text by Eddie Arroyo

In this city’s great tradition, I had arrived late to the party. This is in reference to writing about the New Work Miami 2013 at the Miami Art Museum. It did grant an advantage in the form of hindsight. Allow me to begin by referring to Annie Hollingsworth’s article written on Artlurker about the 2010 effort. She generally favored the work but had one overall concern – the lack of a “Miami style”. This was by design, its intention was not to be an archival survey of Miami Art. The irony was that it did end up doing just that, in its contradiction, and encompassed the overall mindset of Miami artists. An observation noted in an international conversation regarding the future of the city. Hollingsworth’s concern is addressed in this year’s exhibition much to my sorrowful delight.

Miami has never been a stranger to the cheap, tacky, and generally bad aesthetic but it’s impressive how the exhibit embraces it in defiant pride.

Curated by Rene Morales and Diana Nawi with outreach assistance provided by local artist collective SPRING BREAK the exhibition has a direct message. It also brings historical context with George Sanchez-Calderon’s “CenTrust” (2012) and Tom Scicluna’s “Public Sculpture” (2012) which functions as a subversive prelude to what has been. CenTrust is an appropriated 15,000-pound slab of granite placed in a walkway leading up to Museum where pedestrians are forced to walk around it, slightly annoyed and unaware of significance. In 1987, it once sat at front entrance of the I.M. Pei-designed CenTrust Tower which founder David Paul used his savings and loan to spend a substantial amount of currency in bad investments (including art) before his financial crash. London-born artist Tom Scicluna’s “Public Sculpture” are bike racks placed inside the Museum lobby welcoming riders to interact as site-specific museum installation. In turn, they are admitted access to the exhibition by securing their bikes. It has been noted, people normally head to the Main Library crossing the Cultural Center Plaza. The Plaza has its own underwhelming history in context – to be a location where the community would utilize it in festive and educational functions. Currently, access to the public was reduced due to the presence of drug use and a respectable homeless population. Both pieces harken a proud tradition of great expectations and failures which has not only been habitual in this city but follows global trends of previous financial institution.

There is a curatorial risk when displaying a group exhibition of this nature where many of the pieces lack an overall consistent message. A solution to this problem was presented in Emmet Moore and Consuelo Castañeda invitation. Absent their overall design, the space would be far less cohesive. Placed throughout the Museum are soaring Palladian archways, a wall covered in green plastic shrub, and paved stone floors which are a staple of South Beach hotels. For Christ sake there is a striped door canopy in the museum. A door canopy! Loriel Beltran has participated in the deluge of visual profanity with a mural painting that gives poor illusion of a marble wall greeting everyone at the entrance. These choices are fine art eye sores and it’s interwoven though out the exhibition empathizing the first sentence of the exhibition statement, “Miami is a place of contradictions”.

Notable pieces are Gideon Barnett’s, “Identity Festival Attendees at Biscayne Boulevard and NE 2nd Street, 4:45:32 P.M. to 4:45:51 P.M., 4 August 2012, 2012” (2012). A photo of a young crowd destined to an outdoor concert. The composition is appropriated from a nineteenth-century painting by Llya Repin depicting a religious procession. Barnett’s image conveys his figures destined toward an equal spiritual enlightenment, however, one’s opinion rests on which side of the coin you fall on regarding its own religious implications. Time and time again, I had found a hedonistic joy to such gatherings particularly in my youth. After all, there is a reason these processions continue year in and year out in and out of the city.

Sinisa Kukec’s, “That which makes you stronger… will most likely kill us” (2012) is composed of two matching formal office chairs which he has bestowed as “points of power” furniture. In his studio they were bound, suspended upside down and bathed in polyester resin while inverted. This brought about small crowns of droplets elevated towards the top deifying the laws of gravity in the museum as these chairs rest against each other. Outdoor tiles which are a common material in suburban homes are on the base of these chairs. Disturbingly beautiful in its raw process driven execution deconstructing and reconstructing the formality of modern sculpture within its conceptual and social frame. I’m still unsure how he feels about the occupants of these “points of power” and perhaps this is intentional.

Loriel Beltran’s “Unknown Bathroom Monument and Unknown Kitchen Monument” (2012) is the most vulgar, offense, and my favorite pieces in the entire exhibition. It addresses issues of class and consumerism with his use of granite counter tops which were utilized as thee coveted material during our recent remodeling flipping era and subsequently Miami’s housing boom/bust. These sculptures stand as cheap, haphazard, iconoclastic, sentinels – assaulting the eye and the senses with its baroque elements and promises of social elevation. It was difficult to look at it objectively and continues to repulse in retrospect… gag.

Last year, I sat down with those who would be interested in a round table discussion about the Miami Vernacular at the Locust Projects. It began with the city’s historical context towards efforts in elevating culture and with predictable Miami passion we all pointed out approaches of being. It went so far as even questioning the relevance of addressing such a concept. After all, what is the significance of recognizing identity on a global stage? With the advent of the internet where images, sound, and situations are present virtually in real time is there a need to address culture anywhere? If art is to be the conduit for the future would it not be prudent to unify everyone to a monoculture or omit the idea of culture completely? New Work Miami 2013 answer to this is to recognize that this city has an identity and it’s superficial, cheap, and embarrassing… it is poetic.