Art Basel Miami Beach 2022: The verdict is still out on whether or not the 20th edition of the fair was a runaway success with sales as buoyant across the fair as predicted. Several big-ticket items remained unsold during the two-day VIP opening at the Miami Beach Convention Center and if you dont sell on the opening days… Good luck! Nevertheless it was a fair crammed with spectacular eye-candy. Here are just a few below.
The vibrancy of the azure palette in Large Blue Painting by Pat Steir is undeniable and unparalleled. The colour is enchanting as the viewer is in front of a giant field of lapis lazuli. The painting is as vibrant as the Old Masters and even more contemporary than Yves Klein.
There is a subtle white grid and central areas of grey and white gradients that enhance the blue around it. The surface is carefully treated and contains the subtle drips that Steir is known for. The scale is also immersive, and the painting occupies the spectator’s entire field of vision. One cannot help but be drawn to this piece as it beckons from anywhere in the room. Steir continues pushing the limits of her visual and technical explorations of painting and colour. “The truth in painting … as in life, is all about perception. What one believes is what one sees. However, what does one actually see?” – Pat Steir (Pat Steir quoted in ‘Studio Conversations: Pat Steir and Doris von Drathan. What do I see-What can I see?’ in ‘Pat Steir. Paintings’. Milan/IT: Charta, 2007, p. 30.
Krewer’s nocturnal depiction of a figure in the middle of a dance performance stops you in your tracks. The dynamic composition and field of vision enable the viewer to inhabit the painting. Krewer’s mastery of the expressive use of paint is apparent, as is his individualistic colour palette. The matte finish of the surface enhances each peak and crevice in the paint texture while the colour contrast is stark. It also absorbs artificial light to illuminate the work at an art fair or gallery. The painting is full of rhythm both in and around the figure. The night is where Krewer finds the most inspiration, as both the light and the activity are of particular interest to the artist. We are invited to participate in a world only seen by those willing to explore and enjoy what the evening offers. Night is a place of uninhibited freedom and danger, but there is an overwhelming sense of curiosity in Krewer’s painting. “Florian Krewer is the painter of evenings. When the night falls, his world begins.” – Théo de Luca.
Jewel Ham is a master of tonality, as scared of you is a full exploration of magenta. She is also an extremely gifted figurative painter who sets the scene of a woman at a table staring at the viewer. At the same time, another vignette of a dinner unfolds behind her. The table is set with food, and a woman pours a glass with a pensive expression on her face. The central scene looks to be a reflection in a mirror in an interior as Ham loosely renders elements of a room around the figures. The painting surface is carefully considered, and the composition is dynamic. The piece is a powerfully expressive work that commands attention and portrays an intimate moment.
Titus Kaphar’s Seeing Through Time has a commanding presence at first glance. There is a silhouette of a figure holding a sceptre of power that surrounds the face of a beautiful woman. There are also pages containing arms and vestments, as well as a canopy to provide shade for the void of the figure that hovers in the middle of the canvas. Using technical mastery and iconic imagery, Titus Kaphar offers the viewer a reckoning in the Western Painting tradition. Kaphar confronts the historical omission and subjugation of entire groups of people in figurative painting in the Western canon. This piece offers us hope that this wrong will be righted in the long term and that now is the time to represent black people in ways that truly honour and celebrate their presence, contribution, and status.
“Much of black history recorded in Western art is summarized visually by three roles: enslaved, in servitude, or impoverished. But beyond this limited social order lies a people of dignity and strength whose survival is nothing less than miraculous. My work seeks to illuminate the faces and figures whose presence has been conspicuously undocumented in Western painting. In Seeing through Time, two paintings are overlaid to create a fictional, dimensional time warp. Removing the European character from the painting creates a space for a young black page to encounter a contemporary black woman. They exchange a gaze. These two paintings create a conversation between the historical and contemporary representation of black people in painting.” —Titus Kaphar.
