ArtCentric

Miami Artist Kevin Arrow Featured at de la Cruz Collection Contemporary Art Space

All in all, it has been a quite terrific artcentric week in Miami, as we are blessed with gorgeous blue skies that to my irreversibly artcentric eyes are della Robbia blue.

Sunday night, on April 20, Eric and I went to the very fab opening at Bridge Red Studios / Project Space in North Miami, where I saw many wonderful "art buddies" from my old life as Miami Herald art critic.

Especially was glad to see terrific art by Barbara Neijna. Since I can't write about her for the paper any more, I am thrilled that I can include her work in the current show there in my May Critic's Choice for www.artcircuits.com Also it was great to see art by the exceptionally talented Robert Chambers and William Cordova in that exhibit.

And it was extra, extra fab to see William. I can't remember when I have seen him last! We gave each other a great big hug! We have been emailing recently, and I have told him about our fascinating ArtTable meetings. I am thrilled to learn that he hopes to come to our next one at Books & Books on May 10.

Then, on April 22, which is Good Friday and Earth Day, I feel so lucky that I was able to attend a most inspiring inter-faith breakfast at the home of the totally fab senior pastor, Laurie Hafner, for my always terrific church, Coral Gables Congregational Church.

That church has helped me through soooo much. Laurie and I are both daughters of the Midwest, and we both LOVE to speak our minds!

In honor of that church and the current O, Miami poetry festival, I thought I would start my blog today with poem I contributed to a booklet the church published for its congregation during Lent in 2009.

Lenten Devotional, inspired by Psalms 22:14-15

My skin was dead. My mind a prisoner
Stuck in a black hole of nothingness.
Sweet water blessed me back to this world.
Like liquid velvet it caressed the dead skin on my arm.
The steady, warm, soft spray of a morning shower
Tugged me out of the black hole.

A coma had captured my mind, killing
My skin and all sensations,
Brought on in a flash by a car accident that almost
Killed my beloved family.
A morning shower revived
The desert in my skin, kissing me back to the slow,
Sleepy path for a second chance.

My skin had been dead for days, it could send no
Sensory messages to my brain.
Simple messages I took for granted:
The wet kiss of water, the warm shine of sunlight,
The taste of coffee on my tongue.
Nothing came through.

The gift for shaping words with my tongue
Or sentences in my mind belonged
To another richly textured world,
Alive with sensations, still far beyond my reach.

Wet kisses of water and love brought me back.
They taught me to honor the gift of every minute in
Every day until we say
Good-bye to this life forever.

And so, in honor of the richness possible in every minute in every day, plus the richly talented group of artists now gracing Miami, I can actually write, as the TV journalists are always saying, "This just in..." !!

Just now I received this email press release announcing: "Prestigious West Prize for Contemporary Art Awarded to Billie Grace Lynn. Miami Artist to Use Prize for Cross-Country Ride with her Electric Mad Cow Motorcycle." For more info, see www.westcollection.org

Today I especially want to highlight the talents of Kevin Arrow. I also want to include his art in my May Critic's Choice.

I think it is quite fab that "Kevin Arrow: Amor Infinitus" is at the de la Cruz Collection Contemporary Art Space, 23 NE 41 St. in Miami through July 9. According to the handsomely printed flyer that Rosa gave me when I visited there recently, for this show, "Kevin Arrow has appropriated a group of 35 mm slides to create a site-specific installation based on the travels of a mysterious couple." For more info, see http://www.delacruzcollection.org/

This brought to mind the time I wrote about Kevin and his quite remarkable slide collection for The Miami Herald in October 2003. So nice of Kevin to email me the year when I wrote about that! Knowing the year made it sooo much easier for me to find it in my own personal archive of all that I have written for The Miami Herald.

So I am blogging about Kevin today.

BRINGING ELECTRONIC ART TO LIGHT

Leaning over a light box in his studio, where finicky grade-school-era film projectors share space with 1940s Life magazines and thousands of old slides and photo transparencies gleaned from garage and going-out-of-business sales, Kevin Arrow lays strips of gray plastic film in fanciful patterns across photographs of boring office equipment.

He fits together bits of dirt-gray film on bone-gray film. They form a mosaic for the colorblind--or maybe a craftsy collage appealing to only the most geeky and demented of office cubicle hermits.

And yet this small photo collage stands out as inspired and anachronistic wit, especially when compared to the far more technologically advanced videos and laptop-powered installations that surround it in "Plugged In: New and Electronic Art," a new show at the Art and Culture Center of Hollywood. Arrow's piece even slyly reminds us of the obsolescence that awaits technology spotlighted in "Plugged In."

Though South Florida museums have presented riveting shows by national and internationally known artists pushing the limits of video, DVD, and other electronic media, this exhibit is one of too few to take an extended look at the diverse talent here in this field.

The ambitious "Plugged In" focuses on mostly South Florida artists who haven't always gotten the attention they merit--like Michael Betancourt, Dimitry Said Chamy, Edward Bobb, and Elizabeth Hall. It also includes "Dynamic Ribbon Device" by Chicago-based artist Siebren Versteeg, which uses an Internet connection to meld live news feed with a video mimicking the Coke logo.

