“Outside the Box2” is the second biennial exhibition of outdoor, site-specific art in South Florida. This unique and alternative format is a spectacle of color, images & sounds featuring 37 installations by innovative contemporary artists that will interact with the unique landscape & outdoor environment. Attendees will find artwork on the lake waterfront, marshy beach, the wide stretch of grass, in the bushes and trees, and around/on the building and wrap around tarmac, ranging from hand-sculpted ceramics and found object assemblage to video art, performances, and interactive installations.
The exhibit is Curated by Lisa Rockford, and situated at the uniquely prestigious Whitespace-The Mordes Collection on scenic waterfront in Palm Beach. The inaugural event in 2012, featured installations by 22 artists from South Florida, attracted hundreds of art enthusiasts, and was covered extensively in local media. This year’s exhibit has grown in scope with nearly double the amount of installations, and including artists from throughout Florida, from Gainesville to Tampa to Miami.
Some artworks will stand out right away, due to their vivid colors, or large scale. Visitors will be confronted by the monstrous scale of Andrew Nigon’s artwork, “Oh! Oh God!” which is a colorful 12 foot elephant, made of found objects & insulation foam. The sculpture is in a continual evolution, its gestural positioning and surfaces textures changing each time it is shown, based on the artists’ changing worldview. According to the artist, the elephant is an “endlessly comforting god that absorbs my uncertainties, instead of offering critical judgments.” Andrew is modifying the elephant a fourth time to exhibit it outdoors for this event.
Onlookers will be also be immediately drawn to Carmen Tiffany’s whimsical video animation, which she calls a “liquid painting”. It will be projected billboard size on the front wall, easily seen from the road. As viewers walk around the building, there are more intimately scaled, or quieter works amongst the scenery that only the most observant visitors will find, like the “miniature dreamscapes” of Christine Fogel, or the installation by Martin Casuso, which is unassumingly hidden under the portico.
Other captivating artworks will force attendees to stop and look as they make their way along the tarmac toward the waterfront installations. For example, Judy Polstra’s femme fatale sculptures are always crowd-pleasers wherever they are exhibited, probably due to the sheer number of parts assembled together to make up each figure. Judy had never before thought of exhibiting her work outdoors, and had to be courted by the curator to submit a proposal. You can examine her sculptures for hours and still find something new, from teeth, to jewelry, to buttons, and toy parts.
Many will surely want to pause for a photo op at the installation by Pilar Batlle. Pilar is part of the new trend of “Yarn Bombing” street art, only instead of yarn, she uses “Plarn” (plastic yarn). Her pseudonym on the street is “The Trashy Spider.” As an environmental statement, Pilar cuts ups postconsumer waste (plastic bags) to crochet doily-like decorative designs and cover objects like trees, fire hydrants, and parking meters. The durability of the plastic makes them an ideal material for outdoor use. For this exhibit, Pilar is covering a gate at the front of the property, and chairs, which people are welcome to sit in.
As part of the proposal process, artists were also encouraged to incorporate a light source into their design. One prime example of self-lit work is a dynamic piece by Mark Joseph Oliver, who just relocated to Florida last year to be an art professor at Florida Atlantic University. When Lisa Rockford asked Mark to submit a proposal, he immediately wanted to re-appropriate his sculpture “Telecommunication,” which consists of acrylic rods protruding from a working TV set. The clear rods dramatically emphasize the colorful light of the images on TV, and transform it into an ethereal work that seduces the viewer like a moth to a flame. His idea was to transmute the sculpture into a meteorite that has humorously just landed on a couch, that he explains is a portrayal of the way television has affected domestic life. For this event, the Tv will play movies that shaped his childhood and worldview.
