Film Producer Federico Guarascio on Changing the Game in Contemporary Filmmaking

Federico Guarascio is a talented producer of short films and documentaries, whose film “The Fourth Kingdom” stopped us in our tracks. A haunting survey of the communities comprised by various recycling scavengers, diving into the worlds they inhabit and how their lives intersect, the film won the top prize at the Brooklyn Film Festival. This insured it would be sent on for consideration at the upcoming Academy Awards ceremony.

Guarascio’s dedication to the film directly impacted its success, as with his work on previous films such as 2014 Sundance selection, “Godka Cirka”, and the ambitious, imaginative “Only Solomon Lee.” We were entranced by the blend of projects Guarascio selects to work on, and his superior track record as a film producer, so we sat down for a taste of his process and for an insider’s perspective on working on the cutting-edge of contemporary film.

ANTE Mag – Federico, thanks for taking time to speak with us. It’s so exciting to see “The Fourth Kingdom” win the Brooklyn Film Festival! That must have felt amazing. Can you tell us some of the rewards and a few challenges of working on this most recent award-winning film you produced?

Federico Guarascio: “The Fourth Kingdom” portrays the lives of the inhabitants of ‘Sure We Can”, a recycling center where society’s outcasts can redeem cans for money.

A documentary of this kind deals with delicate issues, and it was therefore necessary to approach the characters and the reality of these lives, investigating the characters with sensitivity. It is very rewarding to see that from this contemplative and observational approach, these characters just open up: revealing their stories and their lives. Our goal was to capture that poetic, emotional, and cinematic essence of this special place and its inhabitants. In that sense I can say that we are very proud of it.

By filming some video pieces to show all the great work that ‘Sure We Can’ is doing and their impact in so many peoples’ lives, we started to get more curious about this special place, our ‘Fourth Kingdom.’ We spent so many hours there that we became invisible to the people working there. At this point, we felt we were able to create a documentary film in the way we like to tell stories so we put together the short film while we keep working on the feature. The response has been awesome.

AM – It’s such an exciting film that sheds light on these important subjects, tackling a range of delicate issues as you mention – such as homelessness, poverty and immigration. As a documentary, the film portrays an incredible cast of real-life characters in their familiar environments. There are so many topics being discussed, can you walk us through how editing played a role in this film to portray such a wide range of people involved in the recycling community?

FG – We intended to show the human part of our subjects, not their misfortunes or their misery. We were interested in delving into the emotional side  and learning about their dreams and goals.

Another rule we applied to our concept was not to leave the space while filming. We didn’t want to see these can collectors out on the street, but in their daily life inside this ‘Fourth Kingdom.’

With this film, we also wanted to address another point of view engaging with what we can call progress on our modern society. Plastics have forever changed our lives and our world. Waste, pollution, and recycling are new realities, and this kingdom portrays side effects of that evolution: the other side of the dream of progress.

Editing as always in documentaries is one of the most crucial parts. It’s not just about delivering a sequence of scenes already decided at the start: rather, it concerns creating a singular language and defining poetic choices. As a producer,  I had the honor of supervising post production and therefore helped to define the final form of the film.

AM – This is not your first time working with Alex Lora. You also served as producer on the films “Godka Cirka” and “Only Solomon Lee”: the former was a Sundance selection which also showed at the Brooklyn Film Festival. Are there common themes or similarities in how you encountered the subject of each film? Did your role evolve from these first two films with Lora to your work as a producer on “The Fourth Kingdom?”

FG – Totally, my personal path is defined by thematic recurrences that have evolved over the years in a manner consistent with my dual professional and human growth. And I must say that I was lucky to have ever found such a prolific partner as Alex, with whom I share most of the thematic and moral choices – this underlies the work we have done together.

AM – “Godka Cirka” centered around the daily life of Alfa, a young woman based in windswept Somaliland. What were some of the challenges working on this set in a foreign country miles from home? What were some of the rewards for working on this project?

FG – “Godka Circa” is definitely one of the biggest challenges I have faced in my career.

It started with many logistical and financial difficulties and ended with a work of high poetic and human value which I am immensely proud of.

Certainly filming in Somaliland was another great challenge from a production point of view, because the permits were difficult to find and because of the topic we addressed. The women in the film live in a country where women’s rights are almost nonexistent; therefore, we had political impediments from the local government. But in the end we brought home an excellent result.

AM – So many of your films have seen success on the festival circuit, from “Godka Cirka” to “The Fourth Kingdom”. Have you found some plan for success that you follow? Do you have tips for other film producers seeking similar success?

FG – I like to define myself as man with his feet resting firmly on the clouds. Meaning that I can work only on projects that I really like and I consider appropriate to my spirit: projects that sync with my moral outlook. Once I have ascertained this aspect, I try to understand the economic potential that the project can have and how I can raise the funds necessary to produce it.

In general I would say, after you refine your craft, go for what you like. Do not accept any compromise. Be brave and unscrupulous too: all or nothing. As went the British Air Force motto of the Second World War: “Who dares, wins”.

Film producer Federico Guarascio shares behind-the-scenes insights

AM – Can you give us 2 or 3 highlights from your nearly 10-year career as a producer working on films in partnership with crews based in the United States?

