If you needed confirmation that we’re finally coming out of the dark, just look to Miami’s cultural scene.
The Cleveland Orchestra has announced its return to the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, with two weekends of performances in January 2022. Miami City Ballet plans to release a schedule of live performances for fall and winter later this summer.
As for the visual arts, there’s no need to wait. Nearly all the museums are open and galleries are debuting new shows, providing plenty of air-conditioned relief for the heat weary.
UP FROM THE NETHERWORLD
Pandemic isolation created both the breathing space — and the impetus — for video artist Marco Bambrilla’s latest work, now on display at Pérez Art Museum Miami.
For Brambilla, lockdown brought the onslaught of daily COVID reports and nonstop political messages to a deafening crescendo. The 24-hour news cycle and social media combined to render the pandemic as “a sensational event as well as a disaster and biological event,” he says.
The result is “Heaven’s Gate,” an eight-minute video ascending — literally — along on a 14-foot high column incorporating thousands of images from films. Buffs will recognize snapshots of scenes — Beyonce from “Austin Powers,” Audrey Hepburn from “Funny Face,” Christopher Walken from “King of New York,” Matthew McConaughey from “Wolf of Wall Street,” and Leonardo DiCaprio raising a glass from “Great Gatsby” as they travel in a satiric, Dante-esque journey through time from the Jurassic era to the 2021 Capitol riot (which Brambilla presciently incorporated into the project prior to the actual event, by which time the film had been finished.)
The dizzying result is a kaleidoscopic homage to 16th century painter Hieronymus Bosch that “tests the tolerance how much a person can assimilate,” Brambilla says. “A younger person might feel very comfortable with the density; a different generation might feel overwhelmed.” Especially when it comes to the VR version. (Yes, there really is one.)
The film is the fourth in a series of video collages Brambilla launched in 2012. During his career, he also has collaborated with NASA, Kanye West and Marina Abramovic. Last year he directed a short film starring Cate Blanchett. Through 2021.
A CUBAN-AMERICAN ICON
Emilio Sanchez was best known for his paintings for architectural forms, from a simple house in Cuba to the grand skyscrapers of New York. Later in his career, the late Cuban-born artist added other graphic forms — including flowers and sailboats — to his artistic language. His use of light and color bring vibrancy to subjects, imbuing them with life despite the absence of people.
This striking work is being celebrated with the release by the U.S. Postal Service of a forever stamp, marking Sanchez’s 100th birthday.
Locally, LnS Gallery is marking his influence with “Emilio Sanchez Revisited,” a retrospective including works from every decade of his professional life, along with mementos gathered by friends, to present an intimate portrait.
Gallerist Sergio Cernuda decided on the show because of the significance of Sanchez’s modernist work, in the tradition of contemporaries Georgia O’Keefe and Edward Hopper. He collaborated with University of Miami lecturer Victor Deupi, author of “Emilio Sanchez in New York and Latin America.”
And of course, because of his pioneering role. “He was the first Cuban-American artist accepted into the New York art scene of the 1950s. He was really a pioneer,” Cernuda said. Sanchez is also the first Cuban-American artist whose work has been depicted on a postage stamp.
“As an American of Cuban descent, I felt such great pride that people all across the world will be receiving letters with these stamps,” said Cernuda. Through Aug. 14.
Art lovers who remember those long-ago pre-pandemic days — way back in 2019 — might recall an Art Miami booth presented by gallerist Mark Borghi filled with striking black sculptures crafted from rubber tires. Even those who didn’t make it inside were treated to a sinuous, larger-than-life work marking the fair’s entrance that seemed alive, both aged and youthful all at once.
Those magical, sometimes menacing works come from the hands and mind of Chakaia Booker, a New York-based sculptor. Though Booker is now in her late 60s, her first comprehensive museum survey show is just being showcased now, at the Institute of Contemporary Art-Miami. A full floor is filled with the monumental portals, creatures and surprisingly human figures that appear both scaly and sleek crafted in rugged and ragged tires — an exploration of race, culture, gender and waste.
It perhaps should be no surprise that earlier in practice, Booker focused in flamboyant wearable art. Some of the sculptures seem ready to dance across the floor like scarified tribal dancers.
