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Purple Goo is GooooOOOOOooood
 Screen graphics created while using Purple-Goo, the new sound stretching application available for iPad and iPhone; 
Photo by Seanica Howe.  
Two years ago in an interview with the Brooklyn Rail the well-known performance artist Ulay talked about how the art of the 1960s and 70s had been a crucial opportunity for altering the definition of what art is, but had failed.   During this time artists such as himself, Allan Kaprow, and Fluxus---to name a few---began to create work that embraced impermanence and eliminated the distinction between artist and viewer.  This type of art had tremendous potential to change, or even obliterate, the art market, as well as the current model for exhibitions; creating the potential for us all to emerge as artists---our lives, interactions, and creations seen as fine art, in whatever form they embodied.  

More than 50 years later, the men and women who control the fine art market continue to push against the hierarchy that divides artists and their audiences.  This week, I found myself being sucked into this very concept.  I had been invited to an event, passed on to me by a local curator, to see "an interesting Iphone app/art piece."  Huh?   Since when do curators see Iphone apps as art?  Obviously, I needed to investigate. 

 Local band Krisp performing at the Purple-Goo app launch; Photo by Seanica Howe.  
If you were at last night's app launch for Purple-Goo, consider yourselves one of the lucky few who got to witness a quality and seamless blending of the arts that rarely occurs, especially in an intimate local event.  The Wolfsonian-FIU served as a perfect backdrop for this eclectic intermingling of music, the visual arts, and people.  The Wolfsonian, with its pink lit walls and throw back Guilded Age design, created an ambiance of modern day Great Gatsby, where easy-breezy creative types, dressed in low-key punk, street, and hipster threads, chilled and jammed to the music of local band Krisp.

Between sets, Nicolas Lobo and Dylan Romer, the creators of the application, used the Purple-Goo app to entertain the audience by manipulating the live music of the band---with their permission, of course.  Goo breaks down a song into its most basic structure, an act that Lobo and Romer both quantify as an art form, and they should know: Romer studied art before his interests shifted to computer programming, and Lobo is a sculptor whose work is shown by Gallery Diet here in Miami.  

The Purple-Goo app as displayed on an iPhone; Photo courtesy Gallery Diet, Miami.
Purple-Goo displays worm-like graphics that follow the sweeps of your finger-tips while they skate along the surface of your iPhone or iPad, permitting the user to become visual artist, musician, and audience.  The two algorithms that stretch and slow the music are visually captured on the screen in an ooey-gooey change of color that reflects the alteration made to the music, one that has the haunting effect of an organ, the raunchy emissions of an accordion, or the screeching sounds of a synthesizer that fell into the wrong hands.   

 Dylan Romer, co-creator of Purple-Goo; Photo by Seanica Howe.
Originally invented with the intention of destroying pop music, the app and the sound it creates remind Romer of audio similar to that of experimental weaponry for crowd control.  In effect, a means of "weaponizing pop."  Either way, its the revolutionary stretching of a moment in time, one capable of slowing music up to 10 million percent or, quite possibly, infinitely.   

Attendees of the Purple-Goo launch party outside of the Wolfsonian-FIU. The event was hosted by Bacardi, Perrier, and Gallery Diet of Miami; 
Photo by Seanica Howe.   
If events like the one held last evening continue, Ulay's dream will be realized, and the boundaries between high and low art, consumer and creator, will fade.  It may sound like a small thing, but the way we do something is the way we do everything.  If the categorization of art is eliminated and the creative force behind everything we do is acknowledged, with no one given favor over the other, then what other boundaries and inequalities can we demolish?  

Think about it---then go get you some Goo.     
----Seanica Howe

This article was originally written for publication with The Miami New Times Blog, Cultist:
This writing, as well as others by the author, can be accessed at
Posted by Seanica Howe on 8/3/13 | tags: Dylan Romer Nicolas Lobo Purple Goo

Why Michael Jon Gallery and the Artists of “Gattaca” Matter
Will RockelYou think you are an orange and begin to peel yourself, 2013;
 ©Will Rockel/Courtesy Hunter Braithwaite    
Friday night’s gallery opening at Michael Jon Gallery sparked seedy flashbacks of my trips to New York's Lower East Side, where my friends and I would hit gallery after gallery in search of the next great artist.  Unlike its more grown-up sister, Chelsea, where established artists are backed by gallery owners with deep pockets and large spaces, the Lower East Side offered us chance meetings with gifted unknowns while we all rubbed elbows---often literally. (These spaces could be pretty tiny.) 
Pictured with works by Cole Sayer, gallery owner Michael Jon Radziewicz (far left) and curator Hunter Braithwaite (far right) converse with patrons; Photo by Seanica Howe.
Enter Michael Jon Radziewicz, owner of Michael Jon Gallery; curator Hunter Braithwaite; and one very intimate space in Miami’s newest art destination: downtown.  Michael Jon begins its stint in its new location (it was briefly in the Design District) with an exhibition called “Gattaca,” and it’s going to throw you for a loop.  Why?  Due to the limited number of examples by each artist and lack of grounded text, it’s difficult to relate the works to one another and there is little to go on in the mode of esthetics.   But not so fast, people.  It's also a collection of work by little-known artists who have massive potential.  Art consultant pro tip: If you have dreams of starting your own art collection, "Gattaca" is a great place to start.

“Gattaca” is made up of artists that newly minted collectors dream of.   They are young, virtually unknown, and have bios that give their work considerable weight.  The show is composed of four artists: Ethan Greenbaum, Hayal Pozanti, Will Rockel, and Cole Sayer.  Two of the four, Greenbaum and Pozanti, received MFA degrees from Yale---that’s serious.  And Rockel boasts recent participation in a group exhibition at the New Museum in New York City.  Due to his current involvement with the Venice Biennale, any mention of the New Museum’s director, Massimiliano Gioni, makes fine art lovers everywhere weep and salivate, so Rockel gains street cred by mere association.

You would never know it by seeing one or two pieces extracted from their larger body of works, but if you do your homework you’ll quickly realize that each of these emerging artists are part of important conversations in the forward progression of art, as well as its relationship to theory, process, and materials.  In elitist art world brouhaha that means: “We think your art is valuable.”  Get the picture?  Good. 

Ethan GreenbaumWeep Space, 2013; Photo by Seanica Howe.
Since you’re likely to leave this exhibition scratching your head, let me explain just what these artists are up to. Greenbaum, the show’s standout, uses, as his subject, building materials, principle units of architecture that we generally disregard when visually consuming our physically constructed environments.  In Weep Space (2013), he layers photographic images of wood and formica to create a stand alone sculpture of printed acrylic panels.  

Hayal Pozanti, This Week Last Year, 2013; Photo by Seanica Howe.
Pozanti, who initially worked in graphic design, abandoned her roots and got back to basics through painting.  The medium allows her a more personal connection with her abstractions, those born from indefinable shapes she originally created via computerized collage.    

 Will Rockel, Cold Opening, 2013; Photo by Seanica Howe.
Through digital photography, Rockel toys with fetishism and irony while exploring sexuality and culture and how our minds react to such through images.   In Cold Opening (2013), Rockel accentuates a man’s shirt and tie with clear fluid to create a sterile image, one that also conjures up stories of political sexcapades.   

And Cole Sayer probes the variable exchange of the insubstantial with that of physicality.  He injects his work with strange, new, and unexpected materials in the same way that sports figures up the ante with steroids and public relations.

Gallerists and curators like Michael Jon Radziewicz and Hunter Braithwaite are essential for the continued artistic evolution of Miami and its leverage in the art world.   These young guys, relatively new to the art scene, have focused their energy on up-and-coming artists from outside the city limits; dialing us in, both nationally and internationally, to academic circles, critics, and hot new artists and shows that mediate the dialogue of emerging trends in the arts, ones that collectively reflect zeitgeists and result in movements.   Sound important?  It is.  This later translates into significant museum exhibitions and recognition on the secondary art market.  

So what say ye? Bring it on Michael Jon.
----Seanica Howe

This article was originally written for publication with The Miami New Times Blog, Cultist:
This writing, as well as others by the author, can be accessed at
Posted by Seanica Howe on 7/31/13 | tags: Michael Jon Gallery Will Rockel Hayal Pozanti Ethan Greenbaum Cole Sayer

Miami’s Art Scene Just Got Hotter, Thanks to the Germans
           Inside CU-1 Gallery with three of its founders (from left to right): Marc Schmidt, Rober Weber, and Stephan Goettlicher; Photo by Seanica Howe.
Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink.  By water, I mean art, and by drink, well, let’s just say I haven’t been doing much. 

Miami, leaving New York to come back to you was not an easy decision.  Are you aware of the number of mouth-watering Thai restaurants that exist in Manhattan?  When I traded them in for sugary coffee and guava pastries, I didn’t complain.  And, my substitute boyfriend, available at all hours of the night---dropped him like a bad habit.  Sure, occasionally I still search the site, dreaming of ordering from five star restaurants and eating on my floor with no one knowing, but love takes compromise and sacrifice.  I thought you were worth it and, I’m sorry to say this, but you owe me.

I’ve been waiting for Miami to break away from the New York art scene and develop its own style.  We’re not the Big Apple and why should we be?  Do we really want to go on pretending that we still think conceptual art is actually interesting?  It’s been over fifty years since this overly cerebral, visually unappealing art reared its ugly head, so maybe it’s time for a new conversation.  You and I both saw that paper mache monstrosity at Locust Projects this year---need I say more?