FG – One of the best experiences I have had here has been working with Academy Award-winner Ellen Goosenberg Kent for her latest documentary now on HBO, “Torn Apart,” which was a real gem, and gave me a concrete example of the efficiency of high-level American productions. I was lucky enough to work from Italy in partnership with US-based crews, then relocated to the US from late 2018, joining my colleagues in the US that Fall to work hands-on on this and similar projects. Being in step with the US film crews opened my eyes to how incredible working in film in the United States could be professionally. 

AM – Through your career working on over 20 films, what are a few films you have worked on that have really stood out to you in forming your career and your mindset as a producer?

FG – “Odysseus Gambit” was certainly the first job that made me understand the rules of the game and showed me my potential as a film producer. We had started the project without a budget and arrived at Sundance. A great success that I still remember with pride!

AM – What projects do you have in the works now, and what do you hope to work on in the near future?

FG – With Alex we are thinking of transforming “The Fourth Kingdom” into a narrative work. I am already seeking funding for this next step in Italy; stay tuned..!

Female Agency Reaches a Climax in “Female Trouble”, Western Exhibitions, Opening January 10th

Hysteria is a dirty word, and those who use it may not be aware of its context as a means of subjugating women to prejudice for.. millennia. As long ago as Ancient Greece, philosopher Hippocrates applied a related Greek term to women as a means of classifying them as incapable of rational thought. Vogue notes, “The womb, thought Plato (and Hippocrates), was believed to lurch up and down the body, upsetting a woman’s delicate constitution. This illness was called hysterike pnix, or “the suffocation of the womb,” and was believed to cause erratic and unreliable behavior.” The exhibition “Female Trouble” opens January 10, 2020 at Western Exhibitions, co-produced by the women-led Elijah Wheat Showroom, features artists Amanda Joy CalobrisiLilli Carré, Qinza NajmKathryn Refi and Frances Waite in dialogue with the legacy of misogyny pervading modern and contemporary culture, directly challenging this long-held belief through a conceptual, interdisciplinary lens.

Qinza Najm, “Red Cross” 86×63” acrylic on carpet (2019)


The topic of women’s bodies is addressed with particular fervor in “Female Trouble.” Works by the artists depict the implied body, or the power of the presence (or absence) of the female body in their works. The pervasive power balance delineating gender is at play in these works, on view at Western Exhibitions through Feb 22, 2020.

Frances Waite approaches the body as it relates to the larger environment, inhabiting both the corporeal and the Anthropocene in equal measure. The artist presents drawings that inhabit both reality and the hyper-real, envisioning humans as mammals inhabiting their larger realm.  Kathryn Refi inhabits the realm between information and interpretation, where data meets translation into results. Her work, while abstract, presents images that create an abstracted visual of our everyday lives.



Amanda Joy Calobrisi explores erotica and female empowerment- a means of embracing women’s genitals as a means of impressing power forward onto the viewers’ psyche. Lille Carré similarly implies women’s’ bodies in her interdisciplinary practice. Her clay works especially embrace both the abstract and the implications of gender simultaneously.

Qinza Najm, “4 Grey Road” 48×24” acrylic on carpet (2017)

 

Artist Qinza Najm approaches the misogynist roots of hysteria with a lens as a woman with roots in a culture historical marginalized over centuries of colonialism. She notes of her approach to the body as primary mode of interpretation in her interdisciplinary works, “I often use motifs of bodies stretched, deconstructed, distorted, and pushed beyond their limits. A manipulated body is a reflection of how power is exerted upon our being.” Perhaps there is no more appropriate encapsulation of the necessity of claiming female bodily autonomy and agency in an era in which women’s rights to claim their body as they wish are constantly being eroded by privileged men in positions of power.

“Female Trouble” remains on view from its opening Friday, January 10, 6-8 pm until February 22, 2020. More information is available on the gallery’s is website: https://westernexhibitions.com/exhibition/female-trouble/

Artist Esperanza Cortes Explores the Legacy of Mining in “Arrested Symphony” Opening Jan 4, 2020

The earth beneath our feet serves as the subject of choice for artist Esperanza Cortes in her current exhibit, “Arrested Symphony,” on view at Jonathan Ferrera gallery in New Orleans, LA with an opening celebration from 6-9 pm on Sat, Jan 4th. The artist is specifically interested in the minerals and elements that can be mined and utilized from the soil: extracted ethically or… otherwise. Cortes’ work shines a light on the darker sides of gemstones, investigating the implications of how rare and precious substances become a source of geopolitical trauma. The Colombian-born, America-based artist works with an object-based approach to examine injustice in contemporary society. The fragmentary faces and delicate, shimmering cascade of chains defining works such as “Arrested Symphony” (2017) (below) serve as both an elegy and a hopeful perspective, a longing for renewal.

 

“Arrested Symphony” (2017) clay, chains, semi precious stones, encaustic and oil on panel Image courtesy Jonathan Ferrara Gallery

The underpinning themes of injustice and the human cost of labor simmer beneath the surface of Cortes’ delicate and evocative artworks. The artist has a penchant for cretaing artwork that appeals to the sense: inspiring a lingering sense of wanting to touch: wanting to examine more closely. Her hanging installation works in particular – “Suspended Thoughts” – utilizes beads, clay and wood to comment on hierarchy and hegemony. The artist’s lingering dialogue with the effects of colonialization permeate the exhibition: a concurrent theme running alongside the inquiry into how blood diamonds and mining for uranium have been produced at tragic human cost. Cortes has the subtle talent of hinting around the issues that underpin our society. Her work serves to provoke a reconsideration of the means by which we have arrived at where we are now. Through a measured blend of texture and material, Cortes creates new pathways of discovering – and uncovering – why we are living in the world today by examining what we built in the past.

