When members of the Tampa-based photography collective Fountain of Pythons arrived in Miami Beach a few days before their work would go on view to the public, they knew the carpet had to go. Their allotted room at the Ocean Terrace — a crumbling, two-story hotel situated on the waterfront 60 blocks north of fashionable South Beach and slated for renovation — had seen better days.
Ripping out the offending nap, they sanded down wood floors and set about transforming the space into a compact art gallery. Framed photos by nine of the collective’s 10 members went up on the walls; an installation by the tenth (Noelle Mason) consisting of plastic flowers culled from roadside memorials, spilled into all corners of the room, across window sills and into the bathroom’s empty toilet.
“It’s about a community and camaraderie between other artist-run spaces,” said Becky Flanders, a Pythons member and co-owner of the Mermaid Tavern in Seminole Heights, whose latest work was on view.
During the annual extravaganza last week, a broad range of artists who call Tampa Bay home were getting into the mix in Miami, where a complex art ecology continues to expand and mature. The main event, Art Basel Miami Beach, attracted 77,000 visitors to the Miami Beach Convention Center, including collectors who shelled out millions of dollars during VIP previews — and one (apparently deranged) woman who stabbed another in what onlookers at first imagined was a work of performance art.
Outside, talk of the town centered on offshoot projects like Unrealism, a four-story exhibition of figurative paintings hosted by super-dealers Larry Gagosian and Jeffrey Deitch in the Miami Design District, and Littlest Sister, a smart assembly of Miami women artists at Spinello Projects in Little Haiti, the city’s next hot neighborhood for art. To get to either from Miami Beach, you could hop aboard Uber Boat, a temporary Biscayne Bay ferry offered by the ride-sharing app.
Flanders, whose photographs offer up kaleidoscopic views of nipples and vulvas, was also a lead performer in a satirical soap opera by Kalup Linzy that debuted at Pulse, a highly regarded satellite fair. In the video she portrays a curator who has a meltdown after being passed over for the job of organizing a fictitious art show called the Ienniale. A throng of art graduate students from USF, where Linzy shot the video in October and November, showed up to cheer him on as he performed on Pulse’s opening night at the invitation of art blog Hyperallergic. (Full disclosure: Linzy is one of seven artists included in the exhibition A Family Affair at the USF Contemporary Art Museum, which I curated.)
South Tampa’s CASS Contemporary staged a sharp-looking booth at Aqua in the heart of South Beach. The gallery showcased paintings and print editions by several artists from this year’s SHINE Mural Festival, including BASK and LA-based Shark Toof.
Graphicstudio’s suite at INK featured recent projects by the USF printmaking studio, including huggable toy sculptures by Trenton Doyle Hancock that could be seen earlier this year at the artist’s Greenfield Prize exhibition at the Ringling Museum of Art.
Erika Greenberg-Schneider of Bleu Acier teamed up again this year with former St. Petersburg and current Miami gallery owner Mindy Solomon. While Solomon presented a booth filled with paintings and ceramic sculpture at Pulse, Schneider promoted drawings and prints by Solomon’s artists at Works on Paper, another fair making its debut this year. The context allowed Schneider to show off a combination of unique drawings and small print editions produced at Bleu Acier in Tampa by French artists Pierre Mabille and Dominique Labauvie (Schneider’s husband, who lives in Tampa). Among them was an exquisite suite of woodcuts of Labauvie’s abstract compositions printed in silver on an ultra-thin wood veneer that glowed pale gold.
“For me, that’s one of the most beautiful projects that I’ve been able to make,” Schneider said.
Mitzi Gordon was in town with a crew from St. Petersburg’s Bloom Art Center, including artists James Oleson, Sebastian Coolidge and Carlos Culbertson (aka Zulu Painter). Six days into their visit, the trio of artists had painted three murals in Wynwood, Miami’s epicenter for art galleries and outdoor murals, and planned to complete a fourth. Read Mitzi’s account here.
“We felt it was not only important to be here and have artists represent their work… but in general to learn what we can about the growth of the Wynwood area — what has worked and what hasn’t,” said Gordon, who wonders whether St. Pete’s burgeoning art scene will evolve into a sustainable community or feel the pinch of gentrification like Wynwood. “At the end of the day, I don't know the answers, but I've enjoyed asking the questions.”