Sunday, July 22, 2007

Miami Herald- Confluence Review

Snitzer show brings 59 homegrown artists together

Why call an art show about Miami artists a confluence?

It's a word that paints a picture of rivers coming together.

It seems inappropriate for art made in an ocean-front city.

But take a look at the full title of the show at Fredric Snitzer Gallery. Confluence: A Collaboration, featuring 59 works by more than 50 artists, is all about artists coming together to make art -- performance art and video, drawings, sculpture, painting, photography, and even a piece of needlepoint. The artists work with such diverse materials as crayons and wine, a firecracker and bullet.

Says artist Alvaro Pereyra, whose work is in the show: ``The only way for an art scene to succeed is through a sense of community and sharing. It creates a good energy.''

The one artwork credited to a single artist is a performance about the essence of art by David Rohn. In his Untitled, he stood next to a gallery wall for several hours the night of the July 14 opening. A solid black rectangle was painted on the wall behind his head. In slow motion, he smiled, frowned, looked sad and quizzical, and conveyed a range of human experience.

On the checklist for Confluence, most artworks are credited to two or three artists. The video Fomercial is credited to 11. Created in the collaborative spirit that the TM Sisters have made famous in their art-fusing video games with performance art, the hilarious and snappy Fomercial is by Tasha López de Victoria and Monica López de Victoria (known as the TM Sisters), Jiae Hwang, Susan Lee-Chun, Karelle Levy, Samantha Kruse, Aja Albertson, Kathleen Hudspeth, Muriel Olivaires, Jen Stark and Ramona Boucher.

Fomercial is a deliciously clever spoof on the infomercials that are the bane of late-night TV addicts: upbeat spots hawking magic elixirs for losing 200 pounds in two weeks, exercise programs that guarantee to triple your muscle mass in three weeks or your money back.

This video opens with Tasha López de Victoria jogging on what seems to be an indoor track. She radiates energy and exuberance. ''Now I'm strong!'' she beams in the video.

At the opening, Tasha smiles happily, wearing a black-and-white striped outfit that could have come from an old Jane Fonda exercise video. ''Monica and I wanted to do another video like we did for the last collaboration,'' she says. (This show is a sequel to a group show in 2005 at the Bas Fisher Invitational space in the Design District; Miami artists Bhakti Baxter and Jason Hedges curated the Snitzer and the Bas Fisher show.)

This sequel at Snitzer Gallery allowed the 11 artists in Fomercial to bond together, share talent, and make art. ''We had fun,'' Tasha grins, describing how the artists brainstormed together and created a story line with characters they invented. She adds: ``We dressed up in front of the screen and talked about how the product changed our lives.''

In one scene, the head of Hwang is garbed in a wig with very pink and very long hair. Her head floats among travel magazine shots, like a scene of the Taj Mahal. ''I used to be tired but now I'm seeing the world,'' she enthuses dreamily.

Graffiti-like drawings on glossy paper, offering an engaging assortment of creatures and collage, are a mixed-media collaboration by Jon Peck, Kevin Arrow and Jim Drain. ''It's in the genre of free jazz,'' Peck says. ''A lot of this stuff happens synchronistically,'' adds Arrow, talking about an evening he and Drain met to make art together. The next day Peck came by and picked up their drawings. ''I took them home, cut them apart a bit, and added on sculptures,'' Peck says with a mischievous smile.

Among the crowds at the opening were Sibel Kocabasi and Alvaro Pereyra, who have curated an upcoming show of 29 Florida artists opening in Istanbul on Oct. 17. The Istanbul show is Undertow and it includes some of the artists in Confluence. Coincidentally, both shows have titles with a watery theme, evoking the rippling effect that Miami artists are making around the globe. ''The thing that's interesting about the Miami scene is that it's very pluralistic,'' says Pereyra. ''There's no major theme. There's all types of art made in all types of media.'' Adds Kocabasi, an artist of Turkish descent living in Lake Worth, ''I think there are a lot of cultures here. I'm seeing a lot of young artists with fresh new attitudes.'' (She is setting up a website for the Istanbul show at

One performance that night was highly impromptu. There was a traffic jam of people clustered around a section of the gallery where a drawing of Bert Rodriguez's face was on the wall and, a couple of feet below the drawing, a hole in the wall that looked like an out-of-place birdhouse. People whispered and giggled. Although you couldn't see him, Bert Rodriguez was sealed into a space behind the wall. At different times during the evening, his erect penis emerged from the wall, stayed in place for a few seconds, and then withdrew.

In the context of the show, this was a performance provoking hysterical guffaws. It was a visceral assertion of an artist's right to make his own artistic statement no matter what, saying in essence the crudest thing possible to tastemakers and the rapacious art market.

Fred Snitzer says that he and others had ways to signal to Rodriguez so that he didn't ''perform'' when children were passing by. ''It's always tricky territory,'' he admits. But he loved the daring ''who cares?'' spirit of the show. Snitzer adds: ``If you get a big group of artists from the community you're going to have a lot of raw energy. It felt really good after too long of trying to be curatorial and proper.''

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