Tina LutherLove Hard II, 2010, c-print/lambda matte mounted on aludibond; ©Tina Luther/Courtesy CU-1 Gallery, Miami. 
We’re sexy.  We love fashion, whether it’s street or designer.  We’re taking our clothes off while our New York counterparts are throwing on another layer.  While they are sitting in boardrooms, missing out on life, we’re cruising around on boats, or chillin' at the beach, drinking rose until the sun goes down.   

Describe us in one word---hot.   Everything in Miami sizzles: our temperatures, our music, and our people (just ask Dwyane and LeBron); so why shouldn’t our art reflect who we are and do the same?  The Germans agree, and they’ve taken it upon themselves to move us in the right direction.

You want perfection Miami?  Well, here it is:  CU-1 gallery and its photographers.    It’s high fashion meets fine art, where even the smashed-up soda cans are provocative.  

                        Roger WeberWindow, 2012, c-print, lambda matte mounted on aludibond; ©Roger Weber/Courtesy CU-1 Gallery, Miami.

Roger Weber, my personal favorite and whose work is on display for the first time with CU-1 in their current show “Look at Me,” blends shapes and colors from daily life that result in sedate photographs glazed with understated glamour.  He masterfully manipulates natural light like a shaman, creating sophisticated images set in unassuming locales that are esthetically on par with favorite cinematic greats.    
 1977 (left) and HSU (right) are one of many Billy & Hells photographs that hang in the gallery’s vault; Photo by Seanica Howe.
Anke Linz and Andreas Oettinger, the collective better known as Billy & Hells, are on view in the gallery’s not-so-secret, graffitied vault.  Their portrait 1977 (2011), from the series “the Astronaut’s Wife,” is weighted with a constrained, rose colored air reminiscent of Sylvia von Halle (1926), offering a contemporary take on the New Objectivity that put German artists like George Grosz and Otto Dix on the map.

                     An interior view of CU-1 Gallery in downtown Miami; Photo by Seanica Howe.

But the owners of CU-1 aren’t only interested in offering up refined images that eliminate the imaginary boundaries between commercial and high and low.  They have redefined the stale gallery space with lofty elegance and intend on using it as a platform for bringing together those who embrace art and life, a distinction that they see as one and the same.  

Thank you gentlemen.  Here in Miami, we couldn’t agree more.  And we spend every day proving it.  
----Seanica Howe

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Posted by Seanica Howe on 7/16/13 | tags: CU-1 Gallery Rober Weber Tina Luther Billy & Hells photography

Let's Talk About Sze....and the Venice Biennale
Time pushes us through life, and many of us don't have the opportunity to travel the world, much less take a moment to ourselves, to experience new places, people, and things.  More often than not, jobs, children, and a multitude of acquired responsibilities begin to take precedence over big dreams and the exciting challenge of entering uncharted territory.  

Recently I met up with some old friends, all of whom have children and these very stable, contained lives.  Seeing them with their families was beautiful, almost regrettably so, and for a moment I envied them.  I don't know why, but I didn't get that gene.  You know it---the one that makes people crave routine and desire the predictable.  Luckily, the next day, as I shared my feelings with a dear friend, I was reminded of the value those of us who choose to walk alone also have;  that while some of us are sent here to pass on strong threads of family tradition and reap the benefits of roots and grounding, there are others that are here for a different reason.  

The lawn of the Palace Cavalli Franchetti, housing the Veneto Institute of Science, Literature and Art;  Photo by Seanica Howe.

So today, due to my curious nature and insatiable spirit, I am sharing with you a bit of Venice, and portions of its Biennale that, if you were there, would blow your mind.  Because of my inability to settle down, I combed through this Italian labyrinth, jet-lagged and yearning for inspiration, searching for great art so that you wouldn't have to.  Cozy up on the couch and serve the kids dinner.  Ranked in no particular order, here are the best and brightest of what you're missing on the other side of the Atlantic.  If you decide to take a tiny weekend to walk the streets of the sinking city before the grand show closes in November, there will still be time to squeeze in a bottle of wine and return home before the baby sitter can light the house on fire. 

1.  Sarah Sze's "Triple Point:" U.S. Pavilion, Giardini

Okay fine. I admit it. One of my closest friends works for this artist and I AM American, so maybe I'm playing favorites. But if you've never seen Sze's work up close and personal (other than in the closet of the Hort collection I hadn't), then it's time to do it in Italy.  I'm not sure if Sze designs her installations to be fraught with meaning or to function as a critique on society, but this is how I see her disorienting and carefully crafted microcosms that weave into architectural wonders. 
An exterior view of the U.S. Pavillion at the Venice Biennale featuring the work of Sarah Sze; Photo by Seanica Howe.

 "Triple Point," is a series of environments in which Sze pieces together essential everyday materials, trash, and ephemera.  Each of the constructs convey the mad chaos of life through the vernacular of a carpenter or mad scientist. Some resemble views from a planetarium, but all are sad reminders of the wasteful and consumption-obsessed society in which we live.  I couldn't help but think, after leaving the exhibition, that this will probably be the perception aliens have of us when they discover our planet hundreds of years from now:  exquisite, interesting, and the consequence of an inescapable, overwhelming mess made voluntarily.

One of a series of installations inside Sarah Sze's "Triple Point;" Photo by Seanica Howe.

Sze's installations are so intricate and painstakingly constructed, and by the artist's own two hands I might add, that one cannot help but admire Sze for the hours it must have taken to acquire each and every tiny stick, thread, photo, and plant for this fragile erector set of memories and "stuff."  It's complicated, indecipherable, and visually stunning.  Go get 'em Sze.  If I don't see an installation of hers in the MoMA soon I will boycott, and I'm positive I won't be alone.

2.  Gilad Ratman's "The Workshop:" Israel Pavillion, Giardini

Years ago, when the powers that be decided to assign the buildings for the Venice Biennale, some insightful person must have thought: "I have a great idea. Let's save visitors some trouble so that in 2013 they will only have to take about ten steps to see the two best artists the city has to offer.  We know they are going to be lazy. We've seen how they completely bi-pass the whole relationship thing and substitute it with a cellular device, so surely they will want to skip out on moving through the city. Plus,we know that group exhibition might be a bit much, so let's pack a punch."  Alright, maybe it didn't go that way, but in my head it did.   

Video still of Gilad Ratman's "The Workshop;" Photo by Seanica Howe.

Ladies and gentlemen there is A LOT of video art in this Biennale.  So much so that a little eye-rolling seems in order after about the tenth installation, but Ratman's multi-medium, video-centered work raises the bar.  Video artists take note.  Instead of using the space as a container ignored by most, Ratman constructs his installation to have the pavilion work as a part of it.  

Five video projections lead the visitor through the space, giving the impression of scaling and then entering a mountain with a group of men and women that, as it turns out, arrive on the other side to create sculptures within the pavilion: the same space from which you are viewing the work.  Witness the artists mushing and molding clay busts of themselves while murmuring strange noises into microphones inserted into their heads (the busts, not their own).  
Video still inside Gilad Ratman's "The Workshop;" Photo by Seanica Howe.

As you exit the space it all becomes clear: the hole in the floor is the one broken through by the artists and the DJ in the initial video is mixing their voices into electronic deliciousness. It's a play on relational esthetics utilizing current media and music.  In's (insert profanity here for effect) rad.  

3.  Marc Quinn's Solo Show: Giorgio Cini Foundation, San Giorgio Maggiore

Anyone who has known me for more than five minutes will quickly assess that I'm more into beauty than blood and guts, and I've been known to walk away from a violent or aggressive piece of art before giving it a fighting chance.  I'm a big believer in selecting the images we expose ourselves to (that's another article), so it speaks volumes for Quinn that a sensitive soul like myself can't help but acknowledge the strength of this artist.  
Marc Quinn's giant blow-up statue, Breath (2012), at the entrance of his solo show at the San Giorgio Maggiore; Photo by Seanica Howe.

While cruising around Venice, it's impossible to miss his enormous blow-up lavender statue of an armless woman with a very masculine head sitting on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore.   Evidently this was a re-creation of the actual one he did in London and even though it's a bit of a monstrosity when cast against the stunning Venice architecture, by the end of the week my eye found its way there like a well-tuned honing device.  
Marc Quinn, Flesh Painting (2012); Photo by Seanica Howe.

Quinn is a mastermind at bringing the creepy and disturbing to life in a way so esthetically appealing that he forces the viewer to stretch beyond his or her comfort zone, challenging their psyche.  When one stands before an uber realistic painting of human flesh and suddenly feels hungry or begins to ponder how the billowy white extensions of fat compliment the smooth red meat like lace on a dress, it becomes blatantly obvious just how conditioned we are in the way we categorize and judge images.  

Seanica Howe with a sculpture by Marc Quinn, as part of his solo exhibition at the Giorgi Cini Foundation; Photo by Seanica Howe.

His work challenges mainstream notions of beauty and perfection by focusing on subjects rarely used in classical media, i.e. large sculptures of the stages of fetal development and pregnant men in gym shorts.  Possibly Quinn is a freaky trekkie type or a guy who wasn't properly monitored by his parents on the number of hours he clocked in front of horror films. I've never met him but I'm glad something went awry.  Quinn's work has the ability to change the way we see the world, encouraging us to embrace and accept the good, the bad, and the ugly.