With this exhibition, the artist returns to the borders of the Carribbean that reach the shores of her homeland Colombia, as New Orleans rests on the shoulders of the Gulf of Mexico. The weight of examining the context of the post-colonial in contemporary art is especially poignant in this colonial port city. Her engagement with postcolonial dialogue persists through various fellowships with the Joan Mitchell Foundation, the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, BRIC Arts and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship. Through these initiatives, the artist mounts a multi-disciplinary practice that continues to push the boundaries of contemporary art’s ability to grapple with this complex, convoluted legacy. The exhibit opened on December 18, and will host an opening reception on Saturday, January 4th from 6-9 pm during the New Orleans Art District’s upcoming Saturday Arts Walk. With a second opening to fête the exhibition those same evening hours on February 1, the exhibit remains open through Friday, February 14, 2020.

“Arrested Symphony” at Jonathan Ferrara Gallery, solo show of works by Esperanza Cortes on view through Feb 14, 2020

Spiritual Awakenings: Langdon Graves’ “Month’s Mind” at Victori+Mo

In Henrik Ibsen’s “Ghosts,” the story’s protagonist, Mrs. Alving, is a woman driven nearly mad by the profligities of a husband since deceased. Her suspicions, agonies and fears manifest into lingering presences that she summarily labels as ‘ghosts’. “I am inclined to believe that we are all ghosts,” she mutters to a family confidant. While for Ibsen these ‘ghosts’ allude to one man’s sins, ghosts have remained a frequent reference point in literature throughout the centuries, as ghosts and hauntings have persistently crept into society’s consciousness. Every culture has held onto their own form of ghost stories. Yet, can ghosts remain congruent to our present reality in which data and security camera leave little room for subjectivity and conjecture?

“Month’s Mind” solo exhibit of works by Langdon Graves; installation view at Victori+Mo (toward the rear of space)

One artist who is convinced they can is artist Langdon Graves, whose formidable solo show “Month’s Mind” remains on view at Victori+Mo through January 18, 2020. The subtlety of this curious exhibit lingers in the mind long after a visitor encounters Graves’ work. The exhibit features seemingly everyday objects often with a peculiar twist: pencils bend around tables, while maggots crawl through lifelike apples and flowers. These works appear in suprising configurations and cavalcades, locked in a frozen procession – a funereal march across a pastel-tinged space. Rooted in a carefully meted blend of autobiography and research-based practice, “Month’s Mind” marks an exhibit that hints at the delicate relationship between macabre and memorial, grief and the occult. The title itself refers to an old English practice of marking the memory of someone one month since deceased, and the contrast between soothing and morbid – a ‘finger’ hangs suspended from six feet below a spray of daisies on one wall of the exhibit – shifts its weight carefully throughout the expanse of space.

Another carefully balanced juxtaposition held firmly in place by Graves’ sure hand is the dissonance separating empricism and the supernatural. While data can indicate correlations, it cannot always explain: Graves knows as much from life experience. Raised with a strong memory of her grandmother, who recalled the artist’s great-grandfather’s mortician vocation and the religious experience of boarding school life at Georgetown Visitation Monastery, the artist recalls her grandmother’s tales of gruesome hauntings. Her earliest memory of her grandmother sharing a haunting occurred at a young age: as she recalls, her grandmother remembers that after a close relative passed on, she fell asleep only to awaken to gloves emerging from a nearby wardrobe. This mysterious tale became lodged firmly within the artist’s consciousness, spurring her onto a greater understanding of death: the attitudes toward it and how grief and trauma are processed.

If one seeks the very core of Graves’ practice, it rests rooted in the ideals we hold about the world around us. “All of my work starts out about belief, ” notes Graves, “I’ll study one subject and it leads into the next thing.” Here, the procession of research that Graves uncovered marches in step much like the ethereal arrangements spanning “Month’s Mind.” Spiritualism and women’s rights hold court alongside floriography, figures of speech and medical protocol. Most notable about the exhibit as a whole is not what is necessarily displayed physically, but how each work holds a palpable psychological presence that presages what is absent. Substance emerges from these objects, yes, but also from the shadows of meaning they cast.

 

“Month’s Mind”: a solo exhibit of works by Langdon Graves; installation view at Victori+Mo (rear of space)

Another masterstroke of Graves’ exhibition is the seamless connections between seemingly disparate aspects of the works on view: a custom-made, sculpted “pencil” bent around a table’s edge references the Spiritualist movement of the late 1800s and the mediums of Lily Dale, New York. A bar of soap reaching out from the wall toward the viewer in the next room portrays women’s rights icon Susan B. Anthony. These two seemingly disparate objects contain a shared reference point in Lily Dale, New York. The town just one hour south of Buffalo, NY, was a canonic site for Spiritualists of the late 19th century, and a generative, supportive site for the Women’s Suffrage Movement.  Susan B. Anthony herself had close friends and supporters based in Lily Dale: she spoke at the memorial service of a dear friend and fellow activist who passed away in the town in 1890. Graves forms tightly held associations that link together her artworks as surely as we are linked to those who maintain their presence in our lives, yet just as tenuously as we hold onto those connections that fade with time after the passing of the ones we love.

