Art Basel in America
For the 2015 edition of Art Basel's show in Miami Beach, Nicholas Baume, Director and Chief Curator of Public Art Fund, returns for his third year curating the show's Public sector. Under the theme 'Metaforms', 27 large-scale and site-specific installations and performances by leading and emerging artists from over 11 countries will turn Miami Beach's Collins Park into an outdoor exhibition space. Produced in collaboration with the Bass Museum of Art for the fifth consecutive year, the sector will include significant works by Olaf Breuning, James Capper, Tony Cragg, Melvin Edwards, Sam Falls, Sylvie Fleury, Katharina Grosse, Matt Johnson, Jacob Kassay, Kris Martin, Rubén Ortiz Torres, Athena Papadopoulos, Ishmael Randall-Weeks, Sterling Ruby, Michael Sailstorfer, Tomás Saraceno, Tony Tasset, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Francisco Ugarte, Timm Ulrichs, Marianne Vitale, Ursula von Rydingsvard, Hank Willis Thomas, Robert Wilson, Yan Xing and Xiao Yu.
The Public sector of Art Basel, whose Lead Partner is UBS, will open on Wednesday, December 2, with a special evening performance program featuring Xavier Cha (b.1980, United States), Ryan Gander (b. 1975, United Kingdom), Pope.L (b. 1955, United States) and Yan Xing (b. 1986, China).
Nicholas Baume's curatorial premise, 'Metaforms', will consider how art making is, at its core, a process of transformation. The manners in which artists conceptually and physically reimagine objects or symbols will be explored, and in doing so add new layers of significance to what was once familiar in order to reveal unexpected truths.
Several of the works will be participatory. Jacob Kassay's (b. 1984, United States) 'Untitled' (2012-2015) is designed to provide a place for individuals to gather together in conversation. 'Healing Pavilion', a gemstone-encrusted sculpture by Sam Falls (b. 1984, United States), will similarly provide communal seating, in this case enhanced with metaphysical properties through minerals such as amethyst, orange calcite, jasper, lapis lazuli and rose quartz. Other work will convert inanimate objects into 'moving beings', as with 'Mountaineer Prototype' (2015) by James Capper (b. 1987, United Kingdom). Widely known for his large-scale, man-operated machines, Capper's brightly-colored kinetic sculpture will walk around on four telescopic legs, remotely operated via a control panel.
Power, manipulation and structures of oppression will be implied themes in several works. 'Ukpo.Edo' (1993/1996) is a stainless steel installation by Melvin Edwards (b. 1937, United States) comprised of large metal links, a poignant symbol of both the history of slavery and oppression, as well as the interrelation between people and cultures. Matt Johnson's (b. 1978, United States) 'Twisted Jersey Barrier' (2015), evocative of a warped concrete highway divider, and Sterling Ruby's (b. 1972, Germany) 'Big Yellow Mama' (2013), based on the notorious Alabama electric chair, both reference objects designed to exercise control. Robert Wilson's (b. 1941, United States) tall, slender chairs from the original 1976 production of 'Einstein on the Beach' will evoke a trio of elevated figures standing in judgment.
Reflections on identity and subjectivity are also embedded in Olaf Breuning's (b. 1970, Switzerland) polished steel series of oversized heads, Athena Papadopoulos' (b. 1988, Canada) 'Two Serious(ly) (Young) Women' (2015) and Hank Willis Thomas' (b. 1976, United States) single bench 'Ernest and Ruth' (2015), from his ongoing series 'The Truth is I See You' (2011). In Yan Xing's (b. 1986, China) playful performance, 'L'amour l'aprčs midi' (2015), young men clad in Chinese silks and embroidery designed by the artist will flirt with passersby, projecting emotions like love, anxiety and lust through their eyes, body language and sparse dialogue.