4.  Richard Mosse's "The Enclave:" Ireland Pavilion, Collateral Exhibition 

Mosse's photographs and video are bright, colorful, painterly, and crisp.  After entering this collateral show off the beaten path, prepare to be greeted by landscapes filled with fluorescent pinks, warm reds, and electric blues and greens.  Prickly trees sporadically intersect rolling hills and winding water.  
A Richard Mosse photograph inside "The Enclave;" Photo by Seanica Howe.

At first glance these images appear highly retouched by an artist adept at photoshop, except they are anything but.  These seemingly picturesque countrysides are created with military technology, one that results in pared down images with easily identifiable elements used for camouflage detection, and are films and photographs of the Congo, a locale legendary for its gorilla warfare.  The video shown inside the pavilion documents the predatory intensity of a jungle bloodied with battle.  

The artist works his way through the area capturing rebel fighters, both alive and dead, and other occupants of this lush but deadly region.  Mosse's work is a reminder that all that glitters is not gold.  Our senses are easily deceived by beauty, a notion that serves as a manipulative tactic for those in power and one that often functions as an illusive veneer for a frightening reality. 

5.   "The Encyclopedic Palace" by Curator Massimiliano Gioni: Giordini-Arsenale 

Based on the concept of a worldly encyclopedia, a dream envisioned by an Italian-American artist named Marino Auriti circa 1955, Gioni brings together, in two sprawling spaces split between the Arsenale and Giordini, museum quality works, both old and new, to catalog our evolution through images.  Via more than 150 artists from over 37 countries, Gioni weaves a story that is nearly impossible to tell, akin to climbing Mount Everest, but he succeeds through the use of understandable yet sophisticated wall text and engaging artworks that are logically arranged.  

Inside " The Encyclopedic Palace:" an installation shot of Pawel Althamer's Venetians (2013); Photo by Seanica Howe.

I realize at this moment that I am about to make some outlandish statements to impress upon you just how unbelievably amazing this exhibition is, especially for someone acutely aware of a curatorial perspective, but I am going to do it anyway.  Massimiliano Gioni may be an oracle, or even a god, and "The Encyclopedic Palace" is the most impressive exhibition I have ever seen; EVER, without question.  Nothing touches it.  

I suspect that Gioni's "Palace" will be talked about in history books as the moment the art world collectively woke up, recognizing that the the next step in our evolution, creatively, is to find a way to sift through the noise that has resulted from what we see and consume; that art is magical and it is the artist, proclaimed as such or not, who is here providing us with ways to bridge the physical with the ethereal; and that we are at a turning point, pushing past the material, and it's been our artists' projections through an array of media that has gotten us here.  Art, in any form, is a manifestation of a source tied to imagination, a creative component of our higher selves, each with a power of its own.  

A painting by Augustin Lesage from his series Composition Symbolic (1923-1932) on view at "The Encyclopedic Palace;" Photo by Seanica Howe.

Gioni gives me hope.  When someone at this level, who is recognized as an authority within the art world, isn't stuck in a one-dimensional conversation regarding art as politics, idea, process, or thing, goes beyond strict left brain thinking and far into the right, blending the two in an all-encompassing way to create a deeper understanding of what is happening around us, I can't help but think we are on the right track. Mr. Gioni, I, for one, am eternally grateful.

Well, that's it, my grand top five.  I'm not David Letterman so ten seems excessive and, as you know, I need to keep moving.  Get back to tending the lawn or head to your nine to five---whatever it is you grounded types do.  I'll meet you in back in Miami...arrivederci!
-----Seanica Howe
This and other articles by the writer are available at
Posted by Seanica Howe on 6/20/13 | tags: venice biennale The Encyclopedic Palace Massimilliano Gioni Sarah Sze Gilad Ratman Richard Mosse Marc Quinn

Art Basel in Basel, Day Four: The People Behind the Magic
Joan McLoughlin, owner of The McLoughlin Gallery, pictured with artists (from left to right) David Middlebrook and Mckay Otto as well as McLoughlin gallerist Antonio Cortez; Photo by Seanica Howe.

On my final day in Basel I would be remiss if I didn't do a little storytelling and share with you what goes on behind the scenes.  Unlike Miami, only a few satellites---SCOPE, Volta, and Liste---attempt to compete with the main Art Basel fair in Basel.  This year was especially challenging for these mid-level dealers; the Art Basel space came with a new face and, according to those who had attended in the past, the show was one of the best.  Collectors, artists, and hangers-on finished their days in an open air rotunda sipping cocktails while catching up on the day.

A view of the rotunda of Art Basel in Basel, Switzerland; Photo by Seanica Howe.

A dealer friend of mine akins the Art Basel experience to that of an Olympic Village.  Hopefuls support each other while waiting for the next big sale.  And if a collector doesn't purchase with one gallery, he is often directed to another.  There is a huge sense of camaraderie.  Unlike their Art Basel colleagues who get hundreds of thousands, if not millions, for single works, the folks at satellite fairs like SCOPE sweat it out and go to the mattresses. Each sale they make matters and could be the difference in packing it in or moving forward.

Dealers here are inspiring dreamers; people that have made huge life changes for the sake of being in the arts.  Joan McLoughlin, owner of the McLoughlin Gallery, left her job as a nurse and involvement with medical start-ups to open her own gallery in San Francisco.  In less than three years she has built a family of artists that now have works in major museums and collections.  

Gallerists (from left to right) John Haas and Andreas Kuefer with Ed Victori in the Victori Contemporary booth at the SCOPE art fair, Basel: Photo by Seanica Howe.

Ed Victori of Victori Contemporary left his career as a Wall Street trader in hopes of one day establishing his father as a master painter in fine art.   Mark Hachem walked away from his successful computer consulting company to open a gallery in Paris.  He now has additional locations in the Middle East, as well as the United States. 

Kevin Havelton of Aureus Contemporary gallery; Photo by Seanica Howe.

And after becoming disenchanted with others selling his paintings, Kevin Havelton began his own virtual gallery and now travels to several fairs a year, representing his own work as well as others.  The stories are endless, and these people are warriors.

So the next time you think of purchasing a pair of Nikes or that Prada purse, donating your money to a corporate tycoon who doesn't need it, consider saving your pennies for art.  You might be supporting the dream of another or paying a few monthss rent of your favorite artist; not to mention the right to brag to your friends on how you discovered the next big thing while being at the center of it all---Basel.

This article was originally written for publication with The Miami New Times Blog, Cultist, as one of a series of articles titled "Art Basel in Basel" by Seanica Howe.  This writing, as well as the remainder of the series, can be accessed at and
Posted by Seanica Howe on 6/16/13 | tags: art basel scope

Art Basel in Basel, Day Three: Money, Money, Money
Pablo Bronstein, Maria Antoinette and Robespierre Engage In An Irritable Post-Coital Conversation, 2013; Photo by Seanica Howe.

Two things have become quite obvious to me on this trip to Basel: 1. I need more wall space and 2.  If I'm going to continue being an art writer, I need to get a very rich boyfriend.  When one's favorite Gerhard Richter at Dominique Levy sells for $25,000,000 before you can even snap a picture, you know that you're in the wrong tax bracket.   

Today was the day we went in and rubbed elbows with the big guns.  Prepare to be disgusted because the name of the game is money, and lots of it.  Whispers of conversations here are not for the faint of heart and romantic notions are best left in the coat check.   Art moves into the area of strict commodity with verbal exchanges between advisor and collector going something like this:  Collector: "Is so and so buying this yet?"  Advisor:  "No."  Collector:  "If he's not buying it, then I'm not. I need something with staying power."  

The major New York galleries were all in attendance and, without a doubt, put their best foot forward showing works from some heavily traded contemporary favorites.  Anish Kapoor's wall sculptures have shifted from 

Anish Kapoor, Untitled, 2012; Photo by Seanica Howe.

round bowl into potato chip form with one of the new versions bringing in nearly $1,100,000.  Two artists currently in the limelight at the Venice Biennale, Sarah Sze and Ragnar Kjartansson, who typically produce large scale works more appropriate for museums, have pieces available for those unable to devote an entire room to them.  Sarah Sze's teeny tiny installation, Standing Pile (Cairn) (2013), a mere 48" tall, was sold for $32,000.  

Video still of Ragnar Kjartansson's Song, 2011; Photo by Seanica Howe.

Kjartansson's dealer, Luhring Augustine, is showing Song (2011), a video where three singing waifs hypnotically rotate on a bed while brushing their hair.  The entrancing piece, which was on view at MOCA last year,  is available for sale in an edition of six.      

Jonathan Horowitz, Free Store, 2009-2013; Photo by Seanica Howe.

Those selling works and writing invoices have been quoted as saying that buyers here appear drunk or feverish, purchasing to their heart's content, but it's nice to know there are still a few things that cannot be bought.  Sitting between the main halls is Jonathan Horowitz's Free Store (2009-2013), an environment where visitors without deep pockets are invited to exchange goods.  And the London gallery Herald St is presenting a performance piece by Pablo Bronstein.  It's titled Marie Antoinette and Robespierre Engage In An Irritable Post-Coital Conversation (2013) where a man and woman, posed as lovers, ironically sit and ignore each other. 

