From a Surprise ‘Salvator Mundi’ to Tears for Trump: 8 Star-Making Turns at NADA Miami
As usual, there was a slew of weird and attention-grabbing art on offer at the indie art fair, now back at Miami's Ice Palace.
Back at the Ice Palace after a long sojourn on the beach, NADA Miami this year provided its reliable serving of zesty, brainy fun and the excitement of making new discoveries. Here are some of the standout efforts at the fair.
The award for the most technically advanced booth would definitely go to the Brussels gallery Super Dakota, where video monitors show masked female avatars reading messages by the bots that populated Ashley Madison, the dating site for cheating spouses that was hacked two years ago. Here the fembots, made by the collective !Mediengruppe Bitnik, recite texts employed to target Miami-based users. (Example: “I’m sexy, discreet… Does this sound intriguing?”) On the back wall of the booth are three UV-printed panels on which artist Chris Dorland has preserved the jagged, pixelated results of scanning malfunctions to striking pictorial effect.
For its freshman NADA Miami booth, the six-month-old gallery suburban Detroit gallery Reyes Projects brought a focused solo show of ceramics by the talented Danish artist Marie Herwald Hermann. It’s a quiet presentation, but complex: displayed on white porcelain shelves, each piece consists of a finely crafted, smooth ceramic vessel accompanied by a lumpen piece of fired ceramic that obviously displays the squishy manipulation of the artist’s hand; the works are set against the backdrop of William Morris’s Blackthorn wallpaper, a pattern built from arrangements of common English weeds that, depending on how you look at it, may or may not suggest skulls. The wallpaper, which Hermann’s grandmother had in her home, was a pivotal influence in the artist’s aesthetic education, introducing her to Morris’s “idea about objects and the joy of labor and a utopian vision of life” that she says informs her craft-inspired art (priced from $3,000 to $9,500 at the fair) to this day.
Situations & Fierman
Becca Albee was once known for playing in the Riot Grrl band Excuse 17 with Carrie Brownstein, but today she’s better recognized for her feminist photography practice, which looks at everyday womanly trappings like perfume. Situations gallery, which is sharing a booth at NADA with FIERMAN, is showing an enigmatic photo of the cover of a book that was apparently life-changing for Albee as a young woman—Radical Feminist Therapy—alongside a colorful composition of perfume bottles. Also on view at the stand are the sunset-hued canvases of Alika Cooper, who cuts and layers fabric to create beautifully abstracted portraits of female bodies.
Ever since the earth-rattling Christie’s auction last month, it has become de rigeur for any cool contemporary-art market event to have a Salvator Mundi of its own, so naturally NADA has one on offer. (Kind of embarrassing that Art Basel Miami Beach doesn’t, no?) A far more emaciated version, with a hollow-eyed look and a disreputable air, the El Greco-esque painting at Lomex Gallery’s booth was by Kye Christiensen-Knowles, part of a group of RISD graduates who are making work inspired by the classical art of the past.
Reactionary in an edgy way, Christiensen-Knowles is “thinking what it means to be a young painter in a mode that’s different from the dominant mode the past few years,” explains Lomex dealer Alexander Shulan—a spirit shared by such painters as Julien Nguyen and Nicolas Ceccaldi (who has a solo booth in the main fair). File this aesthetic gambit under it’s-so-crazy-that-it-might-just-work. “Collectors have been responding really well to Kye so far,” Shulan said, and the discount Salvator Mundi at the fair sold for about $10,000.
Rachel Uffner Gallery
Probably the liveliest—and most colorful—booth at the fair, Rachel Uffner’s presentation commanded attention with adorable ceramic dogs by Sally Saul, an electric-toned painting of a man with a glittery pink beard by the rising star Arcmanoro Niles, and neon papier-mâché sculptures by Bianca Beck. In a back corner hang dozens of ceramic sculptures of crying eyes in various skin tones, which the artist Pam Lins has been making every Monday since Donald Trump’s ascent to the presidency.
A 35-year-old son of two painter parents, Yu Nishimura for years kept his own painting to himself, working in solitude in his studio to set down his gauzy impressions of the world around him, always from memory and in blurred motion. Recently, he has begun to send his paintings out into the world, and his reveries on canvas have a soothing, soporific quality, like the unconjured images that play in the mind as one falls asleep. There’s a high likelihood that the largest work in the fair, showing a red car speeding past a dusky forest, would give any house where it’s displayed a lissome, magical feeling, of being between worlds.
There were a number of works that looked out of their time at this fair, including Duncan Hannah’s narrative, Edward Hopper-esque paintings at Invisible Exports. The subjects—a young boxer, boats, a couple walking home at night—are all marked by vintage fashion and architecture, while the rest of the work in the booth, by contemporary conceptual artists Vaginal Davis, Matthew Porter, and Marianne Vitale, stands in stark contrast.
The centerpiece of JAGprojects’s booth at NADA is a dashboard of a Lexus with, instead of a highly polished wood veneer, a surface of raw wood bristling with so many branches that it would make driving the car slightly problematic. Rich in Dada paradox and suggesting an angry reckoning with Mother Nature over our gas-guzzling luxury car addiction, the sculpture was made by Hugh Hayden from fallen blue spruce that he gathered in the parks of Harlem, where he is currently earning his MFA at Columbia. At the fair, the piece cost $8,500, and it joins a series of other recent wood pieces—like an unsittable Adirondack chair he installed in Hudson, New York—from Hayden, a multidisciplinary artist who is also known for throwing performative dinner parties that challenge guests with enforced eating restrictions that range from whimsical (only spherical foods may be consumed) to corporal (the diners are handcuffed to each other).
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