Twelve Miami Artists Kick-Off 10th Anniversary Celebration
Using The Past As A Tool:
An Interview With Frost Art Museum FIU Chief Curator, Amy Galpin
“Deconstruction: A Reordering of Life, Politics and Art” opened at the Frost Art Museum FIU, Miami, as a 10th Anniversary kick-off celebration on Sat., July 14 with an opening celebration with the artists. Art enthusiasts can view the exhibit by 12 internationally-renown artists until September 30. If you have plans to be in Miami between now and then, exhibition curator Amy Galpin invites you to explore art created by Eddie Arroyo, Zachary Balber, Frida Baranek, Christopher Carter, Leyden Rodriguez-Casanova, Yanira Collado, Gonzalo Fuenmayor, Pepe Mar, Glexis Novoa, Sandra Ramos, Jamilah Sabur, and Frances Trombly.
Dr. Jordana Pomeroy, Frost Art Museum FIU director described the exhibition as “bold.”
“For this major exhibition celebrating the 10th anniversary of our spectacular building, these twelve Miami artists boldly confront current global issues,” Pomeroy said. “Some say Miami’s vibrant art scene can be overshadowed by the art fairs that descend upon our destination every December, and the question looms large. As this city experiences a major growth boom, working artists in Miami have a broadening range of opportunities and challenges.”
If you’ve already seen this exhibit, please read and digest the contents of my interview with Amy Galpin, exhibition curator or if you’ve stood before the artists’ works first hand, please share your comments with my readers. Amy elaborates and sheds light on the Miami visual arts’ landscape 51 weeks of the year with an emphasis on this progressive exhibition you won’t want to miss.
Why do we need to take a step back in order to fully understand our world today?
I think the way information and images are presented feels abrupt, fast, and at times jarring. I feel that sometimes we rush to judgment or that we multi-task to the point of total anxiety and exhaustion. Technology and news are an important part of everyday life as is multitasking, but perhaps a reflection, looking at something from a different perspective, re-ordering the status quo and certain expectations can yield new ways of thinking and new forms of experience.
How and why did you select these particular artists? Literally and figuratively? What were the parameters?
When I started working on this exhibition, I was driven by objects. I wanted to get a core group of artists who I was drawn to their practice as opposed to imposing a theme on their work. I wanted to present lots of different media, and include some longtime Miami residents and some artists who were newer residents to the city. I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t just re-hashing projects that had been done before in the past. I looked for objects that I hoped would engage viewers on different levels and also objects that would testify to the tremendous talent that sustains our city. Once I had selected some of the work, I started thinking about what was the connective tissue and once the checklist was final, I revised my ideas again.
What are a few of the tools the artists incorporate into their art that can help us to make sense of our present-day society?
I think some of the artists use the past as a tool. Christopher Carter incorporates leather, metal objects, and wood that he has held on to for many years and then reimagines their significance in his work. He carves the wood and makes dramatic large-scale sculptures that can function as a type of personal totem. Pepe Mar brings together the work of the late artist Craig Coleman and assorted ephemera from the early 90s in South Beach. Mar combines his own archive with that of Coleman to create both a mournful and celebratory tribute. Another tool is the materials themselves. In a new sculpture, Yanira Collado uses cuaba soap found readily in the Dominican Republic. She uses an easily accessible soap and re-shapes it to evoke cinderblocks to form a metaphorical portal. Frances Trombly combines traditions of painting, sculpture, and textile work in her practice. She highlights the laborious process of embroidery in a subtle and even seductive manner.
What are some of the challenges related to curating an exhibit with multiple artists? How do you address those challenges as a curator?
I try to think through how each artist will feel about the way their work is presented in the gallery and how it is discussed on an object label. I am incredibly honored that four of the artists made new work to debut in the exhibition and that two additional artists are presenting particular works for the first time in this exhibition. The artists who made new work we needed to check in with regularly and carefully to make sure we were allotting the right amount of space, that the works would be completed in time, that we understood what needed to be shipped to the museum and how, and finally, how we could facilitate the installations in the space. I am grateful for the museum’s team in assisting with the new work that was created for this exhibition.
How does the exhibit relate to the museum’s mission and permanent exhibits?
The museum aims to create transformative experiences, to invite visitors to think about something different than they may have before. The museum’s temporary exhibitions can give a platform for both established and emerging artists who work in diverse disciplines. From sculpture to painting and photography, this exhibition brings together divergent practices. Our current permanent collection exhibition, “Connectivity” celebrates the richness of our collection while also highlighting certain strengths such as modern Cuban paintings and the work of local artists. I wanted to present the breadth of our collection, but also to emphasize things that make us special like many Miami artists represented in our collection. The permanent collection installation connects various objects through thematic groupings such as abstract languages, geographic spaces, individuality, belief systems, and as citizens during turbulent times. In a similar fashion, Deconstruction aims to bring together work that you might not expect to see in the same exhibition under a broader thematic approach and concept.
What are some of the emotions you believe the artists’ works evoke?
I think Pepe Mar’s installation Varla TV, a new work created for the exhibition, evokes a sense of longing for the past in its reference to South Beach as a space of counterculture and of raucous partying. However, it also evokes a certain sadness. While it celebrates the life of Craig Coleman who also performed and was known as Varla, it reminds viewers of the effect of the HIV/AIDS crisis. Craig died before the drug cocktail was made widely available. He was one of many artists gone way too soon.
Briefly describe Miami’s cultural and art scene and how it has evolved over the past decade. How would you differentiate Miami as an art hub versus other metropolitan cities?
I am a newer resident of Miami, so I can’t exactly answer the first part of the question, although, I have been visiting the city for some time and I am a long-time fan. I think there are a number of strong museum and gallery programs in addition to non-for-profit art spaces and artists that work together to create a significant cultural ecosystem. In terms of comparisons to other metropolitan cities, I think there is a real community here where one can experiment and try out new ideas. I think the artists, galleries, and museums in Miami need more financial resources, but I am excited by new initiatives. There are also a number of things that make Miami a special place that feeds into its character of the city as an artistic hub. This is a city deeply affected by immigrant experience and global influences. Many artists who call Miami home are informed by migration and multiple cultural influences and experiences.
From a travel perspective, what are a few facts the world needs to know about the arts in Miami?
Each month, every day of the year, there are incredible works of art to view and experience in this city. There are a number of museums that do quality programming throughout the year.
Visit frost.fiu.edu to learn more about the exhibit.