Galleries

Art Fair as Group Exhibition

by Kyle Chayka on December 11, 2012

The salon wall at SEVEN 2012 (All photos by author unless noted)

Despite the best efforts of art critics and reporters, it remains inadvisable to talk about any art fair as an exhibition, or a precisely curated experience. They’re more like avalanches of information from which viewers can filter out their own message, in the manner of an aesthetic Ouija board. However, if there is one fair in Miami that most resembles an exhibition, it’s SEVEN, which collects a group of (you guessed it) seven independent-minded New York galleries.

This year’s SEVEN moved into a new space in the outer reaches of Miami’s Wynwood district that the crew had cleaned and renovated just before the fair’s opening. Like much of the neighborhood, the space is single-level and sprawling, an extremely blank canvas. Into this void, SEVEN has carved out a flowing, friendly layout of open walls and pocket galleries that have more in common with the Museum of Modern Art’s meandering layout than the booth-by-booth construction of the flagship Art Basel Miami Beach.

Installation view of SEVEN Miami 2012

In fact, SEVEN doesn’t really have anything resembling booths. The participating galleries, among them Hales gallery, Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, Postmasters gallery, PPOW, Winkleman gallery, BravinLee programs, and Pierogi gallery, mix their artists together, leading to some striking juxtapositions of work. Most significantly, the boundary-less display combats art fair fatigue and makes it easier to forget the commercial nature of the endeavor, relieving the death-march sensation of seeing far too many booths crammed with art far too quickly.

Fabian Marcaccio’s “Almost Title Suspended” (1991)

Rather than gazing up at gallery signs, the only way to tell which gallery was showing what was to look at the work labels. Throughout the fair, BravinLee had some striking highlights. A carpet by Christopher Wool, “New Linen 8” (2012) (made of hand-knotted wool, no less), spread on the floor adopted the language of printing dots to present an abstracted wash, like a pre-planned ink spill. Nearby, Fabian Marcaccio’s large, blobby abstractions, also from BravinLee, animated the gray space.

Straight-up painting was a minority voice in the fair (aside from SEVEN’s signature salon wall, seen at top), but Marcaccio’s energy was echoed in a small flock of three-dimensional, wheeled, pyramidal “tent” paintings by Tatiana Berg (shown by Postmasters) perched in the middle of one gallery space. Large enough in scale to bodily relate to and covered in a slew of colors and paint media, the tents stand out — literally. The combination of galleries and artists didn’t always work — Berg’s ebullience was dampened by a series of muddled non-objective paintings on the wall facing them.

Christopher Wool’s “New Linen 8″ (2012)

Tatiana Berg’s tent paintings at SEVEN

Multimedia was represented at SEVEN by a striking room of video art as well as what may have been the star of the show, a gallery full of interactive projections by the biology-inspired new media artist Brian Knep. Shown by Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, the projections were populated by sketchy little cartoon creatures, somewhere between cells and little bugs. Arrayed into squares and vertical rectangles that recalled modernist painting, the bugs could be sent hurtling with the help of buttons installed beneath them. At turns technically impressive and viscerally fun, the pieces are great examples of accessible and intelligent new media art.

Brian Knep’s video projections (Photo by Hrag Vartanian)

There wasn’t much in the way of a theme at SEVEN, but then it seems silly to try to divine one. If anything, the temperature of the space and the work on view was cold, with muted color palates and uneasy figuration much in evidence. The success of the video and new media work at the fair points to a void in the Miami landscape that perhaps the video-oriented Moving Image (founded by Ed Winkleman, proprietor of the participating Winkleman gallery) would be able to fill.

The SEVEN Art Fair ran from December 4 through 9, 2012 and way located at 2200 NW 2nd Avenue, Wynwood, Miami. 

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