ABMB and Art Miami
Post #1426 • December 3, 2009, 4:07 PM • 53 Comments
I, no art fair completist, went for a run this morning from the Roads to the apex of Rickenbacker Causeway on what turned out to be one of the hottest days on record for December in Miami. On the way up I saw a tree crowded with red-headed parrots. Turkey vultures meandered along the Biscayne Bay beachfront. Sure enough they had found the carcass of an unrecognizable animal, which they picked over lazily and without rancor towards one another. At the summit I admired the view of downtown, an impressive bank of condominium towers painted white and aqua with surprising conformity. For a moment I forgot about the deficit of basic human competency that stood between me and my rental car on Tuesday, and pondered that I could move back here if I had to. I put my palms together, bowed to bay, spat a runner's spit into the expanse over the water, and trotted down the direction I came. A work crew I passed on the way up, on break from revamping the little islands at the east end of the causeway, sitting in the shade of a pickup truck, were still hard at rest when I passed them a half-hour later.
I visited Art Basel Miami Beach and Art Miami yesterday. I detected the same creative torpor that Paddy Johnson picked up on, but where she longs for stunts, I just wanted to see better art. There's a corridor that runs along the south end of the convention hall, from Aquavella's corner space to Jacobson Howard's corner space, where some items of note can be seen. The Motherwells, as remarked upon in the last thread, were a bit on the flaccid side but entirely worthy. A gallery whose name I forgot to record (but I will recover) had some lovely John McLaughlins, which would be the first time I've seen work in Miami from the contemplative master of Dana Point. Jacobson Howard has a roomful of enormous Norman Bluhms from the Seventies which I found more compelling than his splashed work from a decade or two earlier. They also had an Art Kabinett installation devoted to the drawings of Tom Wesselman, whose drawn work makes his metal cutouts look senseless by comparison. Otherwise, ABMB required the usual search for needles in a haystack: one of the best Joan Mitchells I've ever seen (again, I'll get the names of galleries when I go back tomorrow), some pieces by Jacob Hashimoto, whom I like but not for terribly compelling reasons, and a few other things here and there among the long hallways of sculptural excrescences. This is sort of a problem, because when I pitched ABMB coverage to the New Criterion, I talked about how it was possible to find serious modernist work at the main fair, which had largely sceded its commitment to the outré to the satellite fairs. But the rooms of good Hoffmans and Morandis that I remember from a couple of years ago were not to be had. Either that becomes my story, or I cast my net wider.
My memories of Art Miami date back to ten and fifteen years ago and include the place getting overrun with lousy galleries of lousy Latin American art. It was at Art Miami where I first learned from my Colombian girlfriend at the time that nudes viewed from the back were a sure seller to the Latin American market. We must have counted a half-dozen. It's an entirely different fair now. Scott White Contemporary Art (who, full disclosure, handles my work) had an Elmer Bischoff gouache portrait that I might have stolen given the opportunity. Pace Gallery Prints had some Frankenthalers printed in various processes that stole the whole installation. The same gallery had a light, glittery Pat Steir that reminded me a bit of Lauren Olitski's work and was the first Stier I ever responded to one way or another.
Tonight thunderstorms hit, according to a hedged and variable forecast.