History Lesson

What’s not to be missed this year at Art Basel Miami Beach? Survey says there’s a new sector with art-historical projects that are stars of the show.

By Michelle F. Solomon

Top: Lydia Okumura, PS1, New York, 1981. (Courtesy: Lydia Okumura and BROADWAY 1602, New York) Above: Lenora De Barros, Untitled, 2014. (Courtesy: Lenora De Barros and BROADWAY 1602, New York)
Top: Lydia Okumura, PS1, New York, 1981. (Courtesy: Lydia Okumura and BROADWAY 1602, New York)
Above: Lenora De Barros, Untitled, 2014. (Courtesy: Lenora De Barros and BROADWAY 1602, New York)

New this year at Art Basel Miami Beach is the addition of a sector entitled Survey, which delves into art history — contemporary art history, that is. Thirteen art-historical projects, including nine solo exhibitions and four thematic shows, will highlight artists involved in the Precisionist, Actionists, Constructivists, and Fluxus movements — to name a few — during the mega fair’s showing from Dec. 4 to 7 at the Miami Beach Convention Center.

“We are responding to the current interest in art-historical works with the new sector. We decided to introduce Survey because we wanted to create a platform that brings more art-historical positions to the show. With all the museum groups and connoisseur collectors attending, we feel there is a real audience for the remarkable works,” says Art Basel’s director, Marc Spiegel.

Trillionaire Magazine spoke to three gallerists about their participation in Survey — Anke Kempkes, founder of Broadway 1602, Erin Carroll, director of the James Fuentes Gallery, and Leslie Tonkonow, principal of Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects.

Kempkes’ gallery will feature four women artists working with geometric abstraction in a genre-transcending, groundbreaking, and experimental practice that originated in the 1960s and 1970s.
“Survey is the perfect platform to bring in more curatorial and research-based sectors into the fair,” says Kempkes — whose own curatorial focus at Broadway 1602 is on the rediscovery and reintroduction of the oeuvres of women artists, and features work that was once undervalued and now has become historically significant — “. . . women that have been overlooked at the time when they were creating the work,” she says.

Gina Pane, sand, humus, rake, 1969. Courtesy of BROADWAY 1602 and Kamel Mennour Paris.
Gina Pane, sand, humus, rake, 1969. Courtesy of BROADWAY 1602 and Kamel Mennour Paris.

French conceptual artist Gina Pane’s Stripe, Rake (1969), New York painter Rosemarie Castoro’s large-scale minimal paintings and sculptures, Japanese-Brazilian artist Lydia Okumura’s geometric abstractions, and Brazilian artist Lenora de Barros’s Ping Poema (1999) make up the thematic exhibition. All of the artists are still living except for Pane, who was known mostly for her use of her body as a media for her art through punishing performances.

Stripe, Rake was exhibited at Broadway 1602 during the summer in a show that also featured Okumura, Castoro, and de Barros. In a corner of a space, one sees a precisely combed square of sand on which sits a smaller square of dark brown humus. Against the wall leans a rake, inviting the audience to use it to rake the sand with the risk of diffusing the black square. The piece is a humorous homage to Kazimir Malevitch — a Russian painter and the originator of the avant-garde — whose work Pane had studied intensely. “What is so exciting about the installation is it anticipates a lot of her other work, and is the absolute transitional piece in her career,” remarks Kempkes. “This has never been shown in an art fair context; it is very radical and will have a great presence,” she says.

Geometric abstract painter Castoro has lived in the same New York loft since 1961, informs Kempkes. Reintroduced at last year’s Independent Art Fair in New York by Broadway 1602 — after not having been in the market for decades — several works were sold to major collectors, and more museum acquisitions are in the works. “It has been an extraordinary rediscovery of her work.” About Okumura, the gallery founder says that visitors will see amazing three-dimensional objects. “This work has not been looked at for a long time; it grows beautifully in the space.”

Michelle Stuart, Galesteo, 1977 (Courtesy: Michelle Stuart and Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects)
Michelle Stuart, Galesteo, 1977 (Courtesy: Michelle Stuart and Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects)

Then there’s Ping Poema by Lenora de Barros. “The first works created by de Barros can be placed in the field of ‘visual poetry,’ a trend that found its development in Brazil,” explains Kempkes. “Words and images were her initial materials. She extended the language of poetry from a feminist point of view.” For Survey, Broadway 1602 is showing a more recent work. In the beginning of the 1990s, de Barros engaged with an ongoing installation project, Ping Poema, where she re-contextualized readymade table tennis balls, rackets, and ping-pong table in a spectrum of installational modifications with a repertoire reminiscent of former abstract geometric languages in art. The Ping Poema project poses the question about what is new in art: “novo, de novo? novo, de novo? nada de novo no ar… nada de novo no ar… nada a ver com nada a ver com nada a ver…” The expression “nada de novo no ar” means “nothing new in the air.”

James Fuentes Gallery is dedicating its Survey presentation to Fluxus artist Alison Knowles, which includes a new addition to the artist’s oversized book project. The original Big Book debuted at Something Else Gallery in New York in 1966. “The books are conceived as installations organized around a spine for a fully immersive reading experience,” explains Carroll.

