Looking at art, from the art league to the big league


Walking through PAMM’s retrospective on Brazilian artist Beatriz Milhazes, I recalled my recent visit to Rio de Janeiro and the Botanical Gardens from which the artist draws so much of her inspiration.

Upon entering the massive rooms in the recently inaugurated Herzog & de Meuron building, I could imagine the artist walking in Jardim Botânico and following the avenue of Royal Palms, rising high into the sky. I could see her detouring onto smaller paths, winding in and out of secret gardens, catching glimpses of vivid colors amongst the thick layers of foliage that flicker between sun and shade.


Milhazes’ painted collages reflect all of the sensations of walking through the Jardim Botânico. Bursts of brilliant colors and organic forms are layered like the rich history of Brazil itself. The exhibition is organized chronologically so as to show the artist’s development.


In her early works there are traces of the countries colonial past. Pearls, lace, roses and deeper hues reflect the Baroque tastes of early Portuguese settlers. 

Throughout her progression, Milhazes has employed elements of popular Brazilian culture, American hippie symbols, and European decorative motifs, but the one thing that has remained consistent in her work, is the circle.


Circles radiate in and out of her canvases creating kinetic energy.  Concentric circles flicker on and off while smaller beads of circles weave the compositions together.   

In her more recent works, which include three new pieces created specifically for the PAMM exhibition, the artist shows her interest in geometric forms. Straight lines, crisscross and hatch the canvas, but even in these works the circles remain.


Milhazes technique of applying paint to canvas is deceptive.  She first paints thick layers of pigment onto sheets of  plastic, then, using her own invented process, she transfers the painted shapes onto the canvas. The resulting colors are devoid of brush strokes and appear as smooth as the candy wrappers that she has used in her paper collages.


Beatriz Milhazes: Jardim Botânico is the first major U.S. survey of works by the Brazilian artist.  It features over 40 large scale paintings, paper collages, prints and books.

Beatriz Milhazes : Jardim Botânico

September 19, 2014 – January 11, 2015


Jack Dowd, (Sarasota) “Camo Sumo Warrior” 2014

It is a delicate task for a curator to formulate an exhibition, selecting from artists whose studio’s he has visited, and works that he is familiar with.

It must be a daunting task to select from 1,600 jpegs submitted by some 600 artists, whose art is as diverse as the Florida cities from which they work.

The Boca Museum of Art, invited independent curator, writer and artist, Trong Gia Nguyen to take on this task, for it’s 63rd Annual All Florida Exhibition and Competition. Nguyen, who has curated 25 exhibitions over the past 15 years, both in the U.S. and abroad, seemed quite comfortable with this challenge.

Jack King, (Tampa) “No Fixed Plan for Arriving: Black Swan”

Upon entering the exhibition the first thing you will notice is open space. Nguyen’s curatorial decision, to choose only 69 peices from 52 artists for this exhibition, resulted in generous latitude for each work of art, to coexist within the Museums boundaries.

A commanding presence in the room, is Sarasota artist Jack Dowd’s “Camo Sumo Warrior”.  A larger than life Sumo wrestler whose body is painted in military camouflage.  He squats in “sonkyo” position with his back to the crowd and his gaze focused forward.  The pedestal that holds his weight is marked  with text that begins,  “I am a warrior who fights the good fight….” . 

Hanging directly across from the warrior is a  large scale painting by Weston Artist Jami Nix Rahn.   The painting depicts a volcanic beach with rough ocean and thick clouds.  A purposefully stacked formation of rocks, breaks the horizon line as they balance precariously on a concrete pedestal.  The artist references a 1960‘s French cult dialectic of fantastic realism, and the metaphysical in her title for the piece “The Morning of the Magicians””

Modernism permeates the exhibition. Recycled, upcycled, and retooled ingredients, radiate newfound purpose into much of the work on display. 


Clara Varas, (Miami) “KImbombo (Okra)”

 Several pieces by Miami artist Clara Varas demonstrate the most literal of found art. Varas draws from common household items and assembles them to evoke memories of home, time and place.  Tampa artist Jack King manipulates basic materials such as wood, plexiglas, nylon and black beans to create an abstract “avianoid”  in “No Fixed Plan for Arriving: Black Swan”.


Gamaliel Herrara, (Weston) Quaternity Series #41

 Weston artist Gamaliel Herrara’s collage on paper is a formal exploration of Jung’s concept of “quaternity”.