Detail image from “Month’s Mind” : a solo exhibit of works by Langdon Graves; installation view

“Month’s Mind” is on view at Victori+Mo through January 18, 2020; the gallery is open on Saturdays 10-6 pm and by appointment. This marks Langdon Graves’ second solo exhibition at the gallery. Graves is a visiting professor at Pratt and teaches at Parsons School of Design, and her studio is in Brooklyn, NY. For more information, please visit the gallery’s website.

All’s Fair: Miami Art Week 2019 Edition

This is the beginning of a new column, “All’s Fair”, in which writers recount major art exhibits, festivals, biennials and, especially, art fairs through a personal lens. Recounted below is Editor-in-Chief Audra Lambert’s whirlwind Tues-Sat tour of Miami Art Week 2019. Opinions below reflect Lambert’s views only. 

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Dear, dear readers.

Well, a week is enough time for reflection. And what do we have – one banana eaten, one sold and the last one spoiled – or was that the entire fair?

While discerning dealers put forth their obscura and identity-driven inventory (a pantheon of which lovingly graced the main fair of Art Basel Miami Beach, curated by the Mexico City-based Magalí Arriola – titled the Meridians section), other galleries employed the go-big-or-go-home Instagram strategy (Urs Fischer @ The Modern Institute, Austin Lee @ Peres Projects and -of course- the slippery stylings of Maurizio Cattelan, which was absent on Sunday due to the haphazard work necessary to properly guard the installation.)

Spoiler alert: shock art a la fruit baskets seems more suited to our soundbite culture than the lyrical reflections of artists such as Fred Wilson, Isaac Julien and Flavior Garciandía.

Art Basel wasn’t the only fair employing the stop-in-your-tracks Instagram mentality, with Art Miami presenting a monumental Yves Klein-blue installation by artist Jason Martin at the main entrance (other sculptures placed around the periphery was sadly rendered nearly invisible during the later hours of the fair + the VIP opening). Even UNTITLED got in the game with a Facebook-produced interactive installation (umm…) and some choice offerings of installations both inside and out by Antonia Wright + Ruben Millares, Coral Projects and EXILE x CENTER FOR SUBTROPICAL AFFAIRS. Even the Betsy Hotel’s inimitable egg sculpture featured some slides of works in partnership with For Freedoms. 

Fairgoers got in on the Instagram-able fun, while serious collectors buzzed about from booth to booth checking on sales status of works at Lehmann Maupin, Jack Shainman, and PACE. Some heavy-hitting artists with solo exhibits occurring around this time of year got in on the act, including Nevelson (ICA Miami), Teresita Fernandez (PAMM) – similarly, Elmgreen + Dragset could be spotted at Victoria Miro, featured in works which echoed their nearby Pride Park installation.

There was much to see and do, and much hype to struggle through, so below we’ve summed up – in the broad over-generalizations that our detail-oriented art critical brains love so much – the takeaways from this years Miami art week presentations.

-AL

Elmgreen + Dragset sculpture at Miami Beach, “Pride Park” near Design Miami

Five Winners

Public Installations / Projects – What a year for public art in Miami & Miami Beach! From the get-go installations by the likes of Leandro Ulrich on the beach side stole the show. Unmissable performances and installations over the course of the week included “After the Fracture” at PAMM featuring duo Marvin Fabien and Nyugen Smith. Joiri Minaya stunned with installation art in partnership with Miami-based Fringe Projects. UNTITLED’s Monuments section featured the truly stunning Antonia Wright + Ruben Millares installation. Passing the beach at night it was even possible to watch the incandescent works of Pablo Valbuena’s WAVE light up the nearby shoreline. An effort was made to create high quality public art offerings and it showed.

Oh, and also there was a Fernando Botero show on Lincoln road but that doesn’t belong in this highlight…

Meridians @ ABMB – Meridians (see above note) was both an art critic’s dream as well as an Instagrammers’ – that rare combination of critical rigor and visuals-driven approach that will stand out for years to come. Featuring a great mix of local and emerging versus global and firmly established artists, Meridians at the main fair featured standout work by Oscar Tuazon, Fred Wilson, Isaac Julien, Portia Munson, Woody de Otello and more. A real crowd pleaser and rightly so… but it is a fair ten minute walk away and upstairs from the main fair exhibitors. Maybe set up a golf cart service? I don’t mind the walk but it’s key to remain mindful of the mobility of your guests…excuse me, your collectors.

UNTITLED – Did anyone have something bad to say about UNTITLED? Queer art, artists of color, feminists, environmentalists, art criticizing religion, outsider artists – everyone was welcomed with open arms (and strong sales, from what I’ve gathered) at this prestigious showing of UNTITLED. You could also just as easily ignore the cultural underpinnings of some such work (ahem, as some collectors will) and relish the fine skills and inquiring minds that were behind the artworks on view at the fair. With incredible works on view by Damien Davis of LatchKey Gallery, Leah Guagdanoli at Hollis Taggart, Remy Jungerman and Nate Lewis at Fridman Gallery, Jenna Gribbon at Fredericks & Freiser, and more, visitors could really come away with a sense that the art on view at UNTITLED was fearless and provocative, with something to say in addition to its value as fine art.

