Last-look: Second Life at Art Basel Miami

Oh Miami Art Week. A week so overwhelmingly FULL of things to see from debut curatorial marriages… ephemeral habitations… spawning satellites… and of course, the museum-quality prestige making-up the 250+ gallertropolosis that is Art Basel. By the time Saturday rolled around my eyes welled at capacity— tearing with the realization that image overload is a real thing. With the flood of ‘highlights to see,’ ‘artists to watch,’ and ‘not-to-miss’ articles flickering weeks back in the wake of it all, I can only return now to recall what should be remembered.

Beginning at PULSE, a precursor for a recurring motif took shape: Second Life. At best, this was a point of departure where works recovered through spiritual evocations— at worst, it was a familiar clone of artists and ideas I’ve seen enough (some of which led me to wonder if I was in a pulsating Twilight Zone… in the same tent, at the same fair… but in 2014). Mostly, PULSE felt like a lot of ‘why’s?’ A stellar roster of artists and exhibitors individually, yet together melding into muffled noise— vividly exemplified through the performance[s] taking place throughout [and thereafter] Tuesday’s Preview. Do I really need to see Kate Durbin orchestrating a #selfie sea by the beach? Nonetheless in front of a neon sign negating between ‘You are an island.’ and ‘You are on an island.?’ Do I really need to get closer to hear a vacant performance amplified through a microphone? Do I really need to see Target ready-made as an art installation? Most of the time… inquiries led to no. Despite dead-ends, there were notable differentiations between a more than less underwhelming staticity.

Parallels of perspective were beautifully dismantled and reworked by Megan Stroech and Marnie Bettridge at Berlin-based and collaboration focused ROCKELMANN&. Other lights redeeming a fairly mediocre tunneled atmosphere included Jawshing Arthur Liou’s videos at Picturawhere images oscillated into otherworldly apprehensions. Similarly at the latest edition of PULSE’s video program PLAY, Stacy Engman curated new media tied ‘by narratives of constructed environments and contexts’ dithering between ‘notions of the real and imagined.’

Skipping a few days and blocks ahead to NADA, this year debuting at The Fontainebleau, the fair did everything but disappoint in stuffing 80 exhibitors into the opulent ballroom of new digs. Stacked with established galleries and artist-run spaces, NADA delivered stellar windows into a booming market and gateways for acquainting with any [temporarily] unfamiliar talents. What I always like about NADA is that it offers something for everyone: the artist, the collector, the dealer, the gallerist, the pedestrian. Touches of the uncanny seep within the neon glow of refined taste and trickle into the cracks of mass-appeal.

At Sandy Brown, Gili Tal’s trio of blenders painted peculiar swirls perched above Anna Uddenberg’s colossal clip, backlit by Ilja Karilampi’s LED metal works cut with millennial signs. Here and elsewhere, booths utilized their capacity to be installations reaching beyond a pedestal— where displays draw you to the floor; walls illicit conversations; and teeny tiny corrals are transformative on all fours. At NADA, hints of Second Life were welcomed appearances— noting the return of 93-year-old Elisabeth Wild at Proyectos Ultravioleta and Margo Wolowiec at Anat Ebgi, among others. Sometimes, a lurking double beckoned double takes, where again at Anat Ebgi, two mirroring Chris Coy’s differed in scale but were otherwise Siamese. Elsewhere, in less subtle gestures, ‘the other’ was painted black by Teppei Soutome and masqueraded as a figment by Chosil Kil at Tokyo’s Aoyama Meguro.

Over at the Deauville, NADA’s former HQ since 2009, Miami Project shacked up across from Art On Paper. At Miami Project, wings of haystacks yielded stellar gems. At Dallas based Liliana Bloch, a female duo starred Ann Glazer and Letitia Huckaby. Glazer’s polyester layers hung as stacked oil panels— delicate and wavering as malleable screens. Industrial metallic punctured by Magaret Evangeline hung perpendicular to simulated crinkled sunsets in matte canvases by Bonnie Maygarden at Jonathan Ferrara. Digitization uncovered lost cities of infinite dimensions in Paul-Émile Rioux’s apparatuses at Montreal’s Digital Art Project. Large-scale environments from budding luminaries like Crystal Wagner, were scaled into living-room friendly vitrines at Hashimoto Contemporary.

Igniting experimental terrain across 4 locations, the inaugural Satellite Show featured emerging incarnations to keep in close view. Among them was Anne Vieux, who also joined a stellar line-up of post-futurists in the pop-up IRIDESCENCE. Holograms, pastel gradients, and a lucid sensibility for 80’s nostalgia, invoked works by Francesco Locastro, Esther Ruiz, Ultramajic (Pilar Zeta & Jimmy Edgar), Anny Wang, and more.

LoCastro Wang

Looking back— then and now— UNTITLED glistens pretty as the week’s finest highlight. With sprawling, curving corridors of international exhibitors, each— like the scattered floor plan they occupied— housing artist displays departing from the traditional cube of aesthetic ease. Site-specificity energized this eclectic bouquet; where the best booths were experiential, asymmetrical, new, and fluid. LVL 3 made a memorable premiere with a swirling installation born by ‎Lauren Clay‬ ‪‎and Robert Chaseheishman.‬ After clocking eight hours in the beachside tent, I feel fairly confident declaring ‘I saw everything’— and nearly every uneven square inch of it was a sculptural visual statement worth seeing.

At UNTITLED virtuality was intellectualized— ambiguous and comical as springboard or medium. With bitforms, Sara Ludy presented the audio composition WARZONE, a recording born from the artist’s wanderings in Second Life. At Royale Projects, Alejandro Diaz reminded us that art is an industry— one of entertainment, adaptability, and free enterprise. Authorship is further tinkered with by Santiago Taccetti, whose display at London’s 10 Hanover, consisted of his large-scale inverted canvases where paint is applied to the back— reducing signs of touch and process to a ghostly surface imprint. Nearby, in Assaf Evron’s install at Andrea Meislin, architectures pixelate into purple constellations that diffuse into homogeneous monochromes— extending the image onto the wall.

However ‘conceptual’ some work may have been (with ‘too conceptual’ overheard as a one-liner quipped by a few [mostly local] collectors… followed by my passing side-eye…), presentations rarely felt pretentious or disengaging. Rather, installations stood appealing because of their saturated strategic disarray, ‘post-analog’ sensibility, and humorous capacities for encounter. Topless performances from the likes of Narcissister didn’t feel misplaced, but right at home— the frenetic Toiletpaper Lounge didn’t feel disconnected but like a fun LSD-trip marking the beginning or end of this modular behemoth connected and commanded by colorful and fresh activations. 

Most photos © WOAH