Arte Americas – Reflections on Latin American Art

 

 

Launched in 2003, the year after the first Art Basel Miami Beach, Arte Americas celebrated its tenth edition in early March.  The importance of Arte Americas to metropolitan Miami is paramount.  Not only does our geographic location represent the primary gateway to Latin America, but provides a visible showcase to some of the most important art and artists emanating from Spain, Mexico, Central and South America.

The show was created under the direction of Dora Valdes-Fauli; is backed by a veritable “who’s who” in the art world- with Leslie Pantin as President, Emilio Calleja as Vice President, and an advisory committee of over eighty members, including Paul Cejs, Carlos and Rosa de la Cruz, Bonnie Clearwater and Silvia Karman Cubina. This year’s fair contained works from forty-eight local, domestic and international galleries, and included several exceptional projects.  “Art Talks,” open to the fair attendees, approached important topics regarding Latin American art – from current trends and history, to collecting and programming.  The panel included our own Arts and Culture Council board member, and Executive Director and Chief Curator of the Bass Museum-Silvia Karman Cubina.  The final lecture, entitled “Living in Color” featured the life and work of the brilliant Carlos Cruz-Diez.

I was honored to attend the opening night of the fair, and was dazzled by the vibrant sounds, sights and feeling swirling around the space.  While all of the galleries presented beautiful works of art from very talented artists, a few highlights stood out for me.

Most Magical: Rafael Barrios, represented by Art Nouveau Gallery, creates illusions that defy gravity.  His works seem to literally bounce in the air, yet they are masterfully rooted, with a base that appears delicate and improbable.

I had the delight of meeting the artist at his vernissage last month, and have a deeper appreciation of his work.  In addition to the pieces exhibited here, he has also been commissioned by the city of New York, with a series of nine huge pieces adorning Park Avenue from March through June, located directly in front of the Armory building.  The Armory show, the most important contemporary art fair in New York, also occurs in March.

Most Powerful: The powerful work of Manuel Carbonell was highly visible in the fair.  The smooth, strong, black forms are a joy to behold. To quote the artist, “I search in my sculpture for the essence of the forms and the absence of detail while I struggle to obtain a feeling of monumentality…”

Most Dynamic: George Billis and his New York-based George Billis Gallery.  I chatted with George about his Gallery, and the beautiful and whimsical work of Alejandro Mazon, “The Memory of Rabbits” is a collage of nostalgic images- imbued with religion, family, work, love, heaven and beyond.  It is a fantasy created in acrylic, vintage papers, found objects, and mounted on canvas.

In addition to his Gallery, he directs Red Dot Fairs, present at both the Armory and the prestigious satellite during Art Basel Miami Beach.

Most Creative: West Encounters East, “Light and Shadows” curated by Stella M. Holmes

This exhibition is part of an evolving concept created by collector and museum trustee, Stella M. Holmes.  Cross-cultural ties bind all of the artists represented in this exhibition – Latin American artists with Asian heritage.  The influence of multi-cultural backgrounds is apparent in all of their works.  In particular, I was mesmerized by the photography of Guillermo Ueno, born and working in Buenos Aires, Argentine.   His work demonstrates a juxtaposition of light and dark, emotion often hidden from the faces of the subjects, or obscured from view.  Beautiful.

Most Forward-Thinking: Office of Engaged Teaching, Scholarship, and Creative Activities (ETSCA), established by Dr. Brian Schriner, Dean of FIU Architecture and the Arts, Chair of the Miami Beach Arts and culture Council.

As previously reviewed in an earlier column, the focus of the Office of ETSCA is “create, innovate and inspire a more beautiful, sustainable, healthy, and just tomorrow” through the Arts.  It is committed to research and activities that will impact the health and sustainability of local and global communities; it will bring together various FIU offices, local governments, business leaders, students, alumni and faculty to accomplish its mission.

FLOR500 is a multidisciplinary project developed by Miami artist Xavier Cortada to commemorate Florida’s quincentenniel in 2013.  500 Floridians will be selected to depict 500 native wild flowers- the same species that adorned the landscape when Ponce de Leon arrived in 1513 and named it “La Florida” from the Spanish word for flower. There will be more exciting components to this project, with connection to the community and the land, thereby fulfilling the mission of the ETSCA.

Arte Americas is an integral and invaluable part of the Miami landscape.  The role of promoting and highlighting a vast range of artists from around the world, with connections and ties to Miami, is critical for the further development of our culture.  From the well-established masters, to the innovative and bold students, the works exhibited at Arte Americas is a beautiful showcase for the past, present and future of art in Miami, resonating with the important heritage from Latin America.

Bravo to the countless individuals who have contributed to the success and ensured the future of this wonderful fair.  We look forward to seeing you all again in 2013!