EDEL ASSANTI at UNTITLED: Installation by Sheida Soleimani on the main wall flanked by an Oren Pinhassi sculpture

Art Miami + CONTEXT – Close to a museum, check.

Featuring old to new to back again, check.

Engaging visitors in conversation, check.

Art Miami still manages to drive the conversation around what is possible for art dealers who are willing (or are happier) to exhibit outside of the Art Basel stable. With similar offerings to the main fair, while maintaining a diverse selection in its own right, both art Miami and context offer an alternative to the globe-trotting – and often unaffordable- trappings of ABMB. Sure they could use more programming, but they’ve remained sustainable – more than ABMB parent company can say (allegedly) at this point…

PAMM – How does the Pérez Art Museum Miami just keep getting better and better? This Franklin Sirmans-led institution has not only featured the meticulous and fantastically spoken hometown (now NYC-based) Teresita Fernandez, their programming for art week – including aforementioned After the Fracture and the phenomenal art Miami VIP event – only served to highlight how they manage that precarious balance of serving the community while welcoming visitors to indulge in the concepts and curatorial vision that puts the museum – and Miami- onto the art world map.

Teresita Fernandez at the PAMM is prescient, haunting and idyllic

Bonus: The New Rubell Museum

Ok, I admit it. I didn’t make the trek out to the new Rubell museum. I know – stop reading now. Seriously though, other than some mild criticism about the very “New MoMA”-esque organization of their collection, how rewarding is it to see the greatest hits of the monumental Rubell collection in its new museum home? Yes, it’s not close. Yes, it was basically (likely) created for a better tax cut. But, as the kids say, I ain’t mad at it.

Five Losers

NADA – Man, poor NADA just can’t catch a break. While “resting on its laurels” might seem like a strong statement, Schachter was onto something when he flippantly observed “UNTITLED is the new NADA”. The energy does seem to have shifted beach side, as ever since NADA has left its admittedly funky haunt over at the now-defunct Deauville hotel, the ice palace just hasn’t quite filled the same carpeted and low-ceilinged hole in fairgoers’ hearts. The public projects as usual made an impression and showings were strong, but it would be a far cry to say that everyone who went down for the fairs made it over to NADA….more brunches in their programming, perhaps?

Pulse – Pulse, oh, pulse pulse pulse. What happened? Did you spend all the efforts you used for past iterations in vetting appealing art gallerists toward a chic, undiscoverable Wellness section instead? New leadership still finding its feet, perhaps, but alongside Pulse stalwarts guests found just an uncomfortably few too many offerings that would’ve been equally at home at Scope. This is a fair seeking its identity somewhere between copy and paste imitation art and genuine emerging artists with a practice based in Concepts.

Art Critics – “It’s so nice to meet a writer here.” A non-East coast gallerist’s lamentations hit me where it hurt. Where were the critics? Other than those of us dispatched over to the main fair for market coverage, there was a woeful lack of critical engagement with art presented at this year’s fairs according to conversations with various gallerists around the fairs. UNTITLED is commendable for employing a writer-in-residence for this year’s edition; here’s to hoping the next one around is a woman or gender non-conforming colleague.

ok, so Idris Elba opening for Diplo @ the EDITION, Miami Beach Basement was dope af

Nightlife – maybe it was just me, but the late night offerings seemed a bit low-key or retail market-driven this year (Desigual at the Temple House, anyone?) Aside from the fabulous Rashaad Newsome x Swizz Beatz Annual King of Arms Art Ball, a strong VIP party for art Miami a handful of beachside parties, offerings during the week were rather time. Surprisingly, the brunches were where it was at this year. While Pulse brunch was a hot mess this year, anyone who made it over to fête the collection or museum brunches came away feeling the better for meeting their alarm clocks halfway and trekking over to these chic morning affairs.

Streets – the traffic, am I right? Between construction on the mainland-to-beach side exits to disoriented Lyft drivers totally out of their element trying to navigate the nooks and crannies that are downtown Miami, the streets – and those who used them – were just plain out of luck for Miami art week.

Bonus: Art Pop-up projects – you know they were there. I know there were there. Neither of us went though, right? Right? Even the smattering that existed (yet were impossible to find) on Lincoln Road.

Space and Body Merge in Julia Betts’ “Ruptured Holding” at GRIDSPACE

December 15th marks the debut show at GRIDSPACE for artist Julia Betts, a sculptor based in PA. An MFA, Sculpture graduate of RISD, Betts brings her striking juxtaposition of body and material to this architecturally-driven space. This solo exhibit at GRIDSPACE, titled ruptured holding, presents an interdisciplinary window into the artist’s practice. Betts’ work relies on the contrast between the instability and unpredictability of materials presented to the public at this space, precipitously cast on the rapidly changing neighborhood of northern Crown Heights. The erasure and reclamation of identity present in works such as “Detritus” find their home within the context of a Crown Heights that even ten years ago counted very few art spaces among its residents.