Incorporated into the show are the artist’s paintings and photographs. Though engaging for context, the works are swept away by the scale and majesty of her rubber dragons.
“Chakaia Booker: The Observance” runs through Oct. 31.
LENS ON MIAMI
For those who mistakenly think that Miami’s art scene began with Art Basel, a visit to the Patricia & Philip Frost Art Museum FIU is clearly in order.
Back in the 60s, when tie-dyed T-shirts and yoga in the park were first a thing, the local nexus of pop culture was Coconut Grove. Jack Lemon kept a winter home there, rolling through the shady lanes in his convertible and chatting with the neighbors.
In the historic Bahamian West Coconut Grove, Robert McKnight, Dinizulu Gene Tinne and Pamela Kabuya Bowens-Saffo were among those who hung out at the Miami Black Arts Workshop teaching arts and activism.
White artists — including Ronni Bogaev, Charles Humes, Erika King, Martin Kreloff, Eugene Massin and Neith Nevelson — painted, collaged, drew and sculpted, giving rise to Coconut Grove Arts Festival (dating back to 1963), the Goombay Festival (established in 1977), and the satiric King Mango Strut Parade, founded in 1982.
Those heady, counterculture days are gone, lost to rising land prices and a tonier way of life. But they live in a new show, “Place and Purpose: Art Transformation in Coconut Grove.” Through Sept. 18.
“Peggy Levison Nolan: Blueprint for a Good Life,” showcases domesticity through the eyes of a long-time Miami photographer and FIU instructor.
“When my youngest was about 3, my dad gave me an old Nikon and said, ‘make pictures of the grandchildren,’” Nolan said in a statement. “And I got hooked. I got so hooked I can’t even describe it to you. One roll of film got me.”
Black-and-white images from the 80s and 90s recall moments of everyday life — haircuts, naps, relationships — through the eyes of a single mother of seven in a working-class neighborhood. Through Aug. 211.
IN THE GALLERIES
Miami’s gallery scene grows ever more robust, with compelling exhibitions that deserve attention.
▪ Interdisciplinary artist Kameelah Janan Rasheed is a New York-based educator, writer and artist lauded for her storytelling in video animation, murals, publications, installations, collage — even audio. Piero Atchugarry Gallery near the Design District presents her first Miami show, “Everyone will be saved through the algebra (A casual mathematics, II)” featuring video animation, a public mural, wall painting, and large-scale diagrammatic prints. Through July 24.
5520 NE 4th Ave., Miami; 305-639-8247; pieroatchugarry.com.
▪ In another first, Bill Brady Gallery presents the first U.S. solo show of work by Nigerian artist Victor Obah . “Life’s a Beach” reminds us of the importance of joy, friends and celebration. Through July 17.
90 NW 72nd Street, Miami; 305-418-0733; billbradygallery.com.
▪ Though Miami native Bhakti Baxter now works and lives in California, he remains a favorite with local audiences. His current show of paintings and drawings, “Heat Transfer,” are painted outdoors in arid conditions where paint dries rapidly even though they are first soaked in water. Through this collaboration with the elements, Baxter continues his ongoing exploration of the relationship between science, spirituality and the geometric systems of nature. Through July 31 at Nina Johnson Gallery.
6315 NW 2nd Ave., Miami; 305-571-2288; ninajohnson.com.
MUSEUMS AND MORE
▪ Oolite Arts has emerged as one of the region’s fiercest champion of local artists. In its current show, Natural Transcendence, Oolite presents the works of seven artists who explore our new appreciation for nature forged by the isolation of the pandemic. The show, curated by filmmaker Rhonda Mitrani, includes work by Adler Guerrier, Megan McLarney, Colleen Plumb, Anastasia Samoylova, Jennifer Steinkamp, Wendy Wischer and Antonia Wright. Through Aug. 26 by appointment.
928 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach; 305-674-8278; oolitearts.org.
▪ Boca Raton Museum of Art presents the first museum solo show of work by Miami-based artist Vickie Pierre. “Be My Herald of What’s to Come” presents a splintered fairy tale of dark history and hope for a better future through massive, baroque installations that explore colonialism, decoration and femininity while paying tribute to Black lives lost. Through Sept. 5.
501 Plaza Real, Boca Raton; 531-392-2500; bocamuseum.org.