A Miami based contemporary art newsletter / blog

Mot du Jour: Diverse

Can you feel the next crop? – D.A.S.H. kids celebrate end of school ‘08 at the studio of artist Oliver Sanchez.

Miami’s art scene is comparatively new and being new it is still very much asserting itself just as those within it are still very much finding their voices and the niches for those voices. Miami’s art scene is also very diverse; but have Miami artists have been forced to diversify or are Miami artists naturally diverse? Not wanting to be the same as someone else has obvious advantages for those living in such a small pond but the range of different styles, aesthetics and concepts found within the Miami art scene seem to stem from more than just a desire to be different, perhaps hinting at a deeper, as yet unplumbed depth of cultural intrigue.

There really isn’t anyone in Miami making work that looks like anyone else’s work and even when compared with different cities, Miami stands out as a place of great variety. To explore this further we took two college professors, one from Miami and one from New York and posed them this question. “Are Miami artists especially diverse?” Due to the nature of their jobs we have taken the decision to preserve their anonymity but we can tell you that both professors have intimate experience of Miami. The voice in red is the professor now based in New York.

They’re very diversified, there aren’t two Miami artists that make the same type of work.

Sure they do.

Who, the House kids? Aesthetically it’s all different. Conceptually they’re all similar artists but visually they are very different.

Then who makes really unique work.

Well, there are only a few painters. Leyden Rodriguez could be compared to Jorge Pardo; is it art, is it furniture…

Left: Leyden Rodriguez Casanova, Two Sectionals Creating Closure, 2007. Imitation leather sofas, 12 x 8 feet. Right: Jorge Pardo, Untitled (Cesar and Mima Reyes House), 2006, Medium and Dimensions Variable. Photo: Nikolas Koenig

Well, what does that mean? I mean first of all I don’t really understand the whole goal of trying to make the most unique work that you can make. I mean if somebody’s made it before then…

It’s not about that, everybody’s has made everything before, forget about it. What I am taking about…

But I mean you make what you feel that you connect with.

I agree with you, you start with the last thing that you felt was important but I think if you look at what’s within the western world, if you think about who is actually important in fine art, in that genre, almost always there is some originality there. Even if it’s just some juxtaposition that hasn’t been brought together before as opposed to a culture where there has been a tradition of very similar work, let’s take an obvious example: ancient Egypt. There you have a very similar way of producing work. I think in the western world to say complete uniqueness in every aspect is the goal is ridiculous but I do think, lets say somebody did exactly what Pollock did, for example, or pick any artist would that be…

Well, many people do, but you’re being culturally specific. Bringing it back to Miami art, and authenticity, what makes or causes Miami artists to be so diverse? If in fact they are.

Well, lets think again about who or which prominent Miami artists could be said to be the same. Naomi Fisher and Hernan Bas, I can see similarities there.

Left: Naomi Fisher, Ladies 8/3/2004, 2004. Ink on vellum. 17” x 14”. Right: Hernan Bas, The Hunter, 2004. Mixed media on paper, 19” x 14”.

I’ve seen similarities here Amy Cutler and the guy who does the little G I Joe characters… Marcel something.

But wait, I think that’s the wrong way to approach it. You said it wasn’t culturally specific, that’s a bigger thing. Do you think art making itself shouldn’t have originality?

Well you said western culture.

Well, no no, you said why does it have to be original, I am not saying it should or it shouldn’t I am just wondering where you are coming from, I am not disagreeing, just wondering.

I just think that the idea of “I am going to make something original” is not original, and they teach you to do this in college.

Somewhat, well, nobody ever said that to me, not exactly.

Youre supposed to make something, or something’s supposed to come and look like it’s from outer fucking space or something

Well, if they encourage that then that’s weird. I do think that originality should be considered

You should just make what you connect with

Yes, but sometimes the people who think like that come in [to college] without being open to the idea that they could be wrong or teach themselves. Lets say they love drawing Pokémon “I love drawing Pokémon” that’s all they’re going to know if you don’t show them or encourage them to draw other stuff.  You know what I am saying? If you were to say “just do what you love” then that’s fine but does that make it important or art or anything. It could still be awful and you could still love doing these pictures of Pikachu eating corn and that’s cool but it may or may not…you know what I am saying? Because you love doing it I don’t think there is anyone that would say don’t do it but if you’re going to make something or say something that other people are going to be interested in then it might be another question.

I understand that but then you’re really thinking too much about the connection of the viewer, like “what would this person think” or “how will this work be received.”

