Field Trip: Welcome to Miami, USA

Oscar Bustillo

After time spent in the UK, Miami native José Carlos Diaz describes a weekend back on home turf…

Summertime in Miami tends to flow into the autumn without much notice; the humidity, beating sun, and the wild parrots give no indication that summer has left.

The local art community has also merged into a new season of exhibitions and events, both public and private. I investigated what one weekend in Miami had to offer, aside from jumping into the blue ocean and basking in the South Florida sun.

Last week I attended the opening exhibition of British artist Mat Collishaw at The Bass Museum of Art in Miami Beach. The solo exhibition features a variety of work that starts a dialogue with works from the museum’s permanent collection. A 16th century multi-panel altarpiece by Giovanni Barbagelata, which was made for a Franciscan church, is hung opposite an abnormal religious altarpiece of similar size and style.

While the spiritual paintings in the Franciscan altarpiece represent the life and times of Jesus Christ, the other has panels that are mirrored and reflective, and producing a low trembling of sound, possibly of rain and wind.

Gomoria Courtesy of the artist and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York

This is Gomoria (above), Mat Collishaw’s unsettling creation: a traditional gothic altarpiece inlaid with video screens displaying tropical flowers blooming into festering and toxic blossoms. They sprout and quickly decompose but their sexual frenzy and savage nature perpetually contaminates the animated environment within the woodwork of the altarpiece.

Additional works by Collishaw includes the Last Meal on Death Row series, a suite of thirteen photographs, recreating the final meals of death row inmates from Texas. The works recall 17th century Dutch still life painting but the contemporary foodstuffs reveal their placement in modern time: donuts, chocolate ice cream, breakfast cereal, and Mexican cuisine.

Gary Miller

One photograph, titled Gary Miller, 2001, (after the criminal), graciously presents two grilled cheese sandwiches, chips, ketchup, boiled eggs, cinnamon rolls, grape juice, and coffee. A hearty request from a man who was lethally injected for the kidnapping, rape and murder of a seven year old girl in 1988.

The image reveals nothing of this truth, nor conceals it, but instead, constructs a dark and sombre conceptual memorial, one in the memento mori approach found in classical European art. However cheerless, the opening night at the Bass Museum was far from grim. It coincided with the museum’s monthly Beats After Sunset, a social affair of DJ’s, cocktails, and culture vultures. This is Miami after all.

The following day I was invited to the Electric-Lunch Serenade Series hosted by Miami artist Patricia Margarita Hernandez. A piano concert, appropriately titled End of Summer, took place in her home on mainland Miami, minutes away from the latest Miami boomtowns: the Design District and the Wynwood Art District.

An intimate gathering of family and friends sipped on sangria and home baked goods. The concert was a special opportunity to hear acclaimed conductor and pianist Oscar Bustillo (main) perform and experiment with classical music. The programme included an impromptu playoff and a couple of Franz Schubert impromptus in G-flat and A-flat which eventually led to Bustillo’s own impromptus in D and E using the family piano.

Meanwhile Ms Hernandez silently broadcasted the concert over her radio show. Her salon-style open house took one back to a time where social gatherings were the best way to make friends and stay acquainted with news and culture. The upcoming concerts will include Height of Fall, Dead of Winter, and Thaw of Spring. In a city where the only established season is Hurricane Season, it is wonderful to find the arts thriving each month, all regardless of weather.

José Carlos Diaz

Posted on 19/09/2013 by thedoublenegative