Luckily for me, a few blocks away from my home lays a beautiful modern white building that holds one of the top 200 private collections of contemporary art in the world. Carlos and Rosa de la Cruz opened up this 30,000 square foot space in Miami’s Design District to showcase their extensive collection. Sharing their collection is nothing new, the de la Cruz’s Key Biscayne home and their art has been accessible for public viewing for the past 15 years. With no admission charge and the invitation for artists to submit a portfolio for exhibition consideration in the project room, the de la Cruzes are connected to their community.
The show currently occupying the project room is Abandoned by artist Karen Rifas. Tucked in the back, down a hallway and past offices, Abandoned is an installation and laboratory of sorts. A lab in which leaves collected over years from the artist’s backyard are showcased and categorized, housed in large clear bins on the floor. Visitors are invited and encouraged to rustle through in order to find and categorize the specimens. Once chosen, the visitor may place the leaf in a clear envelope and attach it to a wall space designated for such finds. If you happen to pick two of a kind, you are encouraged to attach these next to each other on a separate designated wall space.
Resting on a nearby ledge in the installation lays a row of leaves that have been pressed into some sort of clay or plaster, with the original shown next to its impression. These pieces made me think about fossils, albeit man-made ones. Perhaps Rifas wants to remind us to take a look at what is going on around us in the natural world, to take care of our ecosystem so that we are not left with merely an impression. As the press release states, “This installation references our twenty-first century need to sustain, organize and classify, be it our DNA, print material or even our art artifacts.” Scattered throughout the exhibition are cold, sterile, metal instruments that one would expect to find in a lab. There are clamps to hold onto leaf specimens while studying them in a magnifying glass. Rolls of thin plastic pocketed sheets house individual leaves that hang from the lab’s walls, as if waiting to be unrolled, examined, and possibly filed. Another section of the installation consists of scattered leaves on a clear glass shelf, lit from below to create a ceiling of shadowed leaves. Peering up at it makes you feel as if you were lying underneath a tree looking through layers and layers to get a peek of the sky.
The space that Rifas has created conjures up an explorative nature that I felt as a child playing and inspecting all types of wild life in the woods. The smell of the dry leaves made me yearn for a sweater-weather fall day with crisp winds and spiced apple cider. A fall I’m told I won’t be experiencing in Miami anytime soon.
(Images: Installation views courtesy the De La Cruz Collection.)