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Brent Burket on Miami 2008, Part II

Jack Goldstein at Mitchell-Innes & Nash
Jack Goldstein at Mitchell-Innes & Nash

Ed: Brent's adventures in Miami continue; for an introduction, see Part 1.

After a quick and forgettable visit to the Bridge Art Fair I made my way over to Art Basel. This was my first time attending Basel and it was more than a little overwhelming. Oh, the massive massiveness! I spent 5 hours wandering around under a spell brought on by boatloads of great art, fluorescent lights and a deep fear of food poisoning/ (Seriously, I didn't think it was possible for the food to be worse than the NY fairs, but Art Basel wins this gastronomic race by a thousand miles.)

I was with my uncle and his wife and they were thrilled to see so many MirĂ³'s and other 20th Century artists in a smattering of the crazy-high-end galleries near the front of the fair. My favorite high-ender was Helly Nahmad, mostly because of their choice to go with an all-Dubuffet buffet. I am lucky enough to see Group of Four Trees every day of the week in New York, and it still isn't enough. To witness such a wide array of his paintings and smaller sculptures in one place was a very special thing.

Speaking of treats and thrills, one of my I'd-walk-across-hot-coals-to-see-their-work artists is Jack Goldstein, and the single enamel on paper painting at Mitchell-Innes & Nash was a new kick for me. It looked like a still from a Black Metal video for which somebody had accidentally used color stock. It makes Banks Violette seem like a little pussycat. But now, a question: is it possible for Joyce Pensato to put brush to linen or, in this case, charcoal and pastel to paper without me reacting with pure awe at the furious beauty of her work? Judging from this piece at Friedrich Petzel's booth, the answer would be, "No". I wish that Petzel had decided to focus soley on Pensato's work even though she has a show up now at his Chelsea gallery. Like Dubuffet, I just can't get quite enough.

Edgar Arceneaux at Susanne Vielmetter
Edgar Arceneaux at Susanne Vielmetter

The galleries that did choose to devote their space to a single artist almost without exception triumphed. The first such which I came across was Alexander Gray Associates who decided to feature selected works by Luis Camnitzer. I had noticed a lot of school kids at the fair. When I mentioned this to AGA's gallery assistant she told me the story about a 14-year old girl who got caught up in Camnitzer's digital prints of final statements from death row inmates, and began to cry. She went away and returned with friends. Personally, I don't care how money-soaked the fair scene is; if there's still room for this, then everything is alright. Around the corner Susanne Vielmetter had given her space over to Edgar Arceneaux who made an overwhelming wall drawing that reminded me of a more minimal take on Adam Cvijanovic's Untitled (Love Poem). The last gallery I came upon that took the single-artist approach was Zach Feur who was showing the luscious and smart paintings of Jules de Balincourt. My only disappointment with Art Basel was that there weren't more galleries that went for this approach. Well, that and the food.

PULSE seemed to sprawl and kick a bit more in Miami that what I'd experienced in NY. For me, the fair really began when I turned the first corner to find Ed Winkleman and the legend that is Bambino (aka Murat Orozobekov). It was a more-than-nice surprise to see Sarah Peters' illin' bust of cult leader David Koresh. Is it me or does work on cults seem to sit a little too comfortably in the art world? Andy Yoder's posy-covered garage door was another giddy turn for the sculptor. It was great to meet Lorraine Molina of BANK from downtown LA. They were one of my faves when I visited the city a couple summers ago, and their booths are always top-notch at the fairs. As predicted Tadashi Moriyama's intricate drawings were a highlight at Bonelli Arte. I was happy to see Kinz+Tillou at PULSE because I'd missed Kim Keever's reportedly excellent show and I was able to catch another glimpse of Jennifer Coates killer painting, Aurora. Lastly, Envoy Enterprises let their dandy freak flag fly wildly in my favorite booth of the fair. This is how to get it done, kids. Anybody who makes such a gloriously devotional reference to Karen Kilimnik gets my thumbs up. Their "salon" was a smart nod (or maybe just a brilliant heist. Either way, it worked.) to the room Kilimnik created for her show at the ICA a couple years ago. All in all, PULSE was a lively fair and I can't wait to see the NY edition later this year.

Beka Goedde at Glowlab
Beka Goedde at Glowlab

My final stop was the Fountain Art Fair, which had scored a 16,000 sq. foot space and included art that ranged from the excellent to the not-so-excellent. But the vibe of Fountain remains great and I never fail to come across some real gems. The main attraction for me was Glowlab who, like Little Cakes before them, are my favorite gallery I've never been in. Beka Goedde's sculptures were a refreshing counterpoint to the maximal nature of three full days of storming the art fairs. Plus, they were beautiful. Across the way at Leo Kesting was a hilarious and sweet section of wall devoted to the Sasquatch Family Tree by David Turek. Kesting really knocked it out of the park with the installation of their space, utilizing the, um, nature of their allotted surroundings. The YUM YUM Factory was sheer pink madness, and I loved it. So much to look at -- some of it good, some of it bad. Some of it sweet. Some of it wicked. All of it fun. Just on the other side of the room meanwhile at Open Ground I found one of my favorite artists, not just from Fountain but from all the fairs. I don't have pictures, and I couldn't find any relevant links -- and, somehow, that's perfect. Leah Wilemon's tender mixed-media pieces feel so intimate they need to be experienced up close and personal. Often printing words on found objects such as screens and Rolodex cards and then placing these inside a frame, she pulls the viewer into a private world with a visual whisper. Like all good art, it says--to quote the band Low--"Hold me closer than that."

No problem.

This is what I love about art fairs. All the glitz, all the money, and all the glamor go into hiding when art enters the house. ("Love crushes angles into black.") I'm a 14-year-old girl crying in front of a Luis Camnitzer. I'm an old man staring down the eternity of a Howard Hodgkin painting. I'm myself, leaning in for one more whisper.

In a recent post, Ed Winkleman reminded Richard Polsky and Dave Hickey that some people do actually attend these art fairs to look at the art: "...don't some people come there for the art and get a very happy dose of it? Doesn't someone get to walk away feeling good, having had an experience that surpassed all their expectations, looking forward to returning next year and feeling even better?"

Yeah, Ed. That's me. Welcome to Miami, dude.