Painter at Night, 1979 by Philip Guston
Hauser and Wirth Gallery
This fantastic self-portrait by renowned American painter Philip Guston was painted at the height of his career and yet still tackles themes of the doubts and challenges an artist faces searching for inspiration.
Oil on canvas. 174 × 204.5 cm.
Here, Guston is presented with a paintbrush in his hand, deep in thought. The fact that the scene unfolds late at night, as the title confirms, suggests his struggle with 'painter's block'. It is an honest and humble self-portrait at a time when his artistic recognition was rising from strength to strength. Now the subject of a retrospective at the Tate Modern in London, the artist has become an icon of 20th-century American art.
Little Thinker, 2001 by Yoshitomo Nara
Yoshitomo Nara's Little Thinker exemplifies the cheeky charm of his signature adolescent figures. At once precocious and vulnerable, rebellious and cherubic, they embody childhood – a period regulated more by instinct than morals. Here, the figure smiles gently, a pair of crossed bandages affixed to their forehead.
Acrylic on cotton mounted on fibre-reinforced plastics. 179.7 × 179.7 × 25.4 cm.
This disc-shaped painting belongs to a group of likewise circular paintings Nara created in 2001. They draw from the tradition of tondo painting – a practice that dates to Greek and Roman antiquity and was revived in the 15th and 16th century Renaissance period. Paintings like this often feature a central, rounded composition that omits a complex background and allows a focused presentation of the main subject.
Nara made Little Thinker after returning to Japan following 12 years in Germany, during which the artist immersed himself in the study of Western art history. Little Thinker demonstrates the confluence of these studies with references to his childhood in Japan, including anime, manga, and punk aesthetics.
Untitled, 2023 by Katharina Grosse
Galerie Max Hetzler
At over two metres tall, you can't miss this beautiful explosion of colour by German artist Katharina Grosse on Galerie Max Hetzler's stand. Belonging to Grosse's most recent group of 'studio paintings' from 2022–2023, these works explore the presence and immediate experience of colour rather than representation or meaning. Here, Grosse limited her palette to six shades, sprayed unmixed onto the canvas.
Acrylic on canvas. 239 x 159 cm.
The works in this series refer to the performative working method of the artist, who usually works