south florida visual art
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26.aug.02 - I've Been Flarbed

New Work: Odili Donald Odita at the Miami Art Museum

At first Odita’s paintings reminded me of the art of Al Held, which is too bad, because I hate his work. I shook it off and soon they grew on me. They are like Held only in that they are hard-edge acrylic abstractions with perspective devices that create deep space. Otherwise they are better as abstractions and better as landscapes. The color range is greater too.

The best of them was Descent, 2001, in which long triangles and rhombi were arranged so that cool blues were broken apart by oranges and reds. Among all of the paintings this one seemed to make the most of the whole rectangle. It had an Op-Art jumpiness but set up well as a picture. Gravity’s Rainbow, 2001, ended up being my favorite, as an interesting mix of vector-graphics landscape and African textile design.

A series of rough drawings and an installation of bricks could have been eliminated from this show to good effect. Some are lumpen, faux-naif scrawls that show him dealing with race issues - a white hand and a brown one reaching out to each other, a black man’s face with a Robert Crumb-ish “Keep on Smiling” written next to it. Others are bituminous, amorphous abstract what-nots. The drawings show that his strength is in crisp fields of color and that he’s neither a narrator or a dripper. House and Home, a wall of bricks arranged on the floor as if a room was coming up, with a little pile of clay and a brick-form, was mute.

It’s hard to relate the sculpture, drawings, and paintings to one another. Consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, they say. But go to the preparation workshops of our various local arts grants and you always get the same advice: be consistent. Don’t vary media, style, subject matter, or scale. What makes consistency a virtue in one official art context and a liability in another? Anyone?

Miami Art Museum (305.375.5000) - “New Work: Odili Donald Odita,” 23.aug.02 - 27.oct.02

“Flarb2” at Aqua Hotel

The next time someone wants to refer to their art exhibition as “experimental,” “boundary-pushing,” or “alternative,” they should ask themselves if they are doing half as well at any of these as Elizabeth Hall. Hall is the curator of “Flarb2,” which took place this weekend at the rooms and courtyard of the Aqua Hotel on Miami Beach. “Flarb2” had a fresh atmosphere and high energy, much more so than the Cult of Youth shows we’ve been seeing down here lately - the ones put together by middle-aged gallerists and museum people in collaboration with low-aged artists, some who have been hastily baptized as curators. In fact "Flarb2" outdid the Grammercy show, at least its last Miami incarnation, applying the art-in-hotel-room idea with less snootiness, work that was every bit as good, and more fun to be had.

Standouts among mostly good pieces included Hall’s own swaddled, submerged self-potrait, an elegant bedspread of seamlessly patchworked plastic bags by Judy Robertson, and unsentimental photographic portraits of the developmentally disabled by Michael Brandon Landsberg. There was a projection of moving water on the pillows of a hotel bed by Dimitry Saïd Chamy that was graceful and haunting. Gustavo Matamoros did a performance called Small Sounds. For ten bucks, you could sit at his table of little props and contact microphones while he played them for you. Afterwards you got a CD of the performance. His sonic manipulations were evocative, as always, as he made tinfoil sound like a midwinter Japanese landscape and burnt matches sound like tectonic grumblings.

Flarb2,” (305.695.0946), 23.aug.02 - 24.aug.02


I used to have a similar frustrated feeling about some art works, especially those 'trendy' exciting odd ones. Some are performance art, some are installation. An example is Tracy Emin's bed. I'm sure you've heard of it. That makes me think that I can also present my messy study desk as an peice of art work then. My desk is even more lively, not just the venue of sleep and sex. Apart from routine stationery, there's a wide range of stuff relating to diverse areas of my life: bottle of hair tonic, a bottle of solution, a box of tissue, bottles of vitamins and medicine, lighter, matches, film programs, watch, unsent postcards, Buddha amulets. Also some thirsty ants, they come to drink water in my cup! What a place! It's not enough just picking something up or doing something strange and simply attaching some pretentious, "cool" meanings to it. In the Cooper case we have no chance to talk about his creation because he refused to create anything in the first place. I hope he didn't try to make an escape by calling it "improvisation." - name withheld by request, Lancaster, England

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