MIAMI — The Miami neighborhood of Wynwood smells like stale weed, paint fumes, and gentrification. It is a far cry from the extravagant, party-focused, boob job clusterfuck that is Miami Beach during Art Basel. And that is exactly why Mana Contemporary decided to hold its version of an art fair here, spanning the Mana Wynwood warehouse and the adjacent abandoned RC Cola plant, which self-storage kingpin Moishe Mana bought in 2014.
This year Mana’s Miami art week programming consists of four separate but interrelated exhibitions. Three of them are housed together in the Mana Wynwood warehouse, which is also hosting the Pinta Miami art fair this year. The fourth show is a street art block party held all around the RC Cola plant, a popular destination for graffiti and street artists. Though separate, the shows all celebrate difference, rebellion, counterculture, and social awareness in one way or another. Each of the indoor shows features a selection of works from a foundation or a private collection. Though they are separated by temporary walls, Made in California, Everything you are I am not, and A Sense of Place curl together and feel of a piece.
Made in California is a selection of works from the Frederick R. Weisman Art Foundation. If you saw Inherent Vice, this is the exhibition version, metaphorically speaking (and unrelated to Thomas Pynchon). The show includes over 100 pieces inspired by Southern California’s breezy, always sunny 1960s art movement the Cool School. A loosely defined group of forward-thinking artists, the Cool School emerged in the late ‘50s and marked the rise of LA’s contemporary art scene. A walk through Made in California, and one feels instantly a bit more LA. Works by Ed Ruscha and John Baldessari are amongst the show’s more prominent pieces.
Next-door is Everything you are I am not, the title of a work by Argentinian artist Adrián Villar Rojas that is included in the show. The show features 55 pieces by 30 different contemporary Latin American artists, curated by Latin-American art collector and historian Catherine Petitgas. Her selection emphasizes street culture, deconstruction, and experimental drawing.
Then there is A Sense of Place, the most compelling of the three — or at least the only one that makes you want to pull out your cell phone every few second to take photos. Comprised of poppy and political mixed media pieces, the show highlights questions of cultural identity in Latin America. All the works are from the collection of Jorge M. Pérez — whose $40-million gift to the institution earned him naming rights to the city’s foremost art museum, the Pérez Art Museum Miami — and were curated by Patricia Hanna and Anelys Alvarez-Munos.
Outside the main event space and down an alley full of food trucks there’s the street art festival, which was organized by the Mana Urban Arts Project in collaboration with Jonathan Levine Gallery and the Bushwick Collective. Housed in what feels like (and may have once been) a giant parking lot alongside the RC Cola plant, the open-air show provides each participating street artist with a large wall to paint. The lot is filled with pop-up bars, old RVs, and around 50 tattooed men and women with bandannas, spray cans, and ladders.
“We like Art Basel but we also want to be separate from it,” said Stanley Sudol, director of Mana’s Urban Arts Project. “We’re celebrating something different.”