Jim Benedict, (Jacksonville) "Open Range" 2012

Jim Benedict, (Jacksonville) “Open Range”

Pop art is also evident in this exhbititon. Jacksonville artist Jim Benedict created “Open Range” an eight foot, cowboy boot made from oxidized and stainless steels.

Naples artist Tara Woods addresses those nasty cigarette butts with a polymer clay pile, titled “Butts” and Fort Lauderdale artist Nolan Haan gives weightlessness to cinder blocks painted on silk.

Nolan Haan, (Fort Lauderdale) “Art of Discrimination”

Nolan Haan, (Fort Lauderdale) “Art of Discrimination”

On the walls, archival inkjet and pigment prints dominate over traditional drawings and paintings, reminding us that we are in the 21st century and artist are essentially experimental beasts, eager to jump on and exhaust, all new technology in search of self expression.

Wayne Thornbrough (Lantana) "Outside Looking In"

Wayne Thornbrough (Lantana) “Outside Looking In” inkjet print

Still, within this exhibition there is an impressive display of formal painting.  Carin Wagner’s oil on canvas, titled “Upside Down”  is a small gem. The artist depicts the fragility of nature through monochromatic layers of glaze.   Coral Gables artist Jena Thomas exhibits compositional prowess in “The Water is Fine”, a skewed view of suburban backyard pools.

Carin Wagner, (Palm Beach Gardens) "Upside Down" 2014

Carin Wagner, (Palm Beach Gardens) “Upside Down” 2014

Jena Thomas, (Coral Gables) "The Water is Fine" 2014

Jena Thomas, (Coral Gables) “The Water is Fine” 2014

Henning Haupt, (Fort Lauderdale) Black and Blues lines in white-All Rising" 2014

Henning Haupt, (Fort Lauderdale) Black and Blues lines in white-All Rising” 2014

Fort Lauderdale artist Henning Haupt, shows his finesse for structural design and satisfies a desire for fundamental drawing with his oil on canvas titled “Black and Blue Lines in White – All Rising”


Steve Pennisi, (Fort Myers) “Out to Sea” 2014

Two black and white abstract expressionist paintings by Fort Myers artist Steve Pennisi draw you into imaginary landscapes. Pennisi created these works through a unique form of reverse painting, where the artist peeled dried acrylic paint from a plastic palette, revealing underlying gestural patterns that could then be re-applied to a prepared canvas.

Best in show award winner Tony Vazquez-F (Miami) "Mene Grande" 2014"La Alquitrana" 2014

Best in show award winner Tony Vazquez-F (Miami) “Mene Grande” 2014″La Alquitrana” 2014

Political works in the exhibition are subtle yet effective. Tony Vasquez-F was awarded  Best in Show for his piece “Mene Grande” a commentary on Venezuela’s destructive political policies.

Vazquez scaled up an aluminum Moka pot and recreated it using two very different materials.  “Mene Grande” was cast using fiberglass resin and “La Alquitrana” was cast in bitumen otherwise known as asphalt. Bitumen is a highly viscous oil byproduct,  if left to the elements, this sculpture will eventually melt to the ground.

The lone video streaming in this exhibition is titled “Dreaming” by West Palm Beach artist Cheri Mittermaier.2014Aug09_2738rahn

Tucked away in a small room with a blue door, this psychosexual dreamlike sequence, plays out in slow motion.  Two figures are presented in a tropical outdoor setting,  haunted by the presence of a large phallic cannon on wheels. This video raises questions of identity and gender assignment.

Artists receiving merit awards from Juror Nguyen are Brookhart Jonquil (Miami), Vincent Miranda (Fort Lauderdale), José Pacheco Silva (Aventura), Wayne Thornbrough (Lantana), and  Clara Varas (Miami)

The 63rd Annual All Florida competition and exhibition runs through October 18, 2014 at the Boca Museum of Art.


2014Aug09_2771rahn Also on view | Boca Museum Artists’ Guild Biennial Exhibition. This Biennial exhibition runs in conjunction with the 63rd Annual All Florida Juried Competition and Exhibition and highlights the works of professional artist members of the Artists Guild.



Front, KB Bauhelm, “FL290EL” mixed media,    Back wall, Kevin Curry “Open come in”, “Parking for customers only”, “Architecture” reclaimed signage.