Fuentes commissioned Knowles to create a new book work and to think about it in an art fair context. He saw Art Basel Miami Beach as an exciting opportunity to put this in the right space. The structure is comprised of eight wood-framed pages, each four feet wide by eight feet high, connected to a metal central axis. Casters are attached to the bottom edge of each page, allowing their positions to be fluidly adjusted across the floor.

“Each page presents an opportunity to literally go through the book,” explains Carroll, who says she’ll be interested to see how it plays out on the busy art fair floor. “This work can only be experienced by one person at a time for the full effect,” she explains. Akin to the practice of reading a book, the viewer, or “engager,” of the Boat Book can only experience the work as an individual. Expect long lines at Survey Booth S12.

Dick Higgins, Knowles’ husband, was one of the co-founders of the Fluxus movement. While there are many tenets of Fluxus, one of the discourses of Fluxus art is that it involves the viewer, relying on the element of chance to shape the ultimate outcome of the piece.

Knowles and her Boat Book will fit nicely in Survey, Carroll believes. “She’s been consistently producing work since the 1960s and has had this prolific career that has spanned decades.”

Tonkonow Artworks + Projects is in its sixth year bringing work to Art Basel. This year, it joins Survey with the art of Michelle Stuart. “There’s a renewed interest in the evolution of Land Art, feminist, and conceptual art practices,” explains Tonkonow about her choice for Basel. Plus the timing was good, she says. At the gallery in New York, a showing of new work will be on display at the same time as Art Basel.

The exhibition in Miami Beach is titled Michelle Stuart: The Radical Redefinition of Drawing. The works on paper projects started for Stuart in the 1950s, the gallery owner explains. “She was synthesizing different mediums, and they were very connected with the Land Art movement and the feminist art movement. This exhibit shows how extremely influential and innovative her works on paper were from the years 1969 to 1979,” says Tonkonow. “Art Basel is a great venue to introduce Michelle Stuart’s work to people who don’t know the artist’s work and to reintroduce it to people who do.”

ALSO. . .

Lotty Rosenfeld, Una milla de cruces sobre el pavimento, 1979, espaivisor gallery.
Lotty Rosenfeld, Una milla de cruces sobre el pavimento, 1979, espaivisor gallery.

Latin American art is a large part of Survey with São Paulo’s Galerie Bergamin focusing on the work of influential Brazilian painter Alfredo Volpi. A Constructivist art movement and studio workshop founded by the Uruguayan artist Joaquín Torres-García, Taller Torres-García was the most significant Latin American workshop of the 1940s and 1950s. Cecilia de Torres’ Survey exhibition will delve into this little-known artistic practice, and espaivisor from Valencia will also focus its Survey booth on Latin American art by presenting A Mile of Crosses on the Pavement — an example of the politically charged public art in Latin America in the 1970s — comprised of works by Chilean artist Lotty Rosenfeld.

A group show with work by Actionists Andrei Monastyrski, who played a key role in late soviet and post-soviet conceptual art, will be presented by Charim Galerie from Vienna. It will also include Valie Export, the pioneer feminist experimental filmmaker, and Alfons Schilling, considered one of the early representatives of Action Painting.

Alfredo Vopi, Interior de Igreja e Anjos, 1950s, Galeria Benajamin (Photo: Edouard Fraipont)
Alfredo Vopi, Interior de Igreja e Anjos, 1950s, Galeria Benajamin (Photo: Edouard Fraipont).

Balancing the tangible and the abstract, Menconi + Schoelkopf will present photographs, watercolors, and gouaches by the Canadian artist Ralston Crawford, a luminary of Precisionism. Garth Greenan Gallery will present a solo exhibition of the work of American artist Paul Feeley. Paul Feeley: An Artist’s game with Jacks will feature five paintings and two sculptures made between 1962 and 1966, reflecting the artist’s ongoing interest in seriality. Further sculptural works will be presented by Galerie Georges-Philippe & Nathalie Vallois from Paris who will show two rare Tir-Assemblages from the early 1960s by Niki de Saint Phalle, a unique figure among the Nouveaux Réalistes.

Marcel Storr, Untitled, 1964, Andrew Edlin Gallery.
Marcel Storr, Untitled, 1964, Andrew Edlin Gallery.

Andrew Edlin Gallery’s subtle reflection on outsider art will pair double-sided watercolors by American artist Henry Darger with a series of paintings by French self-taught artist Marcel Storr. Darger’s drawings and voluminous writings were only discovered posthumously and Storr’s art — of which there are only 63 existing works — is thought to have been largely destroyed or lost.

Alfons Schilling, Untitled, Paris, 1962, Charim Galerie.
Alfons Schilling, Untitled, Paris, 1962, Charim Galerie.

Galleri Bo Bjerggaard will dedicate its Survey booth to the work of Danish artist Poul Gernes, presenting the artist’s Masonite series and corroded cubic sculptures. The exhibition has been co-curated by the artist’s youngest daughter, Ulrikka Gernes.

Henry Darger, Untitled, n.d., Andrew Edlin Gallery.
Henry Darger, Untitled, n.d., Andrew Edlin Gallery.

Finally, Y++ Wada Fine Arts from Japan will present a selection of work by . Until his untimely death in 2004, Ishida sought to create work that captured Japan’s tenuous post-bubble economic environment and urban loneliness of the 1990s.

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