As visitors weave their way along the asphalt through more sculptural interventions and projections, they will pass through a gate into the second stage of installations on the backside of the property, along the waterfront. This area will include three different live performances, ongoing throughout each night. Mumbi O’Brien and Kaleb Durocher collaborated on a performance with precisely linked digital components. For the performative component, there will be a head-dressed character that embodies the essence of the moon. The front of their garment is a cream color and the back is black to represent the dark side of the moon. The headdress will also be circular to emphasize the cyclical nature of the moon, constructed of repurposed materials, synthetic hair, wooden reeds, and fabric. The performer will be completely covered from head to toe with their face obscured and hands painted so the emphasis is not on their identity but rather that which they are embodying. The digital component of the piece is a projection facing down towards the earth. The projector will be controlled from a laptop so that when moon character enters this particular location, an active projection will begin to encircle them, morphing and rotating with imagery of the various stages of the moon.
Further down the grass, Joseph Herring will stage a performative installation entitled “Broward County Botanical Melodramatic: A Conversation between the Saw Palmetto and the Spanish Bayonet on the Pros and Cons of Obligate Pollination Mutualism vs. Indiscriminate Polyamorous Pollination involving the poetics of interaction between costumed plants and insects.”
For this performance, Joseph elucidates that: “Two plants, the Saw Palmetto and the Spanish Bayonet, sit atop giant tripods and communicate back and forth using plant telepathy. Root systems hang down from both plants. The plants will interact with the insects on the ground, the Honey Bee and the Yucca Moth, through their root systems, both physically and telepathically. Physically in that the roots will move through the actions of a puppeteer, telepathically in that the puppeteer will play kit-bashed and circuit bent electronic game-instruments with the attached hanging roots. The insects will react to the sounds and respond with electronic sounds of their own, fed to radios around their necks from computers underneath the tripods. The games bent for sound will include Operation, Simon, and various Nintendo DS Lite games with interesting audio. Audio will also include the plants conversing through megaphones, and the conversation will sound like a mix of DADA poetry and the Children's Television Workshop's The Electric Company. The piece will refer not only to the installation and performance's relationship to the physical environment, but also to the specific geographical location. The Saw Palmetto and The Spanish Bayonet are two plants indigenous to the area. The Saw Palmetto has played an important part in the life of Floridians since before the Spanish invasion, and this history will be explored aurally during the performance.”
As visitors continue exploring the waterfront, and look out into the water, they will notice a otherworldly, large glowing white island in the shape of a baby, by Kevin Curry. The floating sculpture was elaborately planned through computer programming and will be created in a mosaic of geometric parts using a CNC router. The piece is titled “Lost and Found” and “addresses the innocence and potential of beginnings, as well as the sadness and regret of hindsight.”
An installation that only the most perceptive viewers will find on the waterfront are the organic sculptures of Amalia Mermingas. Amalia was inspired by the way Andy Goldsworthy works endlessly on an earthwork sculpture only to watch it fall apart. As result, her artworks are intentionally ephemeral, made with unfired ceramics, and placed at the water’s edge, so that they dissolve and change shape over the course of the night from the erosion of the water’s tides. Amalia states that she is releasing her sculptures like a performance. The viewer can watch the clay sculptures become reclaimed by nature.
The final elaborate performance is on the opposite end of the beach, called “Kicking Comets,” by Craig Smith’s entourage, will be the most boisterous. Craig’s oeuvre consistently focuses “The Art of Sport,” and this performance will likewise be highly athletic, consisting of endless, repetitive place-kicking by the artist of footballs from the shoreline toward a boat with three other performers waiting in the water. The performers in the water will have search lights on their heads and hand-held fishing nets, zigzagging the boat, attempting to catch or capture the balls. A vintage Porsche 911 will be placed on the beach to illuminate the artist and boat with its headlights. The footballs will have reflective tape so that they look like comets sailing through the air.
There are more notable installations and site-specific interventions than can be mentioned. The Outside the Box2 Biennial is sure to become one of the most significant and indispensable celebrations of visual art in South Florida, and will clearly be a spectacle of visual delights for all who attend.
The exhibition inside the “Box, ” called “Optic Edge,” which has been on view since December, will also be open for viewing during this event. The Whitespace gallery (indoors) features internationally recognized artists from the Mordes collection, rotating new works for every annual exhibition. “The “Outside the Box” exhibition marks the final weekend for the Optic Edge exhibition.