December 2011: Pulse and Scope Art Fairs in Review


Brent Birnbaum, 'Porno for Pyros' (2011) Mixed Media, 36" x 36" x 10" Courtesy of a.m.f projects, New York

A short introductory note (unusual as my writing never includes the first-person perspective, but it will be brief): I love Art Basel Miami Beach. I’ve accepted the insanity of the hyper-bourgeois dinners and parties as commonplace and know that these do not detract from the presence of challenging works in the Miami Beach Convention Center as well as the diverse range of satellite fairs. Time and again I’m playing defense against critics and visitors who grumble about failed attempts at party/fair-crashing and, thus, lump these sour experiences into their limited glances at the works (which, in the end, are what matter most). Having shed this uncomfortable thought, I’ll offer my own highlights within one remarkable week between two fairs.

Before the doors of the mega-fair opened on the morning of November 30, SCOPE Miami and Art Asia 2011 (under a single pavilion in Midtown Miami) opened to the press. SCOPE, helmed by founder Alexis Hubshman and director Mollie White, has always been the ‘fun’ fair, attracting a pointedly younger audience by nature of the age of the exhibiting gallerists, but also a less-presumptive, more street-smart attitude than that emanating from the Swiss juggernaut. Standouts from SCOPE included a unique twelve-screen video installation by David Rosenbloom from Costa Rican gallerist Jacob Karpio, offering a meditative aerial view of Tokyo at twilight named ‘Sengen’s Window’ (for the prevailing goddess of Mount Fuji). For mass enjoyment, Karpio also featured a mini astro-turfed mountain range as a physical counterpoint, called ‘Soccer Field’ by Pricilla Monge. In collaboration with serial gallerist Katherine Mulherin, Brooklyn-based{CTS} creative thriftshop offered a colorful range of 1950’s-inspired pop conversations from Eric Doeringer, David Kramer, Jack Balaa, and Victoria Campillo. Basel’s Licht Field displayed a particularly turbulent duo of works from Swiss artist MARCK, showing a woman trapped in a swimming pool framed by a set of fangs. Ever the eye-catcher was Marla Hamburg Kennedy’s booth of penetrating photography, followed by the inevitable ‘encapsulated’ nod to street art via San Francisco’s White Walls Gallery featuring ABOVE, the traveling sticker bonanza known as ‘Stuck Up: A History of Sticker Culture’ and Miami’s powerful Primary Flight collective featuring Kenton Parker’s Taco Shop. Bitingly clever neon signage flickered from ‘That’s what he said’ to ‘that’s what she said’ thanks to Daria Brit Shapiro’s dedicated presentation of Brent Birnbaum with a.m.f. projects, New York. It’s worth noting that this fair had the healthiest representation of Miami’s gallery constituency (eight, in total) including Waltman Ortega Fine Art, Robert Fontaine, Hardcore Contemporary Art Space, Butter Gallery, Black Square Gallery and Spinello Projects.

Far and away the best incarnation of Cornell DeWitt’s Pulse Contemporary Art Fair is held in Miami. Stationed in the spacious film production studio known as The Ice Palace, Pulse Miami shows a sharply presented, diverse range of works predominantly from American galleries. The subsection IMPULSE devotes space to emerging and special solo projects. While a lineup of A-list starlets were known to pass through the fair over the course of four days, the real stars were works focused on light, itself. From Danziger Projects’ Christopher Bucklow (who has reinvigorated camera-less photography with his dazzling ‘Guests’ series) to Jim Campbell’s ‘Exploded View’ with the Hosfeldt Gallery (it’s been reported that Wal-Mart heiress Alice Walton purchased another of Campbell’s works onsite), to Brookhart Jonquil’s spare neon installation courtesy of Miami’s own Dorsch Gallery; lights were brightened further by the fluid pace of sales and a breathable curatorial setup. Known for its significant concentration of photography, Pulse revealed gems from Warhol and Steichen (Danziger Projects), Mapplethorpe (Galerie Stefan Roepke), Erwin Olaf (Hasted Kraeutler) and Simen Johan (Yossi Milo). Highly developed, small-scale installation works included Björn Schülke’s ‘Solar’ mobiles, a charming pastoral video inside a crystal-studded slipper from young Canadian artist Nici Jost and James Clar’s piercing fluorescents in 'A Moment Defined By a Point and a Line (Amadou Diallo)'. This felt like a truly international offering with galleries from Tokyo, Mexico City, Basel, London, Berlin, Miami, Vienna and New York all on deck with a challenging, but not alienating, aesthetic agenda. More intellectually developed than SCOPE and less stuffy than Art Basel Miami Beach, Pulse as a creative effort and viewing experience was a true success. Another personal note: jetting through the fair alongside my editor, Noah Becker, and Sonic Youth guitarist Lee Ranaldo somehow made the whirlwind experience even more, dare it be said, illuminating.

Christopher Bucklow 'Tetrarch' (From the 'Guests' Series) (2009)
Cibachrome print Courtesy of Danziger Projects, New York

James Clar, 'A Moment Defined By a Point and a Line (Amadou Diallo)' , (2010) Acrylic & CCFLs
(cold cathode fluorescent lamps), 16 ½ x 12 x 8 inches, Courtesy of Blythe Projects, Culver City

Installation view at SCOPE Miami 2011, Courtesy of Mulherin, Toronto/New York, {CTS} creative thriftshop.

MARCK Tauchen, (2009) Video installation, (2 parts) 80 x 40 x 12 cm, Courtesy of Licht Field, Basel

Installation view at SCOPE Miami 2011 Courtesy of Waltman Ortega Fine Art, Miami/Paris

Shana Beth Mason

Shana Beth Mason is a critic formerly based in Brooklyn now active in London, UK. Contributions include Art in America, ArtVoices Magazine, FlashArt International, InstallationMag (Los Angeles), (Oslo), The Brooklyn Rail, The Miami Rail, San Francisco Arts Quarterly (SFAQ), and (London).




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