New conditions for three dimensional art prevail today.  In recent years, artists are creating a movement against painting and sculpture.  Found objects and detritus have become an integral element in contemporary art making today.  “ THE TRIUMPH OF DETRITUS” Curated by Lisa Rockford and now on view at Gallery 1310 in Fort Lauderdale, highlights this movement in dramatic ways.

Many of the works in this show were created in the studio or on sight as a result of artists collecting, restoring and repurposing everyday materials and mundane objects.  This movement against the manufactured works and  industrial forming created in specialized factories like those of celebrity artists Jeff Koons or Damien Hirst, pays homage to the ground breaking studio practices of artists like Marcel Duchamp or Pablo Piccaso.


Joe Locke “Grand Central Palace”


Bobbie Meier “Sampler 5″

Some projects here are more fragmented  than others. Which is to say, they focus on the remnants of our existence rather than the substance of our nature.   In “Grand Central Palace” artist Joe Locke, demonstrates how the conditions in which things exist, are in continuous flux.  In a shrine like setting against a gallery wall, Locke randomly displays dated photos of street boarders.  Scattered on the floor below, the artist places an array of torn and broken objects that are key to skateboard culture.

Illinois artist Bobbi Meier, finds initial little bits, to incorporate into larger wholes In her “Sampler Series”.  These intimate organic masses involve found textiles, embroidery, floss, wax, gel, threads, canvas, and personal trinkets, all of which, bundled together recall sensual pleasures and fleshy discomfort.


FRONT Randy Burman “Seeyaround”, BACK WALL Michael Covello “Daisy Cutter”

Our fascination with the the car crash is evident in several works on display.  Miami artist, Randy Burman trolls junk yards in search of discarded automobile body parts.  The artists uses the pre-painted metals to create large scale installations.  “Seeyaround” resembles a ferris wheel of wrapped car hoods. Ryan Farrell displays smaller wall pieces formed from crashed car bumpers.  Joshua Hunter-Davis reassembles engine parts and Taylor Pilote creates a synthetic meltdown in “Slabslide Side”.





Artists, Andrea Nhuch and Gardner Cole Miller demonstrate that by grasping and using the nature of made things, new things will exist. Nhuch incorporates the protective nature of bubble wrap to create small parcels, that when painted in monochromatic colors are reminiscent of a Louise Nevelson wall piece. Miller explores internal relationships with material objects when he transforms antique porcelain, using evaporated salt water.


Kerry Phillips “Comfort (having now) I-V”

Miami artist, Kerry Phillips grasps the nature of more conventional ready made sculptures.  For her installation at the gallery titled “Comfort, (having now) I-V”, Phillips lines up five wooden chairs across the middle of the room and occupies each chair with a pile of tightly swaddled comforters. Duchamp would approve.


KB Bauhelm “Coppertone”

Artist KB Bauhelm has several works in the exhibition relevant to nature and the history of Florida.  In “FL290EL” Bauhelm has draped four floppy turquoise silicon castings of alligator skins across the bottom of an upturned vintage boat.  Moving blankets, florescent lights, rope and cords give discourse to the fate of the Florida gator. In “Coppertone” the artists displays a row of  vintage ceramic parrots that have been transformed using auto body paint and electroformed copper. 


Pip Brandt “Flying Carpet”

Hollywood artist Pip Brandt also works on themes regarding social issues. In  “Flying Carpet”  we see a more complicated conceptual piece.  Brandt addresses US involvement in the middle east by repurposing an oriental carpet.  The carpet which, traveled with her from Wyoming, was once used by her herd of goats to trot upon. Brandt,  silk screened and embroidered a map of the middle east, along with invading U.S. black hawk helicopters onto the worn brown carpet. The names of countries are spelled out with miniature brass guns. In the center of the carpet she used bright green and blue threads to depict the fertile grounds.  The flying rug rests on a mechanism which includes headlights and taillights of a a gas guzzling American automobile. When peddles are pushed the carpet jolts and the lights flash.


Cara Mckinley, “Cornucopia”

There is also whimsical humor in this exhibition.  Artist John Pack creates imaginative stacks of mouth watering treats from found coral and mixed media. 

Artist Cara McKinley has created a bright blue, large scale paper mache and ceramic “Cornucopia” with a fluffy beige interior that invites one to curl up inside and take a nap.