Wait, did I just see Steve Cohen purchase the guy on the right?  I suppose what they say is true: everything is for sale, especially here at Basel---just name the price.
------Seanica Howe

This article was originally written for publication with The Miami New Times Blog, Cultist, as one of a series of articles titled Art Basel in Basel.  This writing, as well as the remainder of the series, can be accessed at and
Posted by Seanica Howe on 6/15/13 | tags: art basel

Art Basel in Basel, Day Two: Ahhhhh "Unlimited"
Viewers behold Piotr Uklanski's Untitled (Open Wide), 2012, installation at Art Basel's "Unlimited;" Photo by Seanica Howe.

Today was the day I ate my words.  Gagosian, please forgive me.  Hauser & Wirth, keep building.   Every terrible thing I've ever said about oversized galleries with big bank accounts? I take it back.  You are now my reason for being, my everything, because without your support of artists in need of large spaces and big budgets, I would have missed having my jaw drop open at "Unlimited," Art Basel's show within a show.  

Stretching the imagination beyond the wall hanging and basic sculpture, "Unlimited" serves as the portion of the main Art Basel fair designated for multi-media, performance art, and large scale installations and objects that reach beyond the limits of the white cube. 

A portion of Chen Zhen's Purification Room, 2000; Photo by Seanica Howe.
Purification Room (2000), Chen Zhen's archeological work, warns of an apocalypse, and, given the world events of late, are sure to force one to question their place in the world and its potential destruction.  Banal objects used in everyday life are left in the dust, literally.  Covered in thick layers of earth, cookware, furniture, clothing, and even the bike on the lawn remain frozen in time, free from further wear with the disappearance of their users.  Besides being psychologically terrifying, Zhen's clay process is masterful and leaves the viewer pondering the unlikelihood of its fabrication.

David Altmejd, The Orbit, 2012; Photo by Seanica Howe.

On a lighter note, in a room all to itself, is an object in stark contrast to the death and destruction conveyed by Zhen.  Well, maybe not death, because inside this partially broken aquarium of clear cubes and mirrors created by David Altmejd is a melon-head exploding into several pieces.  The Orbit (2012) contains a rainbow of string, waxed body parts, and artificial cherries, among other things. It all seeps into the subconscious like a dream of interactive energies that shift and transform in color and state of being, floating above any susceptibility of decay.

An exterior view of Chiharu Shiota's In Silence, 2002/2013; Photo by Seanica Howe.

Two female artists defy the odds with their treatment of textiles:  Chiharu Shiota spins an installation that evokes memories of childhood trauma or domestic abuse by including burned chairs and a piano, both contents of a home, but one that traps and frightens its occupants.  And Piotr Uklanski magnifies the softer side of the oral cavity in her quilted Open Wide (2012) installation, where a giant uvula diminishes its admiring audience.  Ahhhhh "Unlimited!" She took the words right out of my mouth.  
-----Seanica Howe

This article was originally written for publication with The Miami New Times Blog, Cultist, as one of a series of articles titled "Art Basel in Basel" by Seanica Howe. This writing, as well as the remainder of the series, can be accessed at  and
Posted by Seanica Howe on 6/14/13 | tags: unlimited art basel

Art Basel in Basel, Day One: SCOPE
I SantissimiHorror Vacui, 2012; Photo by Seanica Howe

To say that Art Basel has become significant for our fair city is a bit of an understatement.  Do we even remember what Miami was like before this major event elevated it from vacation destination to cultural hot spot?  Those of us that had never been exposed to million dollar art suddenly became connoisseurs and were granted permission to enter a world we thought only existed in New York and Paris.  

Well, the big daddy fair, father to which Miami now owes its claim to art fame, has, once again, occupied Switzerland.  No people, Art Basel is not just a Miami event and, just in case you are wondering, its fabulousness translates worldwide.

My first day in Basel had me starting with one of my favorite satellite fairs, SCOPE.  Sonja Hofstetter, head of SCOPE exhibitor relations, shared with me her thoughts on the major contrast between Art Basel in Basel versus Miami: that while Miami continues to live up to its reputation as a place to see and be seen, which comes as no surprise, Basel attracts the serious European collector, with many of the attendees flying in specifically to buy art.  

Paolo Grassino, Analgesia (2012), an outdoor installation courtesy of Mario Mauroner Contemporary Art; Photo by Seanica Howe.

Standing guard as visitors enter the fair is a group of junk yard dogs, an outdoor installation by Paola Grassino, reminding riffraff to keep out so that sophisticated types inside can get down to business.  Seeing SCOPE Miami attendees Victori Contemporary

Ran Hwang, Secret Obsessions, 2013; © Ran Hwang/Courtesy Inception Gallery, Paris.

and Aureus was a major treat, along with viewing contemporary art that ranges from I Santissimi's perplexing fabrication of a sectioned, crouching human, shown by Gagliardi Art System, to Ran Hwang's webbed chandelier of thousands of crystals and beads pinned to plexiglass.  Hwang is represented by Inception Gallery in Paris. 

Comenius Rothlisberger and Admir Jahic, The Invisible Heroes, standing with one of several works shown for the SCOPE art fair; Photo by Seanica Howe.

Comenius Rothlisberger and Admir Jahic, the artists better known as The Invisible Heroes, have works on display specifically for SCOPE.  In their stand alone space, this cool duo presents resin sculptural objects embedded with colored pigments, allowing reflections from fluorescent lighting to skate along their surfaces.  

Yves Hayat, Icones Fatiguees (left) and Parfums de Revolte (right), both from 2013; Photo by Seanica Howe.
However, the fair's definite crowd pleaser was a series of small clear cases with a big message. Created by Yves Hayat, these shriveling images of coveted icons and designer brands ask their admirers to consider the price paid for celebrity, consumerism, and wealth. Not to worry, in addition to showing in Paris, Hayat's dealer, Mark Hachem, also occupies a space in New York's Chelsea.  But if you've taken a vow only to see art in Miami, preferring a little more pizazz with your viewing pleasure, I'm sure he could be convinced to fly south for the winter...just in time for our spiced up version of this beloved event.
------Seanica Howe

This article was originally written for publication with The Miami New Times Blog, Cultist, as one of a series of articles titled "Art Basel in Basel" by Seanica Howe.  This writing, as well as the remainder of the series, can be accessed at and

Posted by Seanica Howe on 6/13/13 | tags: art basel scope

The Revelation of Great: Jerome Soimaud

The qualities of a great artist, I suppose, are always up for discussion in the art world.  For intellectuals, a great work might be one that elevates the mind or translates an idea. For those who covet the superficial, the captivation of the eye does the trick.  Maybe an artist or academician would analyze the work for technical skill: the balance of the composition, manipulation of materials and process, and its maker’s use of color and line, before declaring it great.  There are also those who believe in the ability of art to alter the spirit, so for them a demand of another kind is expected.  They search for meaning and the piece’s accessibility to the esoteric.  Marina Abramovich, the iconic performance artist, takes this notion one step further.  She recently said that only those who suffer for their work are truly great, and art of any significance must come with sacrifice. 

All of these views are valid when considered independently, but what happens when our expectations encompass the whole and we demand more of our artists? As a society (and an artistic community) have we come to expect so little of those around us?  Do we settle for good when we should be expecting great? In my humble opinion, yes, but I’ll let you be the judge.    

Jerome Soimaud is an artist who actively enters the world of his subjects, places most dare not to go, especially not All-American looking French artists who hail from Paris.  He has traveled to the jungles of Columbia, not with ammunition or a machete, but with camera equipment on his hip.  Most recently he has devoted himself to capturing the underbelly of Miami, a side of the city rarely embraced and showcased.  And this latest body of work is about to be displayed by Yeelen Gallery in a new and stunning 10,000 square foot space on 54th Street.  Formerly a non-for-profit, Yeelen is ready to take on the market by exhibiting highly talented artists with a story to tell and a mission for change. It’s beginning by giving Soimaud his largest and most comprehensive show to date, bringing to the forefront the communities and people in Miami left destitute and abandoned, often forced to leave their homes and turning to a life of crime, as a consequence of gentrification.   


Jerome Soimaud, Keystone, 2009, charcoal and graphite on canvas, 60 x 60 in.; © Jerome Soimaud/Courtesy Yeelen Art Gallery, Miami. 

Soimaud uses three predominate media, drawing, photography, and painting, to capture the humanity and culture at the heart of neglected and tradition rich areas like Liberty City and Little Haiti.   In B-Sides, a series of black and white works in charcoal and pencil, Soimaud adeptally sketches detailed images of decaying neighborhoods and the people who inhabit them.  Murky, nondescript patches of black and white function as telling signs of the unsettling tension now present in these once prosperous locales.  In some, they stir to combine as ominous stormy skies ready to engulf the landscape at any moment.   In other works in the series, like Vagabond and Keystone, both from 2009, where the viewer is permitted access to the city’s occupants from a more intimate perspective, the clouds are no longer present, however energetic patterns and shapes of black and white still loom and agitate the surface. They morph to resemble the camouflaged designs of fatigues or possibly blankets of cancerous cells, waiting to devour what’s underneath.  In B-Sides, Soimaud invites his viewer to be voyeur, allowing them to silently hover from above or to crouch in secret spaces below.  His work says: “Look what’s become of us. Look who we’ve left behind.” 

Jerome Soimaud, Zoe Pound, 2009, pigment on glossy photo paper, 50 x 33 in.; © Jerome Soimaud/Courtesy Yeelen Art Gallery, Miami. 

