen on the vernissage day, where Leonardo DiCaprio, Val Kilmer, designer Tommy Hilfiger and art star Jeff Koons have been known to prowl the aisles. Over 20 other fairs happen during the same week with every hotel lobby and park putting on some kind of art show. It’s overload in the best way possible. Dec. 5-8. www.artbasel.com/miami-beach; 305-674-1292
The Bass: South Florida is no stranger to the phrase In the Cone of Uncertainty, the ominous forecast of a coming storm. In Haegue Yang’s world, this phrase represents her constant world curiosity, politics and how to manifest those experiments in physical form. Blind installations, light sculptures, and muralesque graphic wallpaper art will sit alongside themed groups of works. She also incorporates sonic elements. Yang will be presenting a site-specific wallpaper in the staircase that connects her exhibition spaces that span The Bass’ two floors. Both transparent and opaque surfaces will play with space-themed infographics and diagrams relating how severe weather creates an urgent sense of community and communication. A major work on the first floor, Strange Fruit (2012-13), is made up of sculptures of hanging string lights that dangle from metal clothing racks, colorfully painted papier-mâché bowls and hands that hold plants. Nov. 2 to April 5.
Mickalene Thomas: Better Nights: Thomas saw a play in New Jersey, Put a Little Sugar in My Bowl, that inspired an installation that will transform the galleries into an immersive art-at-home experience. Set in a 1970s apartment, the installation recreates the vibe with faux wood paneling, bright wallpaper and couches upholstered in her signature textiles. In Thomas’ artistic apartment universe, there is art by the artist and a curated selection by her featuring work by emerging and prominent artists exhibited in a collage style that echoes Thomas’ paintings. Better Nights will feature programming including live performances, concerts, activations, a live cocktail bar and guest DJs. The party rages from Dec. 1 to Sept. 27.
Lara Favaretto: Blind Spot: New and recent works including paintings, sculpture and interactive installations will park in the blind spot of Favaretto’s new exhibit. A large site-specific work, commissioned for the museum’s permanent collection, will be a highlight of this show that explores the survival of objects. Favaretto’s work is about flux, told in ways that are humorous and playful, while also dealing with decay, consumption and loss. Found materials – paintings, books, debris from construction sites — are repurposed and upcycled to create commentary on the lifecycle of material detritus. Highlights from Blind Spot will include “Momentary Monument – The Library,” (2012-2019) a bookcase displaying 2,200 donated books; and Gummo VI, (2019) an installation with five automated car wash brushes twirling and wearing themselves down against metal plates. Dec. 1-April 19. www.TheBass.org; 305-673-7530
Pérez Art Museum Miami
Art star Teresita Fernández, born in Miami to Cuban parents, is this year’s main attraction at PAMM with her public installations and experiential sculptures that immerse themselves in the elemental world. Light, space, silk, graphite, onyx, mirrors, glass, and charcoal create immersive, intimate, and vastly evocative installations that evoke lush landscapes, the starry elements, and meteor showers, cloud formations, and the night sky. In PAMM’s spacious galleries, Teresita Fernández: Elemental offers a rare opportunity see large-scale sculptures, installations, and mixed media works that explore nature, history, and identity.
Featured works include Untitled, a mirrored floor sculpture, and Fire, that uses hand-dyed silk threads to build flame patterns animated by light and air. But it’s not all sweetness and light as she takes on the current politically charged climate with Fire (America) 5 and Charred Landscape (America) that depict a landscape marred by violence, climate change, and warfaring ideologies that can burn down the American dream. Oct. 18–February 9.
George Segal’s Abraham’s Farewell to Ishmael (1987) is on view for the first time since a complete restoration. Famous for his plaster casts from live models, the hyperrealism of these statues are astoundingly present. This is one from a series of works based on biblical stories, all from the Book of Genesis, including Abraham’s farewell to Ishmael. The sculpture examines a dilemma faced by the Old Testament patriarch Abraham when Abraham’s wife, Sarah, seeks to secure her son Isaac’s right of inheritance by demanding that her husband expel his mistress Hagar and their first-born son Ishmael from their home. Unlike many of Segal’s previous sculptures, this work is painted a dark gray, lending gravity and sadness to the piece. Nov. 22–July 6.
Meleko Mokgosi, an exhibition of works by this artist from Botswana, draws on Western European painting to create stinging postcolonial imagery. With painterly skill and deep archival research, he shows the layers of modern southern Africa. A large-scale commissioned work was created for the museum’s 30-foot double-height project gallery and centers on the 1962 film Unsere Afrikareise (Our Trip to Africa) by filmmaker Peter Kubelka. Kubelka is widely recognized as one of the pioneers of the Structural film movement, that distills cinema to its purest form. Mokgosi’s dark, strange, surreal work that results is a standout.
