There is no way to prepare for the massive amounts of art that makes its way to Miami for the fairs. While the large fairs are the focal point of the week, there are also dozens of smaller venues and gatherings.
A collaboration by Deitch Projects and Goldman Properties, Wynwood Walls came onto my radar after a tip that a tranny rapper from New Orleans was performing that night — I couldn’t resist checking it out.
After a quick cab ride from South Beach, I stepped out to discover massive wall murals created by artists associated with Deitch Projects (Shepard Fairey, Swoon, Los Gêmeos … ). They were brash and graphic but more about that in a moment.
The main focus for my attention was Big Freedia, who is part of New Orleans’ Sissy Bounce music scene. What is Sissy Bounce? Imagine queercore rap mixed with hip hop and you can picture what I mean.
While the music was energetic and contagious, all eyes — including mine — were affixed to the curvaceous women who danced with the singer, their bountiful booties were a miracle to behold.
I looked around at the crowd to discover what I would expect to see at any street art event: culture punks, hipsters, new media types, and the people who love them. To my left was Jeffrey Deitch (pic), to my right was Swoon, Gaia, Aiko and a slew of other artists. I spotted Martha Cooper, who had fallen asleep in a chair by the entrance gate, but was nowhere to be seen after that point.
My first response to Big Freedia’s performance was negative. I thought it felt exploitative, but slowly my hesitation melted away and I started to read it as a queer restaging of the absurdity of the posturing characteristic of heterosexual male hip hop artists. Big Freedia didn’t come across as aggressive or egotistic but a little coy (she didn’t make a lot of eye contact with the crowd) and infused with a cosmopolitan sound. Highly recommended.
The murals themselves were an impressive feat. Dietch has chosen a large compound in the center of the Wynwood district, which is adjacent to a popular neighborhood restaurant, Joe’s Italian.
Fairey’s wall was the most impressive visually. He’s obviously learned an effective monumental language but it did feel a little canned. The torn transitions between images is an old artistic technique that deadens the overall effect when it is overused — which it was.
The biggest surprise was the mural by Stelios Faitakis. The Athens-based artist mines the language of Byzantine painting and uses it to render contemporary-ish scenes that look more metaphoric than narrative. The central action of this work is a siege at some city gates but the surrounding actions were less clear.
The mural by the Brazilian twins, Os Gêmeos, was on one of the most public walls on the compound (it appeared on the street). Filled with their characteristic figures and surrealist imagery, I thought the work showed more signs of Asian pop culture influence than I ever remember seeing in their work. Something about the work didn’t come together and I felt interested in elements of the composition but not the mural as a whole — it felt too sweet and sugary.
Other murals were by Futura (which resembles a bad 1950s abstract painting), Aiko (more of the same), Kenny Scharf (rather clever but it looked unfinished), Nunca (quite nice) and others.
In the large warehouse spaces there was other art work by the same artists. A large piece by Swoon and another by Ben Jones (there were no labels by the works) stood out.
I have to admit that Wynwood Walls was a lucky find.