In his series Around Jenin’s, photographs are used to document the cast of characters in the sordid world to which the artist was granted access.  Prostitutes, drug dealers, and savants, to name a few, serve as subjects.   The neon colors and bright lights of Miami are purposefully reflected in the pictures, but the luminous hotels, multimillion dollar homes, and fashionistas that act as a decadent veneer for the spaces most wish not to see, are nowhere to be found.  In Zoe Pound (2012), skinny streams of light zigzag below the bare shoulders of a gang member but fail to reach the heights of his tattooed announcement.  Here, the gritty urban streets of Miami are given the spotlight, but, just as in life, the colors and energetic movement often associated with its electronic music scene and the neon lights of Ocean Drive serve as a welcome distraction for those who choose to remain in the dark.

Jerome Soimaud, Dansi, 2012, acrylic and oil on canvas, 60 x 60 in.; © Jerome Soimaud/Courtesy Yeelen Art Gallery, Miami. 

Soimaud utilizes his creations as a means to transmit the ethereal and laces them with symbolism.  Much of his work records the Voodoo ceremonies that take place in the Haitian culture and, in his paintings, a group of works called Genesis, he intentionally inserts ancient markings and religious signs in an effort to channel mysticism and the energetic presence of source energy or God.  The artist pushes the paint, activating the surface with thickened swirling layers of rich color.  The abstract backdrop communicates with a distinct and static image that lies near the center of the picture plane.   The interplay between the two forges the never-ending, fluid link between mortality and the infinite: particles vibrate and combine to create recognizable images, ones easily understood and deciphered, while giving way to the unseen, magnetic presence of creativity and the essence of a higher power.  

Soimaud has committed his life’s work to a people; not only to a group, but to humanity.  His bravery in entering these communities as an unfamiliar outsider shows belief and trust in the human spirit and its ability to embrace differences when tested.  When treated with respect and sensitivity, art has the capacity to create harmony and unite us.  Anything is possible.  Soimaud is proof that an artist need not be limited to an idea, esthetics, proficiency in the manipulation of a media, or even, as ambitious as it may be, to art that serves as a vehicle for consciousness.  He can challenge himself and go beyond what’s expected, producing art that is its best self, a perfect integration of all that we seek and are.  Soimaud shows us that, when pushed, our art and our artists can be…we can all be…great. 

---Seanica Howe


Jerome Soimaud’s Miami B-Side exhibition opens this summer at Yeelen Art Gallery, 294 NW 54th Street. Watch for it and visit this magnificent new gallery space in Miami, Fl.

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Posted by Seanica Howe on 5/21/13 | tags: mixed-media Jerome Soimaud

Let There Be Light

Contemporary art has been stuck, locked in a frozen space that began somewhere around the moment that Andy Warhol capitalized on capitalism.  It’s gigantic.  It’s grotesquely commercial.  It’s elitist and cold.  And, guess what, it’s dead.  I know, I know, there are a few of you who want us to stay trapped in this era, mostly commodities traders that claim to be collectors or those who love the idea of dismissing beauty and emotion as insignificant notions of the uneducated.  But let me encourage you to let go.  Give up your resistance.   A Jeff Koon’s sculpture can still be placed near the swimming pool if you so desire.  The rest of us are ready to feel something and move on.  We need air.  We yearn for more…something else.  So let me be one of the first to say, “I see light.”  And much of it is coming from Miami. 

This month, in a small space downtown, there is an exhibition I bet you’ve never heard of by an artist that I’m sure you don’t know, and it’s phenomenal.  It’s moving, intimate, inspiring, and soulful.  It’s a diamond in the rough and is the first exhibition by a humble Columbian artist named Cesar Rey.  The show, “Lightness,” is an installation of the same name and is created from the heart.  It is an experience that can be likened to meditation, where one travels to a watery dreamlike world occupied by peaceful, levitating beings that have condensed from the energy of their human counterparts.    Soft music fills the air and shadows dance across the walls, invoking the same gentle, safe calm experienced by newborns or toddlers as they lay down to sleep. 

cesar install

Cesar Rey, Detail of “Lightness,” 2013; © Cesar Rey/Photo by Marcello Ibanez.


The exhibition features seven twisted and contorted works titled according to number.  All of the pieces within it are recycled from used materials, mostly plastic and metal, that hang from a ceiling covered in white fabric panels.  Rey has created a space that can be viewed in two separate settings: one light and airy, the other, dark, where pieces are illuminated with glowing color.   Each environment creates a different experience, but in both instances ghostly reflections haunt the works, magnifying their ethereality.  No one piece within the installation is the same.  And the artist purposefully designs each with ambiguity, allowing their physical associations to be worked through in the mind of the viewer.   However, each inherently embodies extensions of the spirit, where notions of balance, evolution, and transcendence are considered.   Through each structure and the interplay of the sculptures within the space, Rey explores the unification of man and woman, the delicate exchange of feminine and masculine, and the contrasting necessity of positive and negative, as well as light and dark. 

var 67

Cesar Rey, Variation 67, 2011, plastic and wire, 85 X 122 X 65 in.; © Cesar Rey/Photo by Marcello Ibanez.


In Variation 67 (2011), vaginal and phallic forms on opposite poles work in concert.  As they reach towards each other, they join, blending and bending as the work expands and grows in the center where it naturally becomes more complex.   Compressed and woven wire occasionally sprouts small plantlike bunches of transparent plastic, signaling points in a timeline where stages of growth for the being may have occurred or challenges might have been met.

var 8

Cesar Rey, Variation 8, 2012, aluminum, glass, plastic, and wire, 27 X 27 X 20in.; © Cesar Rey/Photo by Marcello Ibanez.

In Variation 8 (2012), the sculpture winds in a different way.  Here, the male and female projections have been eliminated and the being morphs into a circular creature devoid of a point of departure.    It spirals and shifts with no beginning or end.  It is whole and complete.  

Some people choose to remain as they are.  The place they occupy feels comfortable and easy.  Fear creeps in and they are left paralyzed.  But it’s all that lies on the other side of that fear that shapes and molds, elevating us to new heights.  When we are stripped of our comforts, we evolve.  Our suffering becomes our salvation, for without it we could not reignite and empower ourselves within, leaving our inner spirit stronger than ever.  This is what Rey and his artwork encourage.  “Lightness” speaks and tells us to seek harmony, to float above, and to release what is heavy.  It is a reminder that each and every one of us are magnificent points of light.   We are all the same.  We are all valuable.  Even wire, once disposed of, can function as art.  Seeing it as such only requires a shift in perception.  Whether it is in this lifetime or the next, the light within us will never stop searching for perfection and peace within, because it knows, with absolute certainty, love begins and ends there.  There is no stopping it.  So release your grip, flow, and invite the scary shift.  If we’re lucky, there will always be a Warhol on view or the possibility of catching a balloon sculpture (if you don’t have room for one near your pool) at Versailles to remind us from where we came.     

---Seanica Howe

“Lightness” is open to the public until May 11th at the Aluna Art Foundation, 172 West Flagler, Miami, FL.  Please call ahead for times.

A special thank you to Marcello Ibanez for his generous contribution to this article.

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Posted by Seanica Howe on 5/4/13 | tags: installation mixed-media sculpture Cesar Rey

Dig Deep

Occasionally we cross paths with others whose energy and nature is unfathomable.  How many people can we say live in pure alignment, fully devoted to the very essence from which they came and not deviating from this truth?   Look around. There are few.  For them their commitment to love isn’t a crusade, it’s a way of being that they’ve chosen never to ignore.  On the other hand, for many of us, understanding who we are and who we want to be can take decades.  I know that I fell into the latter, so being invited into the home of a man whose very being has been art from before he could speak was nothing short of a gift.  An even greater gift was being shown that there are true, open, trusting people who are willing to share their stories and a part of themselves with no reservation.  This is how I came to know Mark T. Smith, an artist whose process knows no bounds and a man whose creativity could be likened to a horn of plenty, bearing unpredictable fruit never in short supply.

mark in home

Mark T. Smith in the living room of his home.  Works by the artist from left to right: Guilt on Parade, 2010, mixed media on canvas, 30 X 30 in.; Bull, 2010, ink on paper, 22 X 30 in.; Flesh and Blood Builds an Empire, 2010, acrylic, charcoal, graphite, ink, color pencil, and paint pen on canvas, 36 X 48 in.; © Mark T. Smith/Photo by Seanica Howe.

Smith grew up in the Northeastern United States and spent much of his life, including his training, in New York.  The city’s liveliness is reflected in all of his work but most notably in his paintings, where Smith packs every nook and cranny of his canvases with heavy strokes of bold color anchored with blacks and whites.   The highly active rhythm of most all his creations are reminiscent of the overwhelming sensations of experiencing Times Square for the first time, before one has learned to tune out the zingy noise of the streets and its people, or the intensity of a lightshow or fireworks in the dead of night.   Early in his career he created video games and graphics, so the quick movement and robotic features of those interests are present.  Signs and religious icons have crept in as well.  Madonna, the bull, and the rabbit are frequently seen in his creations and often function as central figures, serving as a point of entry or the assigned guide for grounding each piece and placating the mind while it explores each detail and chapter of the pictorial novel Smith densely construes.  

madonna and rabbit

Mark T. Smith, Surreal Madonna with Rabbit, Part 2, 2010, acrylic paint, oil bar, color pencil, graphite, charcoal, and spray paint on canvas, 36 X 60 in.; © Mark T. Smith/Courtesy of the artist’s studio, Miami.