From 4-6 pm on Sunday, December 15, GRIDSPACE will host a reception for Betts open to the public. Drawing from her undergraduate degree in studio art from the University of Pittsburgh toward her more recent MFA in Sculpture from RISD, the artist has a firm and mature approach to materiality and concept. In discussing the objects she employs in her practice, Betts explains her aim to destabilize existing frameworks, noting that “my work…. create(s) a uniquely precarious situation whose exact results are ambiguous and actually lead to disruption and upheaval.”

“Detritus” Julia Betts (10’x10′) 2015, ground self-images

In Betts work, the material holds as much weight conceptually as the object they comprise, daring the viewer to consider the implications of the final artwork confronting them. Mining from the same veins as pivotal artists such as Ana Mendieta, Do Huh Suh and Isa Genzken, Betts’ work advances installation farther into our current moment and inviting us to question what is presented to us for consideration. The works seem to mesmerize by their very undefinability, forming a hold on one’s psyche and creating an opening for more inquisitive looks into the very fabric of reality that surrounds us in everyday life.

 

Works such as “Accretion” reveal Betts’ engagement with pushing material to the breaking point, engaging with the adhesive, industrial material of masking tape to reveal the limits of the body. Implied motion and abstracted form combine to create the sensation of an unknown woman’s body traversing space. The labor-intensive practice also implicates the artist’s own bodily limitations in the work.

With inclusion in multiple group exhibitions in New York City such as at Re:Art Show, Microscope Gallery, and Flux Factory, Julia Betts has made her mark on the NYC art scene. She has also exhibited nationally in numerous solo shows such as at Unsmoke Systems (Pittsburgh, PA) and Bunker Projects (Pittsburgh, PA). Betts has also completed artist-in-residence programs at Millay Colony for the Arts and Virginia Center for the Creative Arts.

GRIDSPACE is an art space that serves as an architecturally specific outlet for experimentation engaging the rapidly changing neighborhood of northern Crown Heights. Located at 112 Rogers Avenue in North Crown Heights, the closest subway to the space is the 2,3,4,5 to Franklin or the S to Park Place. For any inquiries about the space, please contact  cg@cgwk.net

Uncovering Top Exhibits on View at Art Miami 2019

Navigating the complex paths presented to visitors at Art Miami is no small feat. Faced with the mountain of galleries on view, we’ve pulled together a handy reference guide for must-see presentations at this year’s Art Miami. Located at One Herald Plaza in Miami (NE 14th Street and Biscayne Bay,) the fair shares the grounds with its sister fair, Context.

From secondary market prospects to mid-career artists, Art Miami marks a diverse cross-section of modern and contemporary art reflecting a wide assembly of tastes. From the merging of digital and material to the large-scale mid-century modernists, no other fair holds quite the range of gems on display at Art Miami.

Make sure to survey the show, and keep an eye out for the following art galleries (Booth numbers indicated below.)

Kenneth Noland, “Mysteries: Wild at Heart” at Helwaser Gallery (Art Miami 2019) Courtesy of Helwaser Gallery, New York. Photography: Hadi Fallaphisheh

Helwaser Gallery (AM521) – Featuring sculpture, mixed media and works on paper, Helwaser’s presentations span from the mid-century to late 20th century. “Shadenfreude” by John Chamberlain lies at the outskirts of the booth, enticing passersby, while various works by the likes of Noland, Condo and LeWitt offer insights into these artists’ practice. Helwaser’s clean and meticulous presentation only serve to heighten the quality of the artworks on view. A definite stop on any fair-goers list.

C24 Gallery (AM304) – Stunning combinations of scale and material wait to delight visitors to C24’s Art Miami presentation. Christian Vincent, Katja Loher and Mike Dargas present compelling visions at the booth, with Dargas’ paintings taking honey as a departure point for imagining new visual textures. Katja Loher’s mixed media digital installations confound, while Christian Vincent’s representational paintings leave narratives to the viewer’s imagination. Not far from the VIP lounge, C24 is easy to discover and well worth the visit.

“Veil 2” Christian Vincent at C24 Gallery (Art Miami 2019)

Berry Campbell (AM122) – Frank Wimberley and Syd Solomon steal the show at Berry Campbell gallery’s presentation, while stunning pieces by Nancy Graves, Elaine de Kooning and others round out an impressive survey of painters and mixed-media artists spanning from the post-war period to the present day. Wimberley’s ruminations on texture and minimalism alone feel shockingly contemporary. Syd Solomon’s work will be featured in an upcoming solo show at the Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, so take a peek at his works on view here to familiarize yourself with his style and deft mastery of color tones.

“Morning Lightsigns” Syd Solomon at Berry Campbell (Art Miami 2019)

 

Goya Contemporary (AM111) – Baltimore-based Goya Contemporary presents Louise Fishman and Louisa Chase along with Joyce J. Scott and Elizabeth Talford Scott at this compelling Art Miami presentation. Open over 20 years, Goya Contemporary and Goya-Girl Press play a definitive role in the arts community in Baltimore and have helped secure the legacy of Baltimore-based artists while also exhibiting international renowned artists such as Louise Bourgeois. This compelling survey of paintings and sculptures offers incredible access to modern and contemporary artists, particularly woman artists, in a fair that benefits from this diverse showing.