The Triumph of Detritus

When: Saturday, June 21, through July 11.  Receptions: 7-11 p.m. Saturday, June 28 and 7-11 p.m. July 11

Where: 1310 Gallery, 1310 SW Second Court, Fort Lauderdale

Cost: Free

Contact: 954-729-5794 or SailboatBendArtists.com


A Creative Economy



Recognizing the significance of the arts in our community, the Broward County Cultural Division is looking toward the future, by encouraging debate about the impact of “Creative Economies”.

Yesterday an audience of over one hundred, attended “A Creative and Cultural Industries Symposium”.  The day began with a panel discussion on the impact of the creative community, on the economic health, of local, regional, national and international economies.  

With a focus on Latin America, the Caribbean and South Florida economies the symposium was triggered by the Inter-American Development Bank’s (IDB) publication: “The Orange Economy: An Infinite Opportunity (downloadable in English and Spanish) co-authored by Felipe Buitrago and Iván Duque Márquez. 

2014May09_2225       2014May09_2206

The panel was comprised of members from American University’s Center for Latin American & Latino Studies (CLALS), The Orange Economy co-author Felipe Buitrago and UM professor George Yudice.

Notably absent was a voice for the Caribbean community.  This was pointed out at the end of the presentations when members of the audience were given the opportunity to speak.  The Caribbean presence was well represented in the auditorium and enthusiastic about joining the conversation.

Later in the day panel members and Broward Business leaders met to discuss the importance of this report and it’s impact and relationship to the South Florida economy.

The Panel Members were:

  • Robert Albro – Associate Research Professor at the Center for Latin American and Latino Studies (American University)
  • Felipe Buitrago Restrepo – The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) Cultural Center, Cultural and Creative Economy Lab
  • Eric Hershberg – Director of the Center for Latin American and Latino Studies and Professor of Government (American University)
  • Andrew Taylor - Assistant Professor in the Arts Management Program (American University) 
  • Ximena Varela – Associate Professor in the Department of Performing Arts (American University)
  • George Yúdice – Miami Observatory on Communication and Creative Industries (University of Miami)

For more information about this symposium contact contact Jim Shermer at 954-357- 7502.



Attacking Art

"Colored Vasses" Ai Weiwei

“Colored Vases”   Ai Weiwei                           Image/Jami Nix Rahn


In a misguided act of vandalism last Sunday, Miami based artist Maximo Caminero, 51, walked into the Perez Art Museum’s survey exhibition of Chinese artist, Ai Weiwei and deliberately smashed a reportedly $1 million Vase.

The vase was part of a group which included 16  brightly painted ancient urns dating back more than 2,000 years to China’s Han dynasty.

According to police, the artist explained, that he dropped the piece in protest at the lack of local artists on display at the museum.

This act of vandalism was misguided on so many levels.  Had the artist done his research, he would have realized that indeed their are more than a few South Florida artists represented in the Museums collection.

Currently running at the newly inaugurated Perez Art Museum in Miami is  “AMERICANA”, an exhibit which features local arists  José Bedia, Naomi Fisher, Lynne Golob Gelfman and Frances Trombly.  Upcoming shows later this year will feature Edouard Duval-Carrié and Adler Guerrier.  This only leads one to believe, that it was not the lack of representation of South Florida artists in the museum, but the omission of one artist in particular, that aroused Caminero’s ire.

Caminero was also misguided in his manner of protest, which he may have garnered from  Ai Weiwei’s own acts of activism.  The traveling survey exhibition “According to What?”  features works by Ai Weiwei that have been created over the past 20 years.  Much of the work on view has served Ai Weiwei as a platform for activism and freedom of expression.

On display in the museum, directly behind “Colored Vases” are three large black and white photographs documenting  Ai’s destruction of a Han dynasty urn.  In the first photograph Ai faces the camera directly, displaying an ancient urn. The second photo captures the urn in mid air as the artist’s hands irreverently release it to its assured fate.  In the third photograph the urns lays shattered at the feet of the artist.

Ai Weiwei destroyed the Han dynasty urn in an audacious act of protest, questioning the aura of antiquity and todays perceptions of art, history and politics. The important detail, that Caminero seemed to have missed, is that Ai Weiwei owned the vase and it was his to destroy.

Caminero admitted in a statement later that he had no idea of the vases worth.  Again misguided.