Like many great artists who came a lifetime before him, the lifeblood of all that Smith creates has been a consequence of the figure.  His version of abstract surrealism may fail to so much as resemble the body from which Smith studied, but without its complete understanding he could not exorcise its demons, capture its meaning from within and without, toil with its existence, and force his viewer to delve into the supernatural.  His paintings and drawings are laden with symbols and invite the audience to contemplate for hours, or maybe a lifetime, the underpinnings and meaning behind the fragmented visual storyboards he creates.  Smith himself says that once he truly understands a painting, its value is lost.  It’s the work’s ability to challenge the viewer, to consistently function as a riddle never to be understood, that tests its validity and sustainability as art.  


Mark T. Smith, Charlatan Map with Lesson, 2010, mixed media on paper, 43 X 58 in.; © Mark T. Smith/Courtesy of the artist’s studio, Miami.

There’s something wild and frustrating about Smith’s work and this is what lends it power, like Jackson Pollock’s drip paintings, the cubism of Pablo Picasso, or the mysterious language of Jean-Michel Basquiat.  As a viewer, instinctively one knows that somehow, someway, the chaos that’s been created makes sense, and you wait for it to lock into place, like the final twist of a Rubik’s Cube.  But oddly, it never does.  It leaves you wanting and searching for more.  His drawings and works in mixed media, like Charlatan Map with Lesson (2010), where Smith begs to question the current financial exploitation of the medical arts, follow the same notion but mercifully guide the viewer with words and signals, helping them down a more decipherable, less camouflaged road for understanding his message. 


Mark T. Smith, Magnetic, 2009, cast parian, 37 X 29 X 1.5 in.; © Mark T. Smith/Courtesy of the artist’s studio, Miami.

Oddly, the symbology Smith chooses is also the most accurate representation of his life and work.  Fertility is often associated with the hard-nosed bull and the leaping rabbit, animals that leave abundance in their wake.  Smith has entered into new endeavors over and over, watching them grow and then exiting when they become mundane and adequately structured, allowing himself to evolve and flow.  His life experiences are too numerous to mention but his innovative mind has reached into poster design for Walt Disney, the Olympics, and the U.S. Open, just to name a few.  And in 1996 his work was chosen for the highly coveted Absolute Vodka campaign.  His academic teaching roster runs up and down the East Coast, from Parsons School of Design and Pratt to as far south as the Miami Ad School.   And just as one media is abandoned, another is worked.  He jumps from painting to printmaking to sculpture and back again, never satisfied and ever searching for a way to properly explore his thoughts, questions, and visions. 

Truth be told, I’ve never met anyone quite like Smith.  Sure, I’ve known lots of people who say they are artists of one kind or another, but I’ve never met a being whose very motive is to get to the heart of his process---an exhaustive effort to peel the onion.   It’s reflected in every move he makes in his journey through life and it manifests in his physical creations.  The deeper the quest, the more densely layered he and his work become.  And when going deeper isn’t an option, a new direction is taken.  It’s an insatiable drive for process that owns him.  It IS him.  Sometimes it beats like a faint staccato on a snare drum.  On other days, it’s the loud, deliberate thud of a bass.  Either way, it beats---always in rhythm, never stopping.  The composition is infinite. We should all be so fearless.

---Seanica Howe


Mark T. Smith is currently based in Miami, Fl, where he also teaches.  For more information about him and access to more of his work visit

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Posted by Seanica Howe on 4/26/13 | tags: mixed-media Mark T. Smith

Look Closer

As many are aware, I do my fair share of traveling: a few jaunts to Europe every year, flights to and from New York City are too numerous to count, and Chicago and Los Angeles are favorites too.  So I suppose I feel myself a bit of an authority on places to visit.  If you have never been to The Standard in Miami then you are missing out.  It is by far one of my favorite places on earth.  

One of the secrets this delectable hotel and spa isn’t letting you in on is that a major reason it exudes breezy cool isn’t the wind coming in from Biscayne Bay.  It’s from the people who work there.  While its guests are bathing in the sun and overindulging in signature drinks, artists of all kinds are circling.  So you may want to look around, get a name, and grab a pen before taking the first sip of that mojito.  I wouldn’t want you to miss out on an autograph and bragging to your friends in the future about how you “knew him way back when.”  Enter Marcello Ibanez and Nick Hyland, Standard employees.  One is a pool server, the other a pool and wellness manager.  You might want to sit down.  When it comes to these two, there is much more than meets the eye.

marcello with chalk

Marcello Ibanez overseeing one of his chalkboard drawings from 2013; Photo by Seanica Howe.

Marcello Ibanez is a genuine character.  He is a bit of an icon at The Standard, and I consider myself one of his biggest fans.  He has that “je ne sais quoi” of a star.  Always sporting bold sunglasses and creating an air of South American zest wherever he goes, Ibanez has a way of flipping his external environment on its head, twirling and swirling words and images as if he spent hours behind the desk of a leading ad agency.  Except Ibanez doesn’t have a team of creative people behind him.  He is a one-man show.  And he freely shares his art, as well as his infectious personality, with vacationers and hangers-on at The Standard.   His chalkboard designs playfully announce the daily happenings of the hotel infusing humor and Miami flair. But before you assume this is another guy playing with chalk at a hip hotel, think again.  

Marcello Ibanez. A recent chalkboard design and announcement for The Standard, Miami; Photo by Seanica Howe.

Ibanez’s childlike perspective highlights the ridiculous. His work organically vacillates between painterly illustration and the esthetic of Keith Haring.   Cartoon-like characters take on local personality and send subtle messages about animal rights and the superficial nuances, ones we all love to hate, of Miami.  You might see a funky (literally) chicken frying up some eggs for breakfast, a sexy, leggy grape eyeing a jar of jelly in horror, or a puffy-lipped vixen balancing footballs on her chest in preparation for the Super Bowl.   What’s the greatest thing about Ibanez’s art and his creations?  It’s all in good fun.  Just as he prods and pokes at the silliness of humanity, his art embraces its beauty and differences, encouraging us to go with the flow and have a ball.  Outside of The Standard his playful animal and doll photographs get widespread attention, and his art has been used for big name promotions like Evian water.  Not bad for a guy taking your lunch order.

Seanica Howe and Nick Hyland in Page Two designs; Photo by Seanica Howe.

Do you know those people that just exude coolness?  Johnny Depp immediately comes to mind.  You know who I’m talking about…like if they walked around in a paper sack and talked about nothing but the sun, you would still be finding a way to hang with them.  That is Nick Hyland.   Blond ponytail, tattoos, ray-bans, and easily relatable, he captures your attention for hours and makes you feel at home.   He is an Arizona guy, from the school of hard-knocks, and is a total inspiration.  And lucky for us, he has found his way to Miami and is taking his eye for style to the streets through his clothing line apparel.  

A design from the Page Two 2013 collection; © Nick Hyland/Courtesy Nick Hyland and Page Two apparel, Miami.  

Hyland’s lifestyle brand, Page Two, infuses street art with his own personal images and is a reminder of how the most challenging moments in life can show us what we’re made of, spurring us to great things, if we let them.    The Page Two logo and its accompanying tagline, “on two the next one,” aren’t just catchy ways to encourage its wearers to move forward and grow.  “Page two” is used in the criminal justice system as a recall for those on their way out and can result in additional time.  It is proof that the cold and dark can ignite creativity and be the hunger behind the desire for beauty.  

Hyland’s brand is the fashion equivalent of the worlds he has inhabited, both past and present.  And it is the perfect integration of pop culture, urban gritty, and provocative femininity.  Faces and silhouettes of smoldering women sprinkled with a bit of Miami spice or delectable fruit mish-mash in and around Hyland’s trademark keyholes, reminiscent of the early Playboy covers.  I think if we could ask him, Eduardo Paolozzi, a major player in the formation of British Pop Art, would have been proud.  Paolozzi’s collaged blend of found images and magazine cut-outs may be in the Tate, but I wonder if he could have combined those with delicious fabrics that, in any size, flawlessly frame the body? I doubt it, and Hyland has mastered it.

One of the most beautiful things about life is that it is full of surprises.  What you see isn’t always what you get and often we are fooled by the external, taking it as the whole truth.  What lies behind a door and below the surface can be the most deserving of our attention.  I could just write about fine art, but what fun would that be?  Art is everywhere.  It is in our streets, galleries, and inside the people we meet.  All we have to do is pause to see it.  When we are brave enough to take a risk and even share ourselves, the world becomes a very different place.  The guy at the pool is no longer the one bringing you a towel; he is now a man with a brand, contributing to the creative conscious, fashion, and design.    The one behind him, waiting with your next drink, actually holds an inner child capable of transforming the way you see your environment, all with a simple piece of chalk.  And, if you walk in and look a little closer, the little motel away from the well-worn streets of Miami becomes an oasis…and a haven for those with a dream.