A Universe of Things: Micky Wolfson Collects: For more than three decades, Wolfson has collected a diverse array of objects, everything from stained-glass windows to paintings, vases, sideboards, posters, prints, books, and exhibition ephemera. In A Universe of Things: Micky Wolfson Collects, The Wolfsonian will exhibit these collections along with celebrating Wolfson’s 80th birthday. The show coincides with the publication of Founder’s Choice, a tome that highlights 37 key objects selected by Wolfson himself. This huge collecting undertaking is the life’s work of raconteur Mitchell “Micky” Wolfson Jr., and it has become the cornerstone of the Miami Beach museum that bears his name. Opening Nov. 15 (semi-permanent; no close date) Wolfsonian.org 305-531-1001
Frost Museum of Art
Honoring the 50th anniversary year of the Stonewall uprisings, the Frost Art Museum FIU will be one of only three cities in the U.S. to host Art After Stonewall: 1969-1989. This major exhibition of more than 200 artworks will encompass the whole second floor of the museum. Photographs, paintings, sculpture, film clips, video, music, performance pieces, plus historical documents and images taken from magazines, newspapers and television explore the pivotal moments of how gay culture gained both recognition and rights. Through Jan. 5. www.frost.fiu.edu; 305-348-2980
Jewish Museum of Florida FIU
At the age of 85, Mira Lehr will be having a one woman show titled Mira Lehr: A Walk in the Garden, which will feature newly created large-scale new paintings along with 200 aerial sculptures that will hang from the museum’s ceiling.The exhibit will feel like a tropical garden “that takes people out of the actual world and transports them onto a spiritual plane,” she says. Lehr has been in Miami for 60 years after leaving the New York art scene. A champion of women artists, she founded a co-op for this often excluded group and invited fellow artists Lee Krasner and Helen Frankenthaler to lead workshops in Miami. Oct. 15-February 3
The Museum of Contemporary Art presents the South Florida Cultural Consortium Exhibition, guest curated by Amy Galpin, chief curator of the Frost Art Museum. Presenting the work of artists from South Florida, this multimedia show includes painting, video, sculpture, and photography. Work that is informed by identity, politics, displacement, citizenship, and other philosophical and scientific areas are created by 13 artists, all of whom have received Consortium grants toward this exhibit. This year’s winners include Nellie Appleby, Felecia Carlisle, Domingo Castillo, Jennifer Clay, Katrina Miller, Reginald O’Neal, Edison Peñafiel, Sebastian Ruiz, Jamilah Sabur, Vivien Segel, Misael Soto, Amber Tutwiler and Agustina Woodgate. Through Oct. 20.
Cecilia Vicuña: About to Happen: This first major U.S. solo show presents performance, sculpture, drawing, video, text, and site-specific installation from the artist’s extensive practice since the late 1960s. Nov. 24–March 29
Alice Rahon: Born in France and later nationalized as a Mexican, Rahon was part of the Parisian Surrealist circle as a poet, but turned her creativity to painting in Mexico. Drawn to light and color, she maintained a continuous dialogue of painting and poetry using Mexican landscapes, myths, legends and fiestas. This exhibited work is influenced by the Neolithic cave paintings and cultures from Alaska to Mexico. Nov. 24-March 29. www.Mocanomi.org; 305-893-6211
Frost Museum of Science
Mathematical patterns are all around us in nature. One need only look at the nested spirals of a sunflower’s seeds to the rocky heights of a mountain range to the very stars themselves. The exhibit A Mirror Maze: Numbers in Nature is an immersive, interactive mirror maze that viewers can explore and lose themselves in walking through a funhouse pattern of mirrors. Beware the dead-ends, but seek out the small secret room that houses bonus puzzles and artifacts. Somewhat like Artechouse on South Beach, there are projections that superimpose patterns and proportions on your body in real time. You can also draw patterns on a digital screen to see real-world objects that mirror the same patterns. Oct. 12-April 12.
Institute of Contemporary Art
American/Dutch artist Sterling Ruby takes over the second and third floors of ICA with over 75 works that span two decades of his career. His well-known ceramics and paintings cohabit along with lesser-known drawings and installations. The multiple elements form an autobiographical and cultural history of his practice. Ruby is a spy in the house of art – constantly critiquing the structures of modernism and cultural institutions, uncovering repression in the culture of power and violence. He uses a mashup of Amish quilt-making and radical ceramics, shaped by his unconventional upbringing in Pennsylvania Dutch country. Nov. 7-Feb. 2.
Allan McCollum’s exhibition at ICA Miami follows more than five decades of the artist’s work, and his recurrent approach to context. Connecting McCollum’s Surrogate Paintings (since 1978) Perfect Vehicles (since 1985) and Over Ten Thousand Individual Works (since 1987) to the artist’s current Regional Projects, the exhibition zeroes in on McCollum’s unique definition of context as means of site, locality and labor. March 19-July 19.
Janiva Ellis is a Los Angeles-based painter who grew up in Hawaii, feeling isolated as a young black woman. Her artwork manufactures a space for the stories of African-American female experiences, while calling attention to the trauma and recklessness of casual racial discrimination. Ellis’ work takes on layered meanings of black identity and black narratives, creating a cultural precedent for contemporary mores. July 30-Nov. 1.
For Carlos Sandoval de Leon, the artist is creating a site-specific installation to incorporate both new and existing sculptures. De Leon deconstructs, repurposes, manipulates, and hybridizes raw, industrial materials that include bricks, earth, discarded clothes, volcanic pearls, industrial soap, safety glass, pizza boxes, armadillo shells and souvenirs sourced from the artist’s neighborhood in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. “The product-driven culture we are surrounded by or marketed to, creates a distance between the actual producer and the user. I am compelled by this distance as a rich space to work from,” says the artist. Dec. 3–May 8.
The redemption of 90-year-old Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, a self-described “obsessional artist,” known for her excessive use of polka dots and infinity installations, continues. Deprived of the acclaim she was due in the 1960s, she is now one of the most exhibited artists in the world. The ICA has secured an appropriately seasonal Kusama installation All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins, the first time one of her infinity rooms has been shown in Miami. This offsite exhibit will be located at 112 NE 41st St., No. 106, in the Design District and shown on a limited admission basis. Oct. 12-Jan. 31.