Joyce J Scott, “Lips” Goya Contemporary Art (Art Miami 2019)

The Bonnier Gallery (AM402) – Miami-based Bonnier Gallery presents inside looks into the practice of established artists such as Christo and Mark di Suvero. Featuring drawings, sculpture and mixed-media work, The Bonnier Gallery is a local stalwart with an international focus. Focused on minimalism and with significant conceptual art on hand, the gallery marks a breath of fresh air in a market leaning heavily on Pop Art. A must-see.

Christo, “Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (Packed)” The Bonnier Gallery (Art Miami 2019)

James Goodman Gallery (AM218) – Early works by Milton Avery and other mid-century Modern painters populate James Goodman Gallery’s Art Miami booth. The options for collectors seeking obscure works by artists in the established canon are endless. Jim Dine, Sam Francis and others populate the robust offerings on hand at James Goodman, with a range of paintings and sculpture greeting the visitor. Another centrally located booth on view, James Goodman Gallery is well worth checking out.

detail of a painting by Milton Avery, James Goodman Gallery (Art Miami 2019)

 

Whether seeking out a study by a Modern Master or seeking something fresh and contemporary, Art Miami has a wide array of gems hidden in plain sight. Grab a cocktail and wander through the fairs – a Frank Stella, Sol LeWitt or soon-to-be future Warhol awaits you out on the floor!

Digging Into the Interdisciplinary Practice of Roni Sherman Ramos

“I always think that my work speaks for itself, because I’m really a traditional painter.” -Roni Sherman Ramos

It’s morning, and shafts of light are pouring in through the windows of Ramos’ Brooklyn studio. Paintings on canvas jostle for attention with nearby works on paper, while ceramic works fill the remaning space. I carefully step through the space, afraid to awaken the spirits seemingly captured in Ramos’ elevated works: nighttime scenes – or are they abstractions with flecks of bright light winding through them? – share a wall with vibrant ochre red compositions that seem to leap for joy at being created. Ramos is studious – rarely a season goes by when she’s not pursuing professional development to deepen her understanding of her artistic practice. She is also reflective and thoughtful, ruminating on the painters and other interdisciplinary artists she has taken absorbed wisdom from. We spoke in November 2019 as she was celebrating the results of a recent trip to the kiln, diving into both her paintings – where her traditional roots lie as an artist – along with her work in the expanded field.

“Reflections” Roni Sherman Ramos, 36×36″ oil on linen

Roni Sherman Ramos: Even though my work is abstract, there are always elements viewers can understand…from a representational standpoint. People are always seeking familiar things in artworks – especially if they are abstract (works). I like to give viewers the freedom to find a mountain, or a face… before recently, I wasn’t even titling my work so that it could speak for itself. I’ve come to realize my work is rooted in nature and rooted in the land, and it has elements of land-driven [representation]… so I’m now calling these paintings abstract landscapes. Now, I’m embracing this impulse toward nature: it looks like nature to me, there’s no denying it.

ANTE. Mag: That’s a big leap!

RSR: Right, I’ve always tried to disguise this impulse before. I can deny it, and put lines through it or..

AM: …cover it in markings or…

RSR: …right or cover these in markings, or disguise it. But it remains. My process is a process of destroying, and re-inventing and resurrecting, as Amy Sillman says. I work in layers – sanding, scraping, destroying and then building [the work] up again and finding things from the past that rise to the surface, then making new marks.  What I strive toward is making sure there are a variety of marks: places where the eye can rest, and places where color leads the eye…agitation is present on other areas of the canvas. Tension and relationships are built through marks across the canvas. I include impasto as well in my works.  There’s always contrast – my work includes defined shapes and diffused shapes. Textures are also very important to me.

“Earth Wind Fire” Roni Sherman Ramos, 24×18″ oil on linen

AM: Can you walk us through your process? Some of the recent works from this Fall have almost an action-painting sensibility, showing brushstrokes and emblazoned areas of texture and scratches…

RSR: Marks and mark-making are both important parts of my practice. Texture as I mentioned is very important. I also love the work of Jackie Saccoccio, I’m a fan of her paint-drip heavy style and sometimes incorporate a similar sensibility but not always.

AM: Is there a new direction you’ve embarked on lately in your work? 

RSR: Lately with my oil paints I’ve incorporated using a heat gun into my process, using the heat gun on the freshly painted coat of oil on linen and exposing a bit of the layers below. This adds areas that build that feeling of agitation, I’ve learned to be careful when I use it as it takes a light touch.

AM: Is this the first time you’ve used the heat gun in your process?

RSR: I’ve used it before to dry water-based mediums, but this is the first time I’ve used it in my oils.

AM: Tell us about the works we are seeing here (featured in this article): are these all recent works? Say from the past two years?

RSR: These are all recent works, but honestly my paintings take a long time to make. Often I think I have control over the process, but eventually I realize the process has control over me. This is just what happens organically: you don’t always know what will happen or how you’ll do something that you’ll like

AM: So is this freeing for you or is it nerve wracking?

RSR: I like the serendipity of it, to a certain degree. Sometimes it’s disappointing but that’s ok, I know I can keep on going but it can take months until I see what I like. I always have more than one work in progress at any given time.