Seanica Howe

The Standard hotel and spa is located at 40 Island Avenue, Miami Beach, FL.  For more images and bio information on Marcello Ibanez, go to  The designs of Nick Hyland can be purchased at The Standard boutique on premises.  For access to more of Hyland’s designs visit 

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Posted by Seanica Howe on 4/19/13 | tags: The Standard Miami Page Two Nick Hyland Marcello Ibanez mixed-media pop graffiti/street-art

NYC: From Aureus to Zwirner....And Everything in Between

If there’s anything I’ve learned from seeing art and writing about it, it's that visual pleasure is best shared with friends (and occasionally lovers).  For a while now, I’ve lived and traveled between two cities, primarily New York and Miami, and, despite the exhaustion it sometimes brings, being a nomad definitely has its perks.  The best one of all is the people I’ve met and relationships I’ve built along the way.  Just like the places in which they reside, those I know and love in New York and Miami couldn’t be more different. Each possesses unique flavor and perspective.  New York is smart, sophisticated, and edgy.  Miami is warm and breezy with a hint of exotic. But whatever your preference, there’s never a dull moment in either, and this past weekend, in the city that never sleeps, was no exception.  

From Left to Right: Sandra Enns-Arnell, Claire Shegog, and Seanica Howe with artwork from Aureus Contemporary’s “Victorious;” Photo by Seanica Howe.

The long weekend began with a trip to Chelsea with Cherise Gordon, entrepreneur and director of the newly forming Nu-Garde Gallery.   Watch for Cherise to be one of the leading dealers in new media and emerging artists.   She and I traveled to 520 W. 27th Street for the opening night of the pop-up exhibition, “Victorious,” curated by Kevin Havelton and Klaus-Peter Saltzmann of Aureus Contemporary.   While at “Victorious,” you can pick your poison: wily and devilishly handsome gallery director or art that ranges from new perspectives in painting to detailed intricacies in mixed media.  Aureus is full of secrets and surprises, so keep a third eye open at all times, you never know what you will hear or see and that’s only half the fun.   Claire Shegog, one of Aureus’s stars and whose work is one of the show’s many highlights, was in attendance and, lucky for me, I was allowed insight into the life, mind, and career of this wildly clever and down to earth artist.   Claire is often seen at one of the gallery’s many trips to a variety of art fairs, so if you happen to spot her don’t pass on a chance to meet.  You won’t be disappointed.  

claire chandelier

Claire Shegog, Detail of Busby’s Chandelier, 2012, mixed media on mirror glass (framed), 16 X 16 in.; ©Claire Shegog/Courtesy Aureus Contemporary, Providence.

Shegog is an artist with an intense curiosity for life and a fascinating background that has extended from a stint as a florist in Paris to house painting and design in the northeastern U.S.  The combination of her love for beauty and all things girly with an obsession for materials and attention to detail has translated into art that embodies basic femininity.   Whether it is the little ballerina you may have witnessed twirling in your jewelry box, the antique ceramics you coveted, or the unforgettable day you played dress-up with your best friend, this is art that is a cognizant reminder of the dreamy worlds that play in the minds of little girls, some boys, and women everywhere, where dolls, ball-gowns, and a desire for everything shiny border on mental insanity.   Tiny female figures, each identical in form and created with the machine-like precision of Shegog’s hand, are purposefully arranged to dance with the eye like dominos on a mirrored stage, where the slightest movement could topple the troupe.  Much like the woman who sits knitting for hours or the dressmaker who sews and ripples, Shegog uses methodical repetition to explore patterns and rhythmic arrangements that are dazzling, much like their creator.  

paulette and clare

From Left to Right: Paulette Tavormina and Clara Rodriguez with artwork by Tavormina; Photo by Seanica Howe.

Friday began with one of three trips to the AIPAD Photography Show at the Park Avenue Armory, the last of which I attended with Clara Rodriguez, former executive director of Art for Change, where we chatted it up with Amanda Langer, photography connoisseur and gallery assistant to Robert Mann.   The AIPAD would make a picture lover out of anyone, but it was Paulette Tavormina who stole the show. 

tavormina peaches

Paulette Tavormina. Peaches and Morning Glories, after G.G., 2010; Courtesy of the artist and Robert Klein Gallery, Boston.

Tavormina is beautiful and elegant and her photographs are the same.  At AIPAD, her creations were shown by Boston based Robert Klein Gallery.  At first glance, it is difficult to tell if her photographs are created with a camera or a brush because the idea of anything looking this perfectly staged, colored, and lit without being retouched is hard to fathom.  Her images are reminiscent of 17th century Old Master still life paintings, but are anything but static.  They take on a life of their own, capturing the exact moment when the new becomes old or the rare point in time when all is in balance: sweet with sour, life with death, full with empty.  Tavormina carefully crafts each composition by scouring markets, streets, and beaches for the exact item to fill her camera’s lens.   They are vibrant and exquisite. Straight photography doesn’t get any better than this.


Cartwheels in David Zwirner featuring works by Thomas Ruff; © Thomas Ruff/Photo by Seanica Howe.

Saturday was a fast-paced blur that started with gymnastics in the colossal David Zwirner where giant size photographs, some of which require 3D glasses, by Thomas Ruff are currently on display.  My friend Kirsten Nichols and I decided that the giant space Zwirner built should in no way be limited to merely showcasing works of art.  Who said art lovers are elitist and no fun?  We decided that Zwirner’s massive cube is surely designed for cartwheels and good times, so she took to the concrete to demonstrate her skills.  We’re not sure if the people at Zwirner agree that the art mogul’s monstrosity should be treated as a playground, but I’m sure anyone can appreciate a pic so I’ve included one here.   Our personal tour through Chelsea included the following highlights that warrant a taxi ride and being snubbed by the gallerists manning the desks: Gladstone Gallery’s Miroslaw Balka’s The Order of Things, an installation of steel vats, streaming colored water, and all-around Zen goodness; Mike Weiss Gallery’s “Another Shit Show,” Will Kurtz’s paper mache puppy party complete with (you guessed it) shit; and Sonnebend Gallery’s current solo show of Rona Pondick’s metallic sculptures that morph from anemic tree to creepy human head.  


Vittorio Calabrese of Bosi Contemporary pictured with works by Chuck Kelton from his series Night after Night; © Chuck Kelton/Photo by Seanica Howe.  

Next stop was 48 Orchard Street in LES to see Vittorio Calabrese at Bosi Contemporary where “New Photogenic Drawings” by Chuck Kelton and Eric William Carroll are being shown until April 21st.  The exhibition is curated by Allison Bradley and creates an engaging dialogue between very different and unlikely forms of photography, diazotype and photogram.  Vittorio, too, is an art form all his own, so a visit to his gallery will certainly insure an enlightening conversation with one of the most lovely and interesting Italians you will ever meet.  But be forewarned, after hearing Vittorio poetically speak about the art and artists at Bosi, you likely won’t leave empty handed so invite your art handler to accompany you.  

My weekend ended with a Mexican dinner and mango margaritas with Paddle8 auction manager, Gabriel Butu.  Ladies, Gabriel is smart, gorgeous, AND British.  I would post a photo here but I don’t have time to manage the requests for his phone number.  This was followed by a morning jaunt to Brooklyn after a last minute invite to the studio of the hugely talented Miriam Cabessa.  I may have been having an out of body experience at Cabessa’s…hopefully she didn’t notice.  While being in the presence of greatness, it’s difficult to keep one’s feet on the ground.

It’s a rough life hanging with beautiful and talented people and seeing art in the greatest city in the world, but, hey, somebody’s gotta do it.  I’m just grateful that some of the most spectacular creatures on this planet indulge me and share their air. Oh, and that I'm also permitted to return to Miami to digest the weekend’s happenings in the warm sun while drowning in Cuban coffee.  Ciao New York…until we meet again. 

By Seanica Howe

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Posted by Seanica Howe on 4/11/13 | tags: Paulette Tavormina Claire Shegog Aureus Contemporary Bosi Contemporary mixed-media photography

An Ode to the Rubells

Recently, I overheard a good friend of mine say: “There’s no need to look for love;  the perfect one is always right in front of your face.”  Do you know why people say such things?  Because they are true…in life, in love, and in art.   Here in Miami we have one of the greatest art collections in the universe.  Yes, I just wrote universe, because that’s how good it is.  And when the most fabulous contemporary art currently known to man is just outside your door, there is no longer an excuse not to see it.  I had been to the Rubell Family Collection a few years ago, but what’s going on in that inconspicuous, vine-covered warehouse at this very moment is nothing short of mind blowing.  Someone go get the curator and give him a big kiss because I just found another reason not to permanently move back to New York. 

Charles Ray, Oh! Charley, Charley, Charley…, 1992, Eight painted cast fiberglass mannequins with wigs, 72 X 180 X 180 in. (182.9 X 457.2 X 457.2 cm), Rubell Family Collection, Miami; © Charles Ray/Photo credit by Seanica Howe.

Did I also mention there’s something a bit seedy, dark, and, dare I say, sexual going on with this exhibition that makes it almost impossible to leave?   Apparently, the Rubells have been sneaking around their privately owned space setting up highbrow visual playgrounds for adults, so unless you’re planning on explaining why artist Charles Ray is giving himself fellatio and sucking his own toes, I think it’s best to leave the kids at home.   After that teaser, I know you don’t need another reason to go to the Rubell’s current show, “Alone Together,” but I’ve got two more big ones: Jason Rhoades and Ryan Trecartin.


Jason Rhoades. Untitled (Chandelier) and Untitled (Chandelier), 2004, Glass, wire, neon, Plexiglas, fabric and plastic,
Variable dimensions,
Rubell Family Collection, Miami; © Jason Rhoades/Photo by Seanica Howe.