Franchise Freedom by DRIFT was free to the public. Art Basel ticket holders as the artist duo of Lonneke Gordijn and Ralph Nauta put on a performance commemorating the 20th anniversary of Art Basel Miami Beach. The scale of the artwork and the experience was staggering as the artists utilized a swarm of drones in an aerial ballet reminiscent of masses of starlings. The drones lit up the night sky above the Convention Center as ‘Ab Ovo’ by Joep Beving played, creating a soothing medley of motion and sound. The small fliers zigged and zagged gracefully in an abstract way only to eventually line up to hover in place and spell “20 Years Art Basel Miami Beach.” The sheer logistical scope of the performance was impressive, and DRIFT creates a powerful dialogue between art and technology. The piece is a vital commentary about the ability of individuals to participate in groups seamlessly, and there is a suggestion that perhaps we can do that to combat the issues facing the world today.
Lucy Dodd is clearly a process painter. In the Name of Love is a thoroughly worked canvas that creates a potent and harmonious field of colour and form. The piece is full of variance as parts of the canvas are bare while others burst with colour and markings, even footprints. The way the vibrant colours enhance each other is enchanting, and the hand-sewn edges create an inviting soft border. The scale and scope of the piece is fully immersive, enhancing the individual details and the gestalt of the powerful work. One cannot help but feel a sense of participation as they explore the piece.
Pascal Marthine Tayou’s work is a mesmerizing mélange of vibrantly coloured and roughly hewn stones set into the wall. The variant shapes and bright hues of the granite setts create a three-dimensional experience for the viewer to explore as it is necessary to manoeuvre around the arrangement for a full sense of the work. The interplay of the shadows and the negative space between the stones makes for a stunning visual experience, while the entire piece feels playfully arranged and crafted. Each stone seems weightless as they float on the wall in a way that betrays the material qualities of the medium. Tayou’s use of granite setts may also indicate that these stones are used to create roads that inherently connect people; however, it could also reference the use of roads in colonialism.
Tavares Strachan’s Hidden Legacy of Game Boy appears cosmic at first glance, but there is more at play. The two panels seamlessly blend into each other, creating large and dynamic work that is visually immersive. The bright colours and shiny surface add to the visual puzzle as the viewer probes the surface to discover that some of the circles include text as well as imagery. There is an old map in the work and text to decipher as well as tiny details that seem to be drawn from photos and advertisements. The mixture of enamel and oil paint also creates a dynamic interplay of texture and colour. Strachan pushes these materials to their visual limits while ensuring the audience has plenty to digest from a content standpoint.
Top Photo: María José Arjona, Chair, 2011 Durational performance; custom-made chair suspended from the ceiling, activated by the artist; dimensions variable Rolf Art
María José Arjona’s performance Chair appears static at first, only to yield to slow and deliberate movement. The work, which initially debuted in 2011 at Ballroom Marfa, is instantly captivating as the viewer is invited to experience the suspended performer in the round. The minimal structure and height at which the artist lies offer more visual angles than a traditional pedestal affords a sculpture or most performances offer the audience, even allowing for the ability to walk under the piece. The audience is subject to the movements of the artist while the performer is also immersed in the surrounding environment. The piece is in a public setting full of chance, yet there is complete control of the choreography.
Rob Reynolds’s painting UP! is so bright it feels like it might actually be the sun. The mastery of tones combined with the smooth surface of the work ensures that the piece radiates light. The luminous service is almost entirely smooth in texture as Reynolds explores the power of subtle tonal transitions to create this visual plane. Reynold’s mastery of oil painting is evident in this example of a hyper-realistic and abstract work.
“I made my first large sun painting in 2013 for a show exploring the history of water in Los Angeles. I have made many since enjoying the same challenge that all artists have faced with such a subject: how do I make a painting of the sun feel bright? The sun looks and feels different to me now, our source of life, and scary, perhaps. My friend sent me a poem by Octavia Butler, a writer who I greatly admired a while back. It reads: There’s nothing new/ under the sun/, but there are new suns.” – Rob Reynolds.
Words/Top Photo: María José Arjona, Chair, 2011 Durational performance; custom-made chair suspended from the ceiling, activated by the artist; dimensions variable Rolf Art © Artlyst Clayton Calvert 2022