-ANTE. Mag

 

Damien Davis Empowers Discourse at LatchKey Gallery’s UNTITLED (Booth A7)

Foregrounding the artist’s upcoming pivotal show with the enduring, emblematic Weeksville Heritage Center in Brooklyn, NY, “Collapse: Black Wall Street Study” by Damien Davis marks the artist’s inaugural solo showing with LatchKey Gallery at UNTITLED (Miami Beach – Beach @ 12th) and a powerful investigation of materiality and conceptual rigor. The artist’s research-based practice upends conventional understandings of African-American history, revealing the narratives commonly buried under the surface. “Collapse: Black Wall Street Study” is on view for the duration of UNTITLED at Booth A7 (Dec 4-8, 2019.)

 

Above details from Damien Davis’ “Pre-Check (Blackamoors Collage #280)” Laser-cut plexiglas and stainless steel hardware, 14x10x2″

Davis’ works embrace a keen grasp of formal composition, embedding careful details into meticulously cut plexiglas shapes attached using metal fasteners. These industrial materials allude to the lexicon of labor intrinsically tied into entrenched views of African-American history, outmoded means of regarding black Americans still haunting our contemporary society. Davis draws from a pared-down color palette and specific, enduring iconography intrinsic to both the Black and Southern vernaculars – images that question where these two identities overlap, as well as their points of divergence. Davis himself speaks of discrete images – separate and distinct – that define his installations, drawing each element into conversation with an overarching whole, yet making distinct boundaries palpable for these works on view at UNTITLED – and later the Weeksville site.

LatchKey Gallery presents this new series by Damien Davis which visually investigates the murder of a minimum of three hundred black residents of Greenwood, Oklahoma in the early 1920s. As we near the hundredth anniversary of this massacre, COLLAPSE: Black Wall Street Study seeks to create new means of entering into a dialogue on the progress that has (or has not) been made with regards to civil rights, representation, visibility, and reparations for descendants of former slaves. Davis does not shy away from the tough conversations, yet invites others to respond authentically and inquisitively to his work. The artist will host an on-site activation of his work every day during the UNTITLED show hours at 4 pm exactly, while the artist will be in conversation with curators Natalya Mills and Larry Ossei-Mensah on Dec 6 at 2 pm.

Damien Davis, “Muddy (Blackamoors Collage #301″ Laser-cut plexiglas and stainless steel hardware, 12.5x10x2”

Damien Davis is a Brooklyn-based artist. Born in Crowley, LA and raised in Phoenix, AZ, Davis centers his practice in historical representations of blackness by unpacking the visual language of various cultures. The artist investigates how these societies code and decode representations of race through craft, design and digital modes of production. Davis has shown at The Whitney Museum of American Art, Museum of Modern Art, Museum of Arts and Design, and Sugar Hill Children’s Museum of Art and Storytelling among others. He has also presented solo exhibitions in Philadelphia and Seattle, as well as Reading Pennsylvania and Richmond, Virginia, and his work has been included in group exhibitions across the US as well as in Hiroshima, Japan and Florence, Italy.

 

Damien Davis, “Homegoing Letters (Blackamoors Collage #282″ Laser-cut plexiglas and stainless steel hardware, 10.5×12.5×2”

For further information, please contact Amanda Uribe or Natalie Kates at info@latchkeygallery.com.

 

The Oracle Alights: New Visions from Julia Sinelnikova at Miami’s Satellite Art Fair

Disorienting twinkling lights move through sinuous sculptural forms. Sparkling silver surfaces spin, bouncing beams of light in patterns like a disco ball.
The Oracle (AKA Julia Sinelnikova) always has new adventures in wait for visitors encountering her newest holographic sculptures, and this Dec 4-8 at Satellite Art Show Miami event will be no different. Installations and performances will supplement brand new hand-cut holographic sculptures, on view in The Oracle’s Satellite Art Show in Miami, Florida.
Julia Sinelnikova AKA the Oracle at Satellite Art Show Brooklyn

Coming off the heels of a successful presentation at Satellite Art Show in Brooklyn, NY – Sinelnikova’s installation images made the cover page of Artnet and was listed as a top NYC art event – the next phase of the artist’s sculptures will take viewers on a mystical multi-dimensional adventure. Taking cues from her existing Fairy Organ series along with her recent “Sky Shard” installation in Gilbertsville, NY, The Oracle creates new pathways of holographic art experiences for visitors to Satellite Art Show Miami, unleashing unique new experiences for those encountering Sinelnikova’s work for the first time or for the fiftieth time.

 

Julia Sinelnikova AKA the Oracle at Satellite Art Show Brooklyn
Outdoor sculpture “Sky Shard” (45ft x 15ft x 18ft) photos by Thomas Stuart Hall. On permanent view at Gilbertsville Expressive Movement NY.

The Oracle’s sculptures have been exhibited at Satellite Art Show along with upstate NY, Lazy Susan Gallery in lower Manhattan, and in Brooklyn sponsored by the NYC Parks Dept. Her work engages with the female sorceress and the feminine gaze within the framework of the cyber anime dreamscapes. Sinelnikova’s practices engages with escapist tendencies in AR/VR and her immersive contemporary art installations hold different meanings for every visitor: a place of dreams, hallucination and fulfillment.

Holographic Sculpture from The Oracle’s “Fairy Organ” series
2019 portrait of The Oracle by Yvette Tang at the artist’s studio

 

On view Dec 4-8, 2019 in Miami, FL at Satellite Art Show (2210 North Miami Court), The Oracle’s next holographic sculptures, installations and performances are a must-see for Miami-bound art lovers!