A Miami based contemporary art newsletter / blog

Partial eclipse gives new Miami artists a chance to shine

Detail of “New World Water” (2008) by Ricky Rayns from “Reflectivity Part 1: Mind Fields”

Miami’s 2nd Saturday art walk was certainly interesting this month. Not because there were great shows but rather because of the apparent manner in which the balance of power seemed to shift between the bigger galleries and the smaller independent project spaces.

The present lack of anything major to see afforded the opportunity to take a step back and assess Miami art for what it really is or is becoming; a meditative reflection on the state of play between artists and galleries, galleries and each other.

From walking around last night in search of interesting exhibitions or people to converse with it would seem that for the most part the more significant galleries have perhaps had their days – at least for this year. Not by virtue of the quality of work in the competing smaller spaces but rather in regard to a combination of their measurable complacency and the fresher, seemingly more effective formulas that less important venues have devised in regard to exhibiting work.

The trajectory of this new dynamic is by no means definitive as the heavy hitters remain to hang in there just as much as the smaller ones are still a long way from finding their feet, however, there seemed to be a definite felt a shift in the air last night – much like the point in a fight when onlookers realize that the underdog will triumph–although triumph is perhaps an exaggeration in this context. Granted this probably happens every year when the season dwindles. As the larger galleries who don’t necessarily have to make the effort plod on as usual or simply close, the subordinate spaces seize with gusto the opportunity to snare the drifters – springing to life like weeds on a newly sun drenched patch of forest floor.

Although their ingenuity is probably an effort to compensate for the lack of anything substantial, they do deserve credit where due, and despite the reservations one might harbor for some of these ‘secondary locations’ we was pleased to rekindle our interest in artists who do not typically get a chance to shine.

The exhibition “Reflectivity Part 1: Mind Fields” by Ricky Rayns at the Marcy building in the Design District was one such show. We choose to speak about this above all other exhibitions that we would typically have overlooked because this one stood out as embodying a perfectly balance everything that is wrong with such spaces and everything that is right about the artists that show in them. It is annoying when you get a good space with a bad artist and just plain sad when you get a bad space with a bad artist but when you strike somewhere in between with even potential on both fronts it is not only humbling but also quite inspiring.

First impressions of the show, the first of a series of planned exhibitions by Rayns, were marred by my preconceptions of what a gallery space should be. This one sadly lived up to none of them: irregular baseboards (base boards themselves are for me an obstruction!), unfinished paint jobs, no touching up, broken outlets, peeling labels, unyielding permanent features within the space such as columns, mirrors and platforms; too many windows, not enough design and no clear flow.

The subsiding of these deplorable preconceptions then gave rise to all too familiar feelings of guilt, shame and humility. After all, this is not a gallery, it’s a real-estate space owned by Craig Robins, probably ready to be rented out to a furniture company as a design showroom or magazine for an opening party. For this reason it is unfair to expect the clean lines and spacious interiors that galleries such as Emmanuel Perrotin and Fredric Snitzer exemplify. Moreover, shouldn’t it be more about the art anyway?! Not to mention that the artist himself probably had to paint the space, print the labels and worry about the marketing on top of the already heavy concerns that makers have for their work. How dare anyone enter into such a space and scoff. After the guilt, the shame and the more recent bout of righteous indignation had passed we were finally able to enjoy the work, which perhaps by virtue of the previous self effacing processes was regarded with an almost parental tenderness.

Dark Rainbow (Fill Me, Spill Me, Thrill Me)” (2008) and “Reflecting Part 1: Mind Fields” installation view

The exhibition opened with a number of small paintings surrounding a number of lurid green sculptures made from what appeared to be melted foam and mirrored shards. To be honest the paintings were not great but then again we did not get a chance to speak with the artist enough to really find out what was going on and sadly the press release which was reputed to be lengthy was unfortunately not available (We were early).

On approaching Raynes about his work he said: “Exhibiting in a non-traditional space, I was forced to engage how the viewer would experience the pieces individually, without letting the architecture interrupt dialogue between the pieces as a whole. The smaller paintings were quite literal and act as informative catalysts (of the artificially man-made islands), which then allowed for a more playful approach in the sculptures. I allowed my sensibilities of balance, and improvisation to be worked into the themes of alienation, entropy, rejuvenation, and nature vs. man-made. All my work has a political undertone, and my titles are statements that define how I feel and think about the work on a personal level.”

First in a series of 3 large paintings (2008) and “Prototype” (2008)

What really caught our attention in this exhibition were two side rooms that presented themselves as you passed through the space. Shallow appraisals of these satellite quarters affirmed that they were sealed off from the rest of the gallery – a view we soon found to be half incorrect as only one of them actually was; this we found to be most intriguing. Despite the perplexing array of kinetic objects and projected images within this inaccessible space, the act of having to stick ones head through a crack to see anything was deliciously unconventional and quite unforeseen for an exhibition whose ‘class’ would typically lend it to attempt to assume an air of authority by mimicking the traditional white cube as much as possible.

You Are Not Welcome Here” (2008)

The other installation aptly titled “You Are Not Welcome Here” (pictured above) was in fact not sealed off, although by some genius or fluke it actually appeared to be walled in glass even when you were standing right in front of it.

There appeared to be a designed sensibility in the use of construction materials that were fused together with found objects to form semi-functional models. These hybrid assemblages were presented in a state of fantasized disbelief, and almost deconstructed the interaction with the viewer by questioning ones own personal conditions, and our relationship to them. Responding, as the artist stated, with the constrictions of an existing and less-than-ideal space, (for example an office) in this instance worked extremely well; the objects that comprised the installation looking as though they were born to be there.

Ultimately, however, the content of each of these rooms was almost unimportant compared to the ability of the artist to use the space and anticipate the perceptive inclinations of anyone viewing the work. The rooms felt private yet inviting and were clearly and cleverly designed to be viewed from one perspective – a rare instance with installations which typically require at least some form of interactive spatial negotiation. These on the other hand were like incredibly deep paintings, sculptures within photographs or something to that effect. Almost in defiance of ‘art that works,’ Rayns’ installations pretty much fall apart as you approach them. The sublime illusions created in the brain from particular vantage points demonstrated a surprisingly deft ability by the artist to emulate elements of uncertainty whilst referencing notions of fragility, and perhaps even our modern social preoccupations in regard to stability and control. Whatever the artist’s intention we should look forward to seeing the images that come out of this show as each piece gave itself perfectly to being photographed. Our images do not do them justice (Fuji Z1) however hopefully you can get at least an approximate sense of what we are talking about.

Rayns’ work still has a way to go before he successfully communicates his ideas to the unassuming brains of the public, but meshing these disciplines and forging from them digestible and meaningful works is no easy task. His aesthetic – which exhibits a clear penchant for the shiny, the bright and the foamy – might be holding him back, however, to Rayns’ credit we didn’t see anything else quite like it (at least not in a gallery); apart perhaps from the exhibition at Kevin Bruk of David Shaw’s rainbow wood structures. But this is a tenuous link and even so, Rayns would do well to be compared to Shaw or even exhibit with Bruk – though he is not known for his support of local artists!

Of course many of the views expressed here towards Miami, its art, and the 2nd Saturday art walk in general are awfully biased. They are also undoubtedly jaundiced as there remain to be many intermediate galleries that we have not yet visited. For some reason, even in the midst of “so much time, so little to see” they continued to fail to attract our attention, preferring to chat in the street or sniff out aspects of the surrounding environment that are often just as interesting as the galleries:

On the subject of street interests, one very particular snippet of a conversation we heard alluded to rumors of a “not-in” art crowd – a notion that we had previously not considered. Everyone in Miami knows who’s ‘in the scene’ but judging by what people were saying last night, which was maybe evidenced by the human traffic amassing in venues typically defined by relative obscurity or absurdity, there would appear to be yet another force [perhaps] to be reckoned with gaining momentum on the periphery.

For more information on the artist featured in today’s post please visit:


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Partial eclipse gives new Miami artists a chance to shine