Marianne Vitale's (b. 1973, United States) nine meter long sculpture 'Ace of Spades' (2015) is comprised of relics of the industrial age, created from 60 tons of steel scrap material sourced from a Pennsylvania track yard facility. As Vitale brings the past into dialogue with the present, so too does Ishmael Randall-Weeks' (b. 1976, Peru) simulated archaeology and Kris Martin's (b. 1972, Belgium) bare bones interpretation of the 15th-century Ghent Altarpiece by Hubert and Jan van Eyck. Objects and images from popular culture and daily life animate works by Sylvie Fleury (b. 1961, Switzerland), who will broadcast the name of a supposed new fragrance in neon, Sterling Ruby (b. 1972, Germany), with a giant tubular set of red lips, and Michael Sailstorfer (b. 1979, Germany), in the form of potted beer garden lights. Additionally, Rubén Ortiz Torres' (b. 1964, Mexico) 'Collector's Backyard Boogie' (2015), will set customized shopping carts into motion with a hydraulic lift. Tony Tasset (b. 1960, United States) will play with our sense of perception through a monumental deer lawn ornament, while Rirkrit Tiravanija (b. 1961, Argentina) will bend the meaning of language through a solar powered LED-lit sign, similar to directional signs found on highways.
For many artists, the forms, processes and systems of nature are evoked in more or less explicit ways and with varying degrees of abstraction. Francisco Ugarte's (b. 1973, Mexico) site-specific sculpture, 'Sunlight I' (2015), responds to the sun's trajectory and position during the days of the exhibition. The installation's eleven wooden pyramids will each correspond with a specific time from sunrise to sunset, tracking the sun's movement, elevation and azimuth, through the shifting projective geometry of the work. Additional examples include Tony Cragg's (b. 1949, Britain) twinned, spiraling bronze sculpture 'Mixed Feelings' (2012), Katharina Grosse's (b. 1961, Germany) colossal, painterly abstract forms, Tomás Saraceno's (b. 1973, Argentina) delicate 'One Module Cloud with Interior Net' (2015), Timm Ulrichs' (b. 1940, Germany) kinetic sculpture 'Von null bis unendlich (from here to eternity)' (1986) and Ursula Von Rydingsvard's (b. 1942, Germany) large-scale bronze sculpture, 'Bent Lace' (2014). Inside the Rotunda, Xiao Yu's (b. 1980, China) 'Elevation No. 2' (2013), a series of double-sided abstract canvases, invites viewers to look differently at both the traditional display and subject matter of painting.
As in the past three years, a selection of artworks will remain installed in Collins Park until February 1, 2016 as part of 'tc: temporary contemporary', a city-wide temporary public art program which is present by the Bass Museum of Art in partnership with the City of Miami Beach.
A series of live performances will be presented on Public's Opening Night on Wednesday, December 2. Xavier Cha's 'supreme ultimate exercise' (2015) will be comprised of parallel performances contrasting manipulations of the athletic form, including both the slow, controlled and fluid movements of a female tai chi master adjacent to a choreographed tractor tire routine enacted by male bodybuilders. Controlled physical exertion also marks Pope.L's elaborate and sorrowful production; four large men speed through the park on skateboards, while lying prone, before crawling laboriously onto a small wooden stage to sing 'America The Beautiful'. Channeling the Wildean pun of 'the earnest Ernest', Ryan Gander's work features a dandy hobo who will engage the audiences in scripted conversations that reveal iterations of the artist's fancied and conflicted selves. The work, 'Earnest Hawker' (2015), was a Performa Commission curated by Mark Beasley for Performa 15. Public's opening night will also feature a special evening rendition of Yan Xing's flirtatious performance.
Public Opening Night, which is free and open to the public, will take place in Collins Park on Wednesday, December 2, from 7pm to 9pm. The Public sector is free of charge and will be open to the public from Wednesday, December 2 to Sunday, December 6, 2015. Tours will be offered daily at 2pm starting from the On-site Info Point (no reservation required). Private, group and school-group tours will be offered by reservation.
Collins Park is located between 21st and 22nd Street, in close proximity to the exhibition halls within the Miami Beach Convention Center and adjacent to The Bass Museum of Art.
As part of Art Basel’s Salon series, on Friday, December 4 from 4pm to 5pm, Nicholas Baume will join in conversation with the artists Ishmael Randall-Weeks, Hank Willis Thomas, and Xavier Cha. Art Basel entry tickets include admission to Salon.
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