Art on steroids: Art Basel Miami

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Miami: Hub of the rich and famous, home of art deco, Cuban-style hot rods, Latin culture, palm trees, blue skies and blue waters. It is also one of three international  cities to host Art Basel. For the uninitiated, Art Basel is one of THE most important annual events in the artworld. Galleries, artists, collectors and art lovers from all over the globe descend for a week of intense – and I mean intense – art immersion. I’m talking about hundreds of exhibiting galleries and over 100,000 visitors. If you get saturated after visiting a museum, you might want to think twice about visiting Art Basel!!! For me, though, it was Heaven.

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It would be impossible to relay the scope of paintings of every type, size, and subject, sculptures big and small of every material conceivable, photographic works and digital compositions. So for digestibility, I will focus on artworks that use unconventional materials. It’s a trend I found incredibly interesting and one that demonstrates the infinite creativity that artists bring into our lives. I challenge you, my readers, to guess what medium the following artworks are made from. (NB My sincerest apologies to those artists whose names I failed to record.)

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Ian Berry  Club Deuce

Nice nostalgic scene, right? Well, there’s a bit more to the artist’s method: used jeans!

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Detail

This next artist creates large and beautifully composed abstract compositions from….

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…collaged pieces of chipped paint collected from crumbling buildings all over the world!

By far one of my favorite work was by Italian artist, Andrea Salvador. These gorgeous works below blew my socks off – wait till  you see what they are made of…

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The big reveal:

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Salvador creates his photorealistic works from hand-chipped glass mosaic. I met the Venetian glass blower who created the custom glass colors ordered by the artist. Wow.

There were numerous artists whose works used traditional craft methods like quilting and embroidery to create fine art works that took the craft to a totally new level:

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I’m pretty sure you’ll never guess what material the next artist used to create this huge watercolor-like painting that had me stumped until I got the lowdown from the gallerist:

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Give up? Plastic bags fused onto a huge canvas…

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And another head scratching work…

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Jorge Otero  Untitled

Cuban artist Jorge Otero’s lifesized work was striking and fascinatingly unique. Venture to take a guess at how he achieved this beautiful effect? Woven photographs!

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I’m willing to bet that no-one recognizes the elements used in the following wall hanging:

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Used and stained computer keyboard keys…

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If you aren’t wowed by now, I don’t know what to say. I’ll leave you on a lighter note with an artist who has playfully and successfully ($2500 a piece!) re-purposed vintage bowling pins.

Check out my next blog post ART BASEL MIAMI PART II where you’ll find a broad range of art that caught my eye. In the meantime, wishing you all a wonderful Holiday Season. You can find out more about all the satellite art fairs here and  here.

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What happened to your face?

Pawel Sliwinski
Pawel Sliwinski

I love portraiture – painting portraits and looking at portraits. I never tire of the human face and the complex nuances that our cognitive faculties allow us to interpret. Though Picasso and Braque broke with the conventional portrait decades ago, there is a growing number of contemporary artists that are deliberately distorting, manipulating and warping and even eliminating the facial construct.

Sascha Braunig, Self-portrait
Sascha Braunig, Self-portrait
Marco Grassi
Marco Grassi

What I find interesting is that this direction is the polar opposite of what the media is feeding us. The artistic trend expresses a creative push-back against idealism and a conscious rejection of flawless complexions, perfect feature ratios, homogeneity. Artists are mutating the face to almost alien proportions and merging human and animal characteristics. 

Susan-te-kahurangi-king
Susan-te-kahurangi-king

I believe that these works also convey a sense of chaos and unrest in response to a world that appears to be falling apart and spinning out of control. Other than the intellectual drive to break the boundaries of painting, perhaps similar tensions and uncertainty in Europe prior to WWI played a role in influencing artists like Picasso to experiment with faceting and breaking up the face, where all human emotion is communicated.

And of course, digital tools have added a whole new spin to re-constructing and re-inventing the face, pixel by pixel. Perfect example is Dutch artist Tim Coster’s self-portrait (below) of which he says:”This self-portrait is about digitizing my own appearance. The next step is to upload my ghost in it so I’ll be able to live on digitally after I die”.

While musing about the direction and future of portraiture I did a small painting (3.5″ x 3.5″) of five sisters based on a photograph from the ’60’s. I used watercolor and acrylics over a print transfer of my photocopied sketch applied to Aquaboard with acrylic gel medium. Any thoughts?

'Five sisters', Lilianne Milgrom
‘Five sisters’, Lilianne Milgrom  $50

NB: Four months after writing this post, ARTSPACE MAGAZINE wrote an article about the same trend (I beat them to it!). They have put a name on this phenomenon – Figural Non-Objectivity!

Heads up!

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Art trends come and go, but when they take hold, they can dominate the art market to such an extent that many artists  lack the courage to buck the trend. Some however,  listen to their own muse regardless of the dictates of the art world.

America in the 50’s and 60’s was caught up in the whirlwind of abstraction and abstract expressionism. The art of portraiture was thrown out with the bathwater of realism. Nonetheless, as the current show Face Value at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington DC reveals, the desire to portray and represent  our common humanity was too powerful to be suppressed.

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Many of the iconic artists of this era demonstrate innovative interpretations of the genre and are represented among the impressive group of works in this exhibition: Andy Warhol, Jim Dine, Elaine de Kooning, Alice Neel, Chuck Close, Philip Pearlstein are some of the recognizable names.

Two sculptural works caught my eye – Marisol Escobar’s portrait of Hugh Hefner (used for Time Magazine’s March 1967 cover) and Robert Arneson’s Classical Exposure. Marisol’s blend of 2-D and 3-D techniques, and her strong sense of composition made an arresting impression.

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Robert Arneson is one of my heroes – one of the first ceramic artists to work in large-scale, attacking conceptual notions with a big dollop of humor. In his self-portrait entitled Classical Exposure (below) he deconstructs his body parts using classical references and poking militant feminist views of objectification in the eye. His bust rests on a pedestal whose center is pierced by his protruding penis and whose base reveals his grubby looking toes.

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Joan Semmel’s Me Without Mirrors pushes back against the traditional male gaze by portraying the female body from a perspective that only a woman is privy to.

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One work that really reveals the New York art scene of the sixties is Red Groom’s 3-D cartoon-y reconstruction of an artist’s loft.  Cool guys and gals are listening to records, smoking, reading, laughing, eating and drinking. You can almost smell the pot and hear the jazz.

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Through January 2015 at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington DC.