Better known for his experimental music, Bobb has choreographed "Gesture No. 4 (Multiple Peady)." In this cartoon, an impish troupe of plant and phallic forms cavort to electronic sounds, generated in part by thousands of simple drawings he sketched with his fingertips on a mouse pad.

One of the largest pieces in the show, Hall's chimerical video installation shows a woman who seems part bride and part extra-terrestial ephemera, breaking into a prismatic strata of frantic computer graphics. An emblem of information overload, it shimmers in a room swathed in pink tulle.

There's also a faux boardroom displaying a satiric motivational video skewering the art market and late-night infomercials. It's by a sassy group of anonymous, chiefly twenty-something South Florida performance artists who call themselves MSG--or "Multi-national Sales Group," explains one of the group's members, who calls himself Kenneth Cohen, but lets slip he also goes by Jorge.

ANACHRONISMS

And then there's the experimentally anachronistic Arrow.

"I think of myself as using old media for early 21st Century art," Arrow muses in his garage studio in Miami Beach, holding a well-read copy of the book New Media in Late 20th Century Art.

"Kevin is the antithesis of everything else in the show I was interested in, in the ideas of technology and how technology brings new tools to artists," explains Samatha Salzinger, the curator of "Plugged In."

But from the day in last February when she began visiting studios to find art for this show, Salzinger wanted to include Arrow.

"There's something so retro and intelligent and thoughtful about what he's doing," she says.

It's also a quixotic ode to 1950s TV Land that may suggest a bridge to more hectic and hi-tech pieces in the show.

"When I started curating I didn't realize how unapproachable art can be to some people," says Salzinger, an artist with a MFA from Yale. "Video is hands-down the most difficult for people to understand. I think it's because it's so much a part of our everyday life. Everyone watches TV. We think of this media as entertainment, and yet a lot of video art has no narrative--you can't watch it like TV. You have to be more open. A lot of the pieces are abstract, about evoking emotion."

There's no real story in Arrow's animated collage either, except what you project.

It shows a dated hulk of photo lab machinery originally captured in a photo transparency with all the yawn-inducing sterility of a trade show catalog, but now draped in mystery. In this altered picture, fat vines curl up walls and latch onto machinery controls. Slick and weird, these collaged vines recall the people-crunching flora in the fantasy flick Jumanji.

The plastic strips are actually 1950s relics, used to make early animation. When you look at them through a rotating plastic Polaroid filter Arrow has rigged up for a vintage film projector in his piece for "Plugged In," the strips make this boxy machine gyrate with eye-popping stripes. Projected by a beam of light on the wall, this image becomes a crazy optical delight on the cheap.

Think of a time machine whirring manically in an old cartoon.

Accompanied by a spoofy text claiming the piece involves declassified FBI documents, Arrow's work is called "Untitled (Hell)." It takes a cue from the machine's brand name of Hell, which is also German for "light," but doesn't totally avoid hints of a fiery apocalypse fueled by runaway technology.

Says Arrow, "I just love creating these small intricate things that you can project on a large scale with light."

UNDERGROUND QUALITY

He's not alone. Others in the show have wrought a flickering network of intricate details that unfold over time, like Chamy's dream sequence of pillows bathed in blue rainfall, but they are fashioned electronically on a computer screen with pixels rather than on a light box with hand-cut slivers of plastic.

Betancourt's films are a mercurial flow of mesmerizing geometric designs. They're built up with a complex process that plays glitches deep inside computers against the technology for recording outer space phenomena like sun flares. One work unfurls lush abstractions, another reinvents a travelogue of India.

Hall also works with glitches to push the language of video. And as a well-traveled curator who has staged innovative one-night festivals of video and electronic art around town, she maintains a website for fostering new art at http://www.experimentalshow.org/

Such work could be more visible in South Florida, says Hall. She'd like to see artists here have affordable access to the kind of costly technology that video and electronic work requires, like facilities in Boston and New York charging a fraction of some of Miami's rates of $1,000 a day.

But the underground quality of this art is also a plus. When there aren't a lot of commercial galleries bent on showing and selling high-resolution videos and DVDs, she said, it's easier to avoid highly polished paths.

"The good think about Miami is that there is a lot of freedom to experiment," she explains, "and not to conform to what a gallery would want."

[Blogger's Note: Although generally this artcentric week in Miami has been quite rewarding in many ways, I do have to say that this brain-injured and most definitely-not-dead-yet free-lance art critic and journalist is quite distressed and annoyed to ruminate about a recent phone conversation. During that phone conversation, as she recalls, she was encouraged to consider blogging about her ideas regarding the future of journalism. "Well, I never," as one of my fave characters in 1950s TV Land used to say. Who on earth would want to hear what this digital dinosaur, as I often call myself, has to say about THAT?? Doing this blog takes quite enough of my limited physical resources, thank you very much.]

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