Scope Miami and Art Basel Miami are upon us once again. I attended the opening of Scope Miami and was pleasantly surprised to have seen some incredible pieces. It seems like Scope has upped its game since last year. While I was disappointed at the lack of photographic works this year, I did love the varied approaches at mixed media, and I am happy to say that gimmicky pieces were few and far between. By gimmicky I mean relying on the process, or the media, much more than on the content of the piece. I have seen so many artists who find a gimmick, and reproduce it ad nauseum as differing works. You could literally walk into a gallery, see 10 pieces, and it wouldn’t matter which one you chose, as they all looked the same. At Scope, though, the works were high caliber, individual and varied; a really enjoyable show.
Obviously, some Scope Miami artists stood out; shoulders above the rest. The first two that made me want to throw my camera in the garbage, never to be held again due to my lack of talent (how many cameras will I need to throw away when I go see Art Basel), come from the Emmanuel Fremin Gallery which is always a favorite of mine. I have never been disappointed or nor been able to ridicule any pieces (a favorite pastime of mine) shown at his gallery. Emmanuel has an amazing ability to find truly unique and highly skilled artists who create works accessible to the public.
Among my favorites is Ted Lawson, a wonderful modern sculpture who excels at infusing warmth, emotion, and a fluidity into seemingly cold, monotone sculpted forms. He somehow allows the audience to mentally transform the static artifice into a colorful and vibrant entity. I have written about Ted Lawson before (click here for that posts) but this year, I had the chance to meet him. He is extremely nice and affable, without the annoying pretentiousness that surrounds many artists like they exude a corona of electrified goo that repels as you move closer to them. Ted would clearly be within his right to be pretentious however, as he has the talent to back it up. His newest work, on display as a large floor piece, shows a nude women, lying beneath a fallen tree, surrounded by a plethora of objects and shapes, alluding to an alien landscape. I always love the duality in Lawson’s work. In looking at the face of the woman, her head back, hair flowing on the ground, naked with her clothing next to her, eyes open looking out. You can’t help but wonder whether she has been murdered, discarded like garbage or whether this is a normal post sexual behavior, the woman looking out at her lover, exhausted, yet all on an alien world.
I tend to gravitate toward works that tell stories but they must maintain a certain ambiguity for me to become an active participant. It is a point I strive for in my photography. An image is akin to a stage with a cast of characters, but that stage setting is only a slice, a quick glimpse of the entire story. Without a past, the scene can have varied interpretations, allowing its future direction many potential outcomes. That ambiguity forces the viewer to become an active participant rather than just a passive viewer, creating their own interpretation of past, present, and future. Yet, there is a balancing act between providing too much information which ends up deciding the story for the viewer or, being too abstract and leaving the viewer with too many options. Both scenarios will force the view into passive mode. Lawson’s work pushes the viewer to that edge by first providing a juxtaposition of the two main subjects, tree and woman in dimensional detail, which by itself has many interpretations, and then providing additional plot direction through the objects placed among the surrounding landscape. It is a bit hard to explain in words.
The second work were macro images of naked dolls by Do Byung Kyu. Look at this one below. Really look at it closely. Blow it up if you have to. You probably wont notice but this is not a photograph. It’s a painting. No matter how much I studied it, as close as I got, the detail was so astounding that I just couldn’t tell it was not an actual photograph. It’s a technical masterpiece, beautifully structured and precise. The colors are true and the blur, as if taken with a macro lens increasing as the scene falls away from the camera, is so exact that I felt like I was being duped. I also love the subject matter, which for me is a a bit haunting. Dolls, in detail like this one, disturb me in a fascinating way.
It is probably a holdover from my childhood, watching Bride of Chucky. Bald dolls, in particular, always seem like little demons that will tell me they love me and then try to wedge a doll knife through my carotid artery. Seeing this image in a 3 ft. square drives that macabre even further. Additionally, the dolls are covered in fluid, maybe water juxtaposing the innocence of a baby bath with the dead eyes of these little Buddhas, or maybe more amniotic fluid as they burst from the gates of hell into our universe. I am probably pushing my own insecurities into this explanation but as I was saying earlier, it is up to the viewer to tell his or her own story. Let’s be clear also, I am not afraid of dolls. I just find them to be creepy. My only fear comes from mimes, which I imagine is true for everyone.
I leave it there for today but I’ll continue on with another disturbing set by Kukula, whose paintings border on the whimsical with a dash of killer doll thrown in for good measure.