MIAMI — Entering into the cavernous mouth of an art fair, it’s pretty easy to know what to expect — some blue-chip art, some provocative booths, and a few rare modernist works sprinkled throughout the contemporary avalanche. Thankfully, there are usually a few pleasant surprises. Here are ten works I actually enjoyed seeing at Art Basel Miami Beach (ABMB) 2012.
The hits range from examples of South American abstraction in floor- and wall-sculpture to two classic Philip Guston canvases, and a whole wall of grinning, blood-sucking vampire mouths. Check out the photos below for my shortlist, in no particular order.
1. Jesus Rafael Soto, “Color y Blanco Superior” (1994) at Maxwell Davidson gallery
Soto is all over ABMB, and for good reason — his energetic, exuberant, and often interactive abstraction is a perfect fit for Miami. It helps that Soto is smart in his approach to abstraction as well, moving into the third dimension.
2. Ivan Navarro at Paul Kasmin gallery
Navarro’s infinity tunnels are always a trip, and these have provocative action commands echoing inside of them. I’d scream, too.
3. Los Carpinteros, “Kosmaj Toy” (2012) at Sean Kelly gallery
This is a giant sculpture made of LEGOs. It’s kind of like a Calder made by a 5-year-old. Totally awesome.
4. Os Gemeos, Untitled (2012) at Galeria Fortes Vilaca
Street art’s most famous twins have a few pieces around ABMB, and it’s nice to see the delicate colors and textures of their murals play out on a smaller scale.
5. Sterling Ruby, VAMPIRE series (2012) at Pace
Ruby’s fabric mouths are perfect for a post-Twilight society that could use a dose of humor.
6. Luis Tomasello, “Objeto Plastico n° 470” (1979–1984) at Galeria Elvira Gonzalez
Alongside Soto, the Argentinian Luis Tomasello’s sculptures and wall pieces featured prominently in a few booths. Their op-art visual effects make them mesmerizing.
7. Allora & Calzadilla “Armed Freedom Lying On A Sunbed” (2011) at Gladstone Gallery
After representing the U.S. in the Venice Biennale, the Puerto Rican duo has continued on their campaign to lampoon American iconography. Here’s an allegorical figure fit for reality TV.
8. LaToya Ruby Frazier at Galerie Michel Rein
The young photographer’s work, on display in the Art Positions solo show section, continues to be daunting and inspiring. Her self-portraiture is powerful, but the real star is her documentation of her changing hometown of Braddock, Pennsylvania.
9. Philip Guston, “Melancholy Studio” (1977) at McKee gallery
One of the must-sees at this year’s fair is McKee gallery’s pair of epic, late Philip Guston canvases, pieces that any museum would be happy to be own. Guston’s symbology of the artist in his studio explodes into surreal, barren frames covered in the artist’s signature knotty brushstrokes.
10. Roni Horn, Untitled (“Water is best.”) (2011)
Horn’s placid, deep pools of poured glass are the perfect art-fair art — visitors can gaze into their depths and see themselves staring back in the limpid surface, a quiet, meditative experience.
Art Basel Miami Beach (Miami Beach Convention Center, 1901 Convention Center Drive, Miami Beach) runs through December 9.