The Miami Art Fairs

Visiting Miami for the art fairs can be weird for just about everyone who cares about art. We can go to conferences and read essays that convince us that the art world is moving away from the market and becoming more speculative—becoming more multiple oriented and more like printmaking in our case—but once you really see the blue chip art galleries at work you quickly realize that they don’t seem to care about the theoretical subtexts that can be read into the objects they have for sale. It’s art and it’s for sale. The question is who will buy it. If you have a conversation at an art fair, it’s easiest to talk about the historical context for the art, as that conversation adds value to the work. The galleries really understand that, so it’s the easiest place to start a conversation.

Thankfully you can slow down from that blue chip, sales floor atmosphere by going to the various satellite fairs (including Ink, the print fair) and get a more personal with what are usually smaller galleries (1 or 2 person shops usually can’t jump through all the hoops that ABMB require) that know every artist that they work with personally. They still want to sell to you, but there is a different feeling at the satellite fairs. This is exaggerated with Ink, as the publishers who are at the fair not only do they know the artists, but they made the work with them. The depth of awareness that comes with that kind of relationship is hard to explain to the person walking in from the street, but you can feel that the publishers have a real love for the work that the artists produce with them.

Ink had a lot of established artists, whether you mean printmakers or those who also produce prints as low cost alternatives to their 6 figure non-print work: Claudio Bravo, Robert Motherwell, John Baldessari, Ed Ruscha, etc. But there was also work from artists who aren’t quite household names, Gary Simmons, Scott Prior, Cameron Martin. For better or worse, the diversity at Ink was lower than you’d see at ABMB or one of the fairs like Pulse/Aqua/etc. Instead of seeing a wide range of emerging, established, and historic artists, you can see how the market affects printmaking when visiting this type of venue. I overheard a collector discussing how he was encouraged by his collecting mentor to collect prints because it was a safe place to make mistakes; to try out collecting approaches until you were comfortable in your own collecting skin. The print market was apparently a predictable place where recent developments took time to circulate; plus the cost is lower.

Yup, those are lithostones

It’s interesting to me that the most unexpected print related work that I found was at the most established fair, art basel. Fresh from the airport, I was welcomed to my fair experience by seeing a trio of litho stones bracketed to the walls at ABMB. This sacrilege is expected with letterpress drawers (usually at antique shops), but I was surprised by this display. Did the artist think that litho stones were too obscure to be obvious? Too old to be easily understood but too contemporary to be filled with nostalgia? I still can’t answer how these objects were supposed to function aesthetically, but it hung with me the entire time I was walking around Miami. Could I just roll up a copper sheet and display it as the most objective reality that abstract expressionistic painters were always bragging about being able to create? Did the history of each stone matter, and how would the stones that I’ve known and loved look inked up black and set against the wall as an object?

William Kent Leave The Moon Alone, 1964, 49 x 32 inches Slate print, monoprint on fabric.

Following that strangeness, I found William Kent when I visited Ink. It was his Leave the Moon Alone from 1964 (in red, printed on fabric from a slate matrix). This object stood out as not your average bait for a cautious print collector. If you ask me, I’ve always thought something happens in our country around 1965 that becomes undeniable around 1969. Not just the hippie love child thing, but the change (musically speaking) from Motown to Funkadelic. From songs that had line dances to psychedelic prog rock freak outs. The visual art world I believe got there before music did. This print predates Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by 4 years and Gil Scott-Heron’s Whitey on the Moon by 6 years. Kent saw the writing on the wall, we were interested in the moon not for the science but for the colonial potential (see election humor: 2012: Newt Gingrich). He also saw our need to move into a post-colonial era and was more than prepared to state it. A fascinating moment in our history for sure.

Carl Andre untitled, undated typewriter poems (circa 1958- 1963)

Some undated Carl Andre typewriter poems from Andrea Rosen Gallery were at ABMB. They function as visual poetry, a visual rhythm that divides the page up into blocks of space. Their blocking and motion working against and with the conventions we see in the written page. These pages open up a meta-print making theme I noticed at ABMB. There is work on show this year that in no way was traditional print media, but comes from a working mode, a procedure that didn’t seem foreign. Leigh Ledare’s giant photolithographs made from nudes and newspapers just seem less printerly than Nikolas Gambaroff‘s collages. The graphical tradition found in Gambaroff’s work seems more familiar than the technical fusion in Ledare’s work; it relies on separating colors through layers and working with the material as a matrix of sorts, more than photoshopping a nude onto a NYT’s front page and printing them as big as you can produce. Even if the traditional material says one is a print and one isn’t, I don’t really care: the photolithograph is less interesting than wrestling with layers of newsprint and glue to get a palpable and repeatable graphic image.

Leigh Ledare, From the An Invitation series

Nikolas Gambaroff, Untitled works from 2012

Bruce Silverstein had one of Keith Smith’s books on display. Book #46 from 1974 is a unique book of 79 unbound silk-screened monoprints. Looking like a split between Warhol and Rauschenberg, the image of the artist changes and flows into each image, garnished with various graphical treatments. Nearby, there were a selection of Elizabeth Peyton prints available; each a portrait of other artists rather than being self-portraits. Peyton’s rawness was made of muddy immediacy opposing Smith’s vivid colors, but both were certainly great to see before they disappeared into some private collection.

Keith Smith’s Book Number 46, 1974A selection of Elizabeth Payton’s portrait prints

A selection of Elizabeth Peyton’s portrait prints

Further muddling what a print can be made of, was Laurel Nakadate‘s newest works. Laid over a base of either a cute wall paper or a pleasing enough landscape were hand prints and lip marks made by the artist, using her body as a matrix. Her painty/inky hands felt up and she locked lips with these mild images as an impolite disruptions. It totally matches her creepy videos of pervy guys who come over to watch her dance and writhe for them. I’m looking forward to seeing how degenerate her works on paper will be. I’m expecting debauchery and deviance that ruins light motifs.

Laural Nakadate, Interior, 2012; Ink and lipstick on wallpaper.

Janice Kerbel, from the Remarkable series (2007-2010)


Trenton Doyle Hancock, Give Me Flowers While I Yet Live (Printed by Graphicstudio at U of South Florida)


Christian Marclay, from 2007’s Sound Holes series (Printed by Graphicstudio at U of South Florida)

Bookmark / Share / Print
Categories: Artists, Current Events, Exhibitions, Interesting Printmaking, Reviews, Uncategorized

3 Responses to “The Miami Art Fairs”

  1. rebecca lax says:

    John Pyper – it seems you miss the whole point of Leigh Ledare’s work. You cannot just judge a work by its process and ignore the concept. Especially if that process goes so well with the content as presented. Offset photo lithography with silkscreen, in Ledare’s project, is the perfect fusion of both content and process in terms of its’ specific appropriated imagery – and you needed to actually involve yourself, with the installation – to delve deeper into the work as a whole. Unfortunately, you missed a lot. You are not representing the “thinking person” in this case.

  2. Annie B says:

    I can’t say much about Ledare’s work just from this little shapshot, but I have to say that like it that John Pyper has opinions.

  3. Jason Urban says:

    As someone who doesn’t make the annual trip to Miami, it’s nice to visit vicariously through him. John has written numerous thoughtful posts for Printeresting and I would count this among them.