Rhoades’s dancing installation of dual Chandelier(s) from 2004, on display on the first floor, screams of all that is wrong (or right, depending who you are) in the world we live in.  It’s messy, complicated, and downright nasty.  Wagon wheels levitate, suspended in midair by a streaming maze of orange electrical cords that weave like spaghetti, lending support to a nest of brightly illuminating neon words.  It’s a red-light district of linguistic proportions exploded, condensed, and then reworked by Rhoades’s discombobulated and imaginative brain. 


Jason Rhoades. Detail of Untitled (Chandelier), 2004, Glass, wire, neon, Plexiglas, fabric and plastic,
Variable dimensions,
Rubell Family Collection, Miami; © Jason Rhoades/Photo by Seanica Howe.

Phallic vegetables dripping in a white semen-like substance sit perched atop the circles of wood like vultures who peer indulgently over the dangling twisted metaphors and lace that stream from below.   The frenetic work is grounded by a neatly, isolated bundle of linens wrapped in goo.  The words that surge and entice are not meaningless phrases or randomly chosen from Rhoades’s personal dictionary, but are synonymous for one of the most powerful words known to man and representative of female genitalia.  However derogatory, the humor and irony isn’t lost in this installation. Designed by a white male, one who places the representative womanly forms in electrically charged power positions that command the space and hover over lifeless and muted fabric left soiled by limp vegetation, is feminism at its best.  Yes, right again, I just called Jason Rhoades a feminist, and I’m never taking it back.


Ryan Trecartin, General Park, 2010, Mixed media and video installation, Variable dimensions, Rubell Family Collection, Miami; © Ryan Trecartin/Courtesy the Rubell Family Collection, Miami.

I have a beautiful, very brilliant friend who wrote her master’s thesis on Trecartin.  She would go on for hours…something about him being one of the most important artists of all time, or was it “our” time? The details escape me.  I would sit smiling, pretending to listen and occasionally yawning, secretly wondering where she had lost her mind.  I could never, for the life of me, understand her obsession with this over-the-top, in-your-face, cartoon-like video artist….until now.    Ladies and gentlemen, this isn’t just video art.  This is your teenager and twenty-something on societally induced, self-centered crack.  This is their deranged, freaky, egocentric worlds colliding at warp-like speeds.  This is the Internet, Skype, and Facebook reincarnated into strange characters you’ve likely never seen but who you’re certain you know. This is drug culture, media hype, and celebrity obsession all colorfully wrapped into one and, at Rubell, it’s all staged in a run-down beach scene complete with heat-lamps and sand, known as General Park (2010), that could be Miami but probably isn’t.

How does he do it?  According to Trecartin, very carefully.  The characters he creates, along with another well-known video artist, Lizze Fitch, are scripted and directed down to the very last hand gesture, hair-flip, and eye-roll.   In Rubell, Trecartin’s Tril-ogy Comp (2009) features a group of three videos called Sibling Topics, K-Corea INC. K, and Popular  They are a series of scenes ranging from close-up car make-outs and transgendered bedroom conversation to boy talk between girlfriends that captivate and render transfixed all who watch.   I dare you to look away. 

The show doesn’t stop there.  The ultimate art world prankster, Maurizio Cattelan, has silly little pigeons stooped on the rafters and Yoshitomo Nara has…well, you get the drift, it’s great.

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“Alone Together” is currently on view at the Rubell Family Collection, 95 NW 29th Street, Miami, Fl., until August, 2, 2013.  Go see it.


Posted by Seanica Howe on 4/4/13 | tags: video-art mixed-media The Rubell Family Collection Ryan Trecartin Jason Rhoades

Two BAC Artists You Need to Know: Toa Castellanos and Tina Salvesen

Sitting down to write about two of my favorite artists in Miami proved a difficult task.  Sometimes when we go about our daily routines, ones where we function on automatic pilot, we fail to question our actions.  Today, as I started to write, I began to ask myself: why does anyone write about art?  Why do I write about art?  The best I could come up with (because, no, contrary to what many in the art world would have you believe, you don’t need to be told what you love or why) is that there are those of us who wish to share what we’ve seen, and how we see it, with the world.  We hope, down to the very core of our being, that we will convince you to see and to savor art as much as we do.  

The best way we writers communicate is through the written word, in my case, the English language.  But I can assure you, after experiencing beloved art with a humble artist at one’s side, there is no way possible to assign nouns, verbs, or adjectives for what she has to offer.   This is why, dear reader, you must look!  The writer is left a prisoner of her words when it comes to art, but still, this is what I have in my arsenal and this is the weapon for which I reach.  So, if that introduction doesn’t get you out of your chair and over to the Bakehouse Art Complex to see the works of Toa Castellanos and Tina Salvesen, I don’t know what will….don’t make me come over there.

Toa Castellanos is a solo artist but is also a member of one of the few female collectives in Miami, W-10, where her mind and creativity melt and mix unselfishly with the ideas and gifts of other like-minded artists. She is the mother you never had: sweet, articulate, understated, and warm.  So it may come as a bit of a shock to discover that this unassuming Cuban woman creates edgy, fashion-infused collage. But just like a mom, if she is a good one, Castellanos encourages each of us to embrace who we are and to get comfortable in our own bodies; except, she speaks, indirectly, through her art.  If you’re a fashion buff, the use of magazine clippings of designer bags and shoes are visual hooks; however, it’s the disproportionate body parts and lack of continuity within the figures themselves that will stimulate your brain cells to ask: “Wait, where have I seen this before?”  And you have, right here in Miami: at the beach, while you’re having your morning coffee at one of many local cafes, or during the occasional stroll through Bal Harbour.  

Toa sum

Toa Castellanos, The whole is not always equal to the sum of its parts (2009), Collage, mixed media, 48 X 36 in.; © Toa Castellanos.

Just like the plastic surgeon down the street, Castellanos peels, dissects, layers, and pastes.  Her work, similar to the cartoon-like women they represent, is a reminder of the pressures faced in a society that has grown to embrace perfection at any cost, even if that result is grotesque. In The whole is not always equal to the sum of its parts (2009) from her Faux Perfection series, overblown red lips and coconut shaped breasts function as fresh, glossy substitutes for the aging female form, sketched and left to serve as a backdrop for newer, more eye catching alternatives.  A Louis Vuitton bag stands front and center and overshadows the woman in the middle, disguising a body and person all but forgotten.  Castellanos’s latest body of work, Fashion Dream (2012), is more forceful and makes heavy use of charcoal drawings and photomechanical reproduction to create flat, seamless renditions of modified portraiture in which tiny, taunting cut-out dolls sit atop the shoulders of magnified heads, mostly sketched, waiting to be converted and upgraded to their more ideal, glamorized selves. 

tina the flight

Tina Salvesen, The Flight of Time (2012), Dyes, ink, acrylic, charcoal, and earth on paper buried for seven days, 51 X 50.5 in.; © Tina Salvesen.

Tina Salvesen is, quite possibly, from another dimension.   And if Salvesen and her work are any sign of what is being discussed and created in this other world, then sign me up as the next visitor.   Her pieces are ethereal. Period.  She buries the paper for days, sometimes weeks, and what results, after the artist’s magical touch, are painted works on paper that appear decayed, fragile, delicate, organic, and mystical.   She uses a plethora of symbolism, some of which she has invented herself, to convey her message.  In The Flight of Time (2012), an eerie transformation takes place.  Black ravens support a yellowing skeleton before it vanishes and becomes a cloud of murky nothingness.  Any remnant of flesh has disappeared; however, the sheer white sleeves that adorn the once living remains serve as a cradling support for the figure and hint at the past presence of a woman.  A single leaf is entangled in the left phalanges.  In folklore and mythology the raven is often seen as an omen, as well as a bird representative of birth and death.  It is a shapeshifting creature, one whose force applies the laws of spirituality to the physical plane.  With nothing more than a few figures in place, Salvesen uses the art of the visual to portray a fleeting life while also relaying the constant interplay and exchange of earth, body, and spirit. 

tina star map 3

Tina Salvesen, Detail of Star Map #3 (2013), Dyes, ink, acrylic, charcoal, and earth on paper buried for two weeks, Dimensions of entire work: 31 X 28 in.; © Tina Salvesen.

The work Salvesen has revisited of late, where she moves from organic forms back to otherworld topography, will certainly have you questioning your existence, so you’ve been warned.  She is currently creating a series of maps, ones where she uses shapes, colors, and her own markings as a guide for souls from here to beyond. Searching for the map’s legend will prove futile, so allow the mind to wonder.   Some, like Star Map #3 (2013), are sparse, with the textures, tones, and alterations of the paper, along with the occasional grouping of symbols, serving as a guide.  In others, she uses wispy and delicate strokes to create lines that weave a webbed network of what might be pulses, energy, or externally transmitted brainwaves.  Salvesen may be channeling her information, but when she speaks of her work, it is grounded and accessible, proving that spirituality need not be esoteric.  This work is a far cry from the over-sized, gaudy, superficial contemporary art of late.  It’s back to basics, making use of a media that is more than a thousand years old, manipulated by a master draftsman, to translate ideas that reach far beyond this life and into another.   

The work of Toa Castellanos and Tina Salvesen can be viewed and purchased at the phenomenal Bakehouse Artist Complex, located at 561 NW 32nd Street, Miami, FL.  Video footage of the artists discussing their work can be seen on YouTube via the following links: 

Toa Castellanos:

Tina Salvesen:

Posted by Seanica Howe on 3/26/13 | tags: mixed-media Tina Salvesen Toa Castellanos

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