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Bad Boys, Bad Painting



Deliberate disregard for accepted art movements, sovereignty of fancy and freedom to provoke are just a few of the characteristics that unite Francis Picabia, Julian Schnabel and J.F Willumsen.

Rejecting categorization by art world critics, these bad boys, employ unrestrained  strategies of appropriation, pastiche, disorder and kitsch.


Julian Schnabel, Untitled (girl with no eyes) 2013

Schnabel,  the sole artist of the trio still living and causing trouble, was happy to have the space provided by the two story atrium of the Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale  to display three of his large scale works including two monumental variations of “Girl with no eyes”


Francis Picabia, “Pierrot pendu’ 1941

Originally presented, at the J.F. Willumsen Museum near Copenhagen, “Café Dolly”: Picabia, Schnabel, Willumsen, derived it’s title, from the café where the exhibitions curators often met.  Dolly was the name of the first cloned mammal, a female domestic sheep. The event caused outrage by some, sparking questions of identity, authenticity and ethics, the same questions may come up when discussing works by, Francis Picabia, Julian Scnabel and J.F. Willumsen.

Both Picabia and Willumsen were born at the turn of the century, when photography liberated artists from representational concerns and allowed them to explore questions of art more profoundly.

It was an era of isms, Fauvism, Futurism, Cubism etc.  Both artists flirted with modern art movements, accepting and then rejecting them.

At the age of 28, Willumsen penned a mini manifesto on a small primitive sketch of his pregnant wife, that read: 

“Old art has an old language that we’ve slowly come to understand.

New art has a new language that one has to learn to understand.”

The young artist addressed religious and sociopolitical issues in a grand scale painting made early in his career.“The Wedding of the Kings Son” was rejected by critics at the time, thus relegating it to obscurity for 60 years.  At the end of the artists career, he revisited his old friend and modified the painting extensively, with the maturity and philosophy of an older, wiser, often misunderstood artist. 


J.F. Willumsen, “The Wedding of the King’s Son” 1888-1949

The final iteration of the large scale painting resembles the product, of the surrealist game, Exquisite Corpse.  Each section seems to have been painted without the benefit of seeing the rest of the picture. With it’s juxtaposition of traditional academic, and brazen contemporary artistic styles, this painting could serve as bookends to a career spanning over 70 years.


Francis Picabia, “L’Etreinte” 1940-44

Francis Picabia, was a fringe participant of twentieth century avante garde movements, a prolific artist who was in constant search of new ways to paint.  He was an early leader in the Dadaist movement, but later ostracized by it’s followers when he declared “Dada” dead, criticizing it’s members, for taking themselves too seriously.


Francis Picabia, “La terre est ronde” 1951

Works in this exhibition, focus on the artist’s later years, a time when he breezed through many different styles, seeking notoriety and  frustrating critics who used terms like, embarrassing and boring.  His figurative works appropriated pop culture icons and images from girlie magazines.  In the years before his death Picabia painted abstract works featuring random dots and pure color. “Point” and “La terre est ronde” are on view in this exhbition


Julian Schnabel, “Portrait of Alba Clemente” 1987

Julian Schnabel, is an artist who is still exploring critical question of art, and we see this in a broad retrospective of the artists works to date. Schnabel,s oeuvre ranges from figurative to abstraction but like Picabia, it is never linear.  On view, are early works, from the painted plate and resin series as well as more recent Grand Scale figurative and abstract works. 


Julian Schnabel, “Las Ninas” 1997

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J.F. Willumsen “Self portrait in painters smock” 1933

While exploring the rationality of painting and its’s place in history, artists often turn introspective, painting self portraits that examine their own existence.

In a 1933 “Self-Portrait”  Willumsen depicted himself in a painters smock, spattered with remnants of his latest works.  The artist stands before a blank white canvas with the plaintive gaze of a martyr. 


J.F. Willumsen, The Riddle of the Heavens, Third picture of the Titian Dying trilogy 1938

In the “Titian Dying Trilogy”, Willumsen stages his own death and then resurrection.  “The Riddle of the Heavens”, the third picture of the trilogy,  depicts Willumsen’s body merged with that of a tiger.  Meditations of life and death are pondered as he floats awkwardly, in an unknown atmosphere.


Julian Schnabel, Untitled (Self portrait) 2004

A  2004 untitled “Self-Portrait” by Julian Schnabel reflects the artists ego, as he considers himself, Velasquez.  Schnabel stands, as the Spanish master, with his monumental canvas taking up half of the picture plane.  Rather than the little princess and her court, Schnabel focuses all of the attention onto the artist, himself.


Francis Picabia, “Self portrait” c.1940-42

In “Self Portrait” 1940-42 Francis Picabia pictures himself in a ménage á trois.  The dramatic lighting and intense colors in this painting are motifs the artist often sourced from soft porn magazines of the day. Although Picabia dismissed any affiliation with the surrealist movement, associations could be deduced, particularly in several smaller pencil drawings also on display.

The artists in this exhibition are extremely independent, painting as they wished without following any particular fashion or school. The exhibition is curated by visual artists, Claus Carstensen and Christian Vind, along with  Ann Gregersen PHD, researcher at the University of Copenhagen and J.F. Willumsen Museum.

 In bringing works by Picabia, Schnabel and Willumsen together, the curators create a cohesive exhibition through related themes, and wall text drawing out similarities.


J.F. Willumsen “The Birthday Cake. A Joke” 1943

With some 75 works on display, there is a broad view of technical styles by these artists. They range from the masterful to the unpolished.  Some falling into the category of  “bad painting” as described by Marcia Tucker, founding director of the New Museum in 1978 when she wrote for the exhibition catalog  “Bad Painting” :

“The artists whose work will be shown have discarded classical drawing modes in order to present a humorous, often sardonic, intensely personal view of the world.”

Picabia, Schnabel and Willumsen, bad boys, bad painting.


October 12, 2014 – February 1, 2015
Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale 


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.

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