Acts of vandalism toward works of art in major institutions and galleries are not uncommon. In 2012 The Tate Modern in London suffered damage to Mark Rothko’s “Black on Maroon” 1958 when a young Russian born man claiming to be a co-founder of the yellowism art movement tagged the painting in black ink or paint with the words “Vladimir Umanets, A Potential Piece of Yellowism” .

The Menil Collection in Houston was also victimized recently, by a vandal who spray painted, an image of a matador, slaying a bull alongside the word, “Conquista”, onto Picasso’s 1929, “Woman in a Red Armchair” .  A fellow gallery visitor (accomplice?) captured the incident on video and uploaded it to You Tube, the vandal later liked it on his Facebook.

It is not just modern art that is targeted. Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa has suffered several attacks over the years,  some of the weapons of choice include acid, rocks, spray paint and a museum souvenir tea mug.  Bullet proof glass has protected the Mona Lisa from most recent attacks.

The reasons, individuals attack works of art, are as varied as the definition of art itself, but not all damage to art is intentional.  Accidents happen, in 2008 a visitor at London’s Royal Academy stumbled into a 9 foot tall ceramic sculpture by Costa Rican artist Tatiana Echeverri Fernandez, sending it crashing to the ground.  As the day progressed museum visitors assumed that the shards of pottery were a part of the exhibition and were seen taking pictures.

love, has also been used as an excuse for defacing art.  In 2007 a 30 year old french artist put on red lipstick and puckered up to an all white Cy Towmbly painting leaving her mark,  or as she put it, “I left a kiss”

And then there is the excuse, “I didn’t know it was art”  used by the cleaners when they found out that the half-full coffee cups, dirty ashtrays, beer bottles etc. they had thrown away at the Mayfair Gallery in 2001 was actually a work of art by Damien Hirst!

The destruction of art. for whatever reason serves no rational purpose, and when it is as misguided as it was in the case of Mr. Caminero, it is just sad.

Happy New Year


Brazil Art Fair Debuts in Wynwood.


Galeria Mercedes Viega

With the influx of Brazilians into the Miami Community, it was only a matter of time before they would stake their artistic claims.  Brazil Art Fair made it’s debut amongst the Art Basel Miami Beach satellite fairs, pitching it’s tent across the lawn from the Wynwood cluster of Art Miami and adjoining fairs.


Fair organizer, Ester Krivkin, explained that she envisioned an exhibition highlighting Brazilian Art as well as the creative Brazilian economy.  

Orchestra Brazil exhibited the latest in Brazilian furniture design and home decor.




Manageable in size and free to the public, Brazil Art Fair, hosted 24 booths. This gave ample space to enjoy the fair.

A bar serving Caipirinhas, a popular but potent brazilian drink and “pau de quejo”, a delicious cheese bread, best served hot, made it even more enjoyable!


Galeria Um zero Tres


Cris Bierrenbach @ Galeria Lourdina Jean Rabieh


Gallery booths, all hailing from either São Paulo or Rio de Janeiro, were a mix of well established and newer galleries. Some opened as recently as this year.  The artists shown were also diverse, ranging from internationally acclaimed artists to young newcomers.

A special exhibition curated for the fair by Luisa Duarte and Gabriel Bogossian, brought together 14 socially conscious Brazilian artists.  “Tempo Suspenso” (Suspended Time) addresses issues of post modernity in the latin world.  A once envisioned modern utopia, confronting the reality of broken dreams.


Artist Clarissa Toussin’s video “White Marble Everyday”  documents the meticulous cleaning of the long halls of the Supreme Court.  The white marble and constant cleansing of footsteps, alludes to an underlying analogy between Justice and Religion. 

In contrast to Toussin’s urban view, Artist Berna Reale looks toward the external periphery of Brazil, where the country borders with Bolivia.   Much like the American border with Mexico (only five times longer) this is a treacherous region of illegal immigration and drug smuggling. In her vide titled “Ordinário” the artist, dressed in black, walks stoically through a northern border town pushing a wheel barrel filled with the skeletal remains of 40 people. 


Matheus Rocha Pitta’s, red earth photographs “Brazil”, evoke contemporary Brazilian artist Artur Barrio’s “Livro de carne”.

Brazil Art Fair’s debut made a good showing, let’s hope they can come back next year with an expanded roster of galleries.  Brazil is after all, the fifth largest country in the world.

Images from the fair

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