Art Basel Miami Beach Review - A Visual and Evocative Feast

 

It is hard not to be overwhelmed when entering a colossal universe of extraordinary twentieth century art. The over 500,000 square feet of exhibition space represents  the work of  renowned artists and those poised to join their ranks, and celebrates paintings, drawings, photographs , sculptures, installations and film.  

Art Basel Miami Beach 2016.Photo courtesy Art Basel.

This is the fifteenth iteration of Art Basel in Miami Beach and it is both far removed from daily life while very much reflective of a deeply challenging year. The hope for the transformative power of art seems to permeate much of the experience as both national and international artists challenge us to hold fast to our idealism and to continue to create beauty in a deeply dark moment in time.

While there is no way to fully cover the scope and depth of this event, following are some highlights that hopefully provide a small taste of this extraordinary global art fair. These are the works that give me hope for art’s ability to channel and express the best aspects of our human nature.

Dancer of Dehli-Robert Henri. Photo courtesy Art Basel.

Robert Henri-Dancer of Delhi 1916

Robert Henri’s (1865-1929) paintings celebrated the authentic and gritty urban lives of working people and immigrants. He and his followers challenged the more refined and polished art that had defined American Expressionism and focused on the street life in New York, particularly that of the Lower East Side. Betalo Rubino, a Gypsy dancer depicted in this painting, was the subject of a number of Henri’s works.

Presented by Hirschl&Adler Modern ( Hirsch&Adler website)

 

Hot Iron-Adria' Julia'.photo courtesy Dan Gunn, Berlin.

Adria' Julia': Hot Iron,2016.

A breathtaking multimedia installation by Catalan artist, Andria’ Julia', is showcased at the Dan Gunn Gallery of Berlin (DanGunn website).The remarkable centerpiece of this installation is a mural that the artist was determined to match, in exact size and scale, to Picasso’s, “Guernica.” In creating this piece, Julia' tied together his fascination with Picasso’s masterwork and two other seemingly distinct subjects. First, was the removal of frescoes from Catalan churches at the beginning of the twentieth century and the sale of these frescoes to private interests in the United States. Second, was the unsuccessful attempt to bring American football to Catalonia during the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. The mural threads the political and visual history of these themes together, with customized wallpaper and myriad digital images reflecting the removal of the frescoes and the failed football experiment. In conjunction with the mural are related film works, underscoring the artist’s unique vision and expression.

 

 

Librettos:Manuel de Falla/Stokely Carmichael,Set5, 2015. courtesy Paula Cooper Gallery, New York.photo: Joshua White

Charles Gaines-Librettos: Manuel de Falla/Stokely Carmichael

This is a moving work by Charles Gaines, a Los Angeles based artist who has become known for his explorations of conceptual art and social justice. This work is part of a series of twelve, “librettos,” that merge the 1904 score of the opera, “La Vida Breve,” by composer Manuel de Falla with an impassioned speech by renowned civil rights activist, Stokely Carmichael.  Gaines brings together the score of a tragic love story (Life is Brief) with text depicting ongoing racial and class struggles. This work is presented by the Paula Cooper Gallery (PaulaCooperGallery website)

 

Cheval, tes reves-Marc Chagall. photo courtesy Hammer Galleries.

 

Painting (Elle et Lui)-Joan Miro'. photo courtesy Hammer Galleries.

Modern Masters: Between the Wars

Sometimes it helps to acknowledge that humans, while frail and compromised, have generally sought to expand their capacity for growth, understanding and communication. While such progress may be in fits and starts, artistic expression over the years helps to give voice to our better tendencies, especially when confronted with unthinkable conditions.  This exhibition at Hammer Galleries includes works by Marc Chagall, Alexander Calder, Max Ernst, Joan Miro’, Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse  that were all created between 1917 and 1945. The First World War and the years following it embodied global horror and tragedy; yet this period also embodied extraordinary artistic achievements.  (HammerGalleries website)

 

Unfinished Obama-Karl Haendel. photo courtesy Peter Kachergis.

Unfinished Obama-Wentrup Gallery (Wentrup Gallery website)

As visitors approached Karl Haendel’s graphite drawing, “Unfinished Obama,”  most stopped and simply sighed. Looking at each other and then back at this piece, there was a sense of collective mourning and instant but deeply shared connection.  This evocative work seems to communicate the feelings the President may have due to his inability to attain all that he wished and the ways in which this affects us all.  Fits and starts, fits and starts. As we strangers sighed together in the face of this artwork, I have to hope that the arc of the moral universe really does bend toward justice. Art certainly does.

 

More information about Art Basel in Miami

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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