So you don’t really care about the viewer? The context is not important? Let’s say you were a writer and you wanted to make a paragraph about walking down a long flight of stairs but instead you wrote about how a bottle fell on the ground. If you didn’t communicate it, if you don’t care about that, I mean you may think you communicated one thing but if somebody else got a completely different thing out of it then you failed. If you don’t consider how your art relates then you risk that.

Its important to communicate, it is, I agree but you don’t want to get into that whole thinking about wow you’re making a painting thinking about the viewer because then its going to effect the way you’re making it. Lets say for example that you really wanted to say something but you thought it’s wasn’t important enough, then whether its gibberish or not doesn’t matter, if its really important or not it doesn’t matter, it’s a shame if someone is afraid to enter into that world.

Well, almost by default I think if you’ve taught yourself and you’re being honest with yourself, you’re moving, you’re doing something interesting, you’re going to have to communicate to other people.

And what about the part that the buyer plays in the decision making process?

I think it almost happens by default, because communication is part of it. And I think if you were completely honest with yourself then you’ll accept that its not like your making art only for you, someone is bound to see them. Even if that wasn’t the goal in the first place you rationalize that. You are bound to think about that anyway. So I think that you being moved by yourself is important. The other stuff becomes a secondary issue; stuff like “are you communicating”, “is that important” and “if so are you doing that.” Its all something you can ask but I think that you can still get a pure enjoyment from making it.

Something I was never interested in when making art was whether I could say something in a new way, I’ve never cared about that, its not even toward the bottom of my list of concerns or things I am trying to achieve. And I feel like a good artist wouldn’t even think that way but they teach you to.

Well, I have to disagree because I do think that you could say the corniest thing, like gender issues, a lot of work these days, at least student work, student concepts, is about gender issues. Its obvious, I mean you could say something like “racism is bad’, obvious, but said in a new interesting way it can make you stop and think “fuck, it is important” So I do think that saying something in an original way is important because you could say something so corny like “this is bad” “look both ways to cross the street” “sharing is important” whatever, its obvious; but presented in an interesting way, a new way that explores a relationship or a juxtaposition between this and that and then suddenly its like “fuck, sharing is important” even though its so clear to begin with. It’s like when people tell you “it’s about sexual issues” and I think to myself “OK, I get that but science does it better; sociology and psychology writes about it better”. Often people make something in a very open way to express an idea but I want to be moved in a specific art way. I can get ideas elsewhere but my question to an artist who deals with ‘common’ themes is are you going to move me in a specific way to visual art – that’s important. And I’m not dismissing or down grading a piece just because it deals with a sexual issue, that could be a great piece, but just because it’s about a gender issue – or even a great idea – doesn’t make it fucking interesting.

No, it doesn’t. You still have to ask yourself the question “Is this still something I want to look at and experience. The trouble is at that level all the student wants and all the tutor wants is to make someone who is capable of being an artist. They train them to perform in the career. Everyone is geared to the production of a successful artist and that compromises the learning, or it can.

But I do think that saying something in a new/effective way should be an issue. And I think its something that’s going to happen eventually, whether it happens by default or by striking gold early on but it is something I think about and if it wasn’t then I would just make regular landscapes and I’d be like, “I love these landscapes, I don’t care if its original” but I feel that that conflict of saying I don’t want it to be something that I’ve seen before that is an inherent question for all makers.

Its not even about what you don’t want to see, its about what you do want to see.

No, but it is. I say “I don’t want to see this typical painting” so that does force me to push to say something in a different way and make something hopefully more interesting.

I usually make something I want to see.  At least I hope I do.

But part of that is not wanting to look fucking typical.



  • Richard_haden

    If art is not critical of itself (historically) i.e. referencing or if art is not critical of society; politics, capitalism, consumerism and so on then it’s mere formal decoration (Jugenstill). I like a bit of intention and authenticity as well as a lot of visual noise…Like trying to transcend the commodification of art…an antithesis or an unequivocal counter to the anesthetic of typical expectation.

    To provoke is not new but it is fresh when it happens.

    Richard Haden

  • swampthing

    The abundance of formative talent and art ambitions were checked at the door the night of the DASH party. Those young artists just wanted to celebrate with the like-minded. The diversity is real but that night all i saw was one swampy crush of revelers. I got allot of thumbs-up.

    Undeniable styles in art, such as african carvings, are distinct manifestations of the culture, irrespective of the countless individual artist that contribute to the tradition. Diversity is all you get when there is no apparent tradition of a unified theory/practice to hold the dynamic together.
    Is it not from formulated schools of thought that illusive originals emerge from ?

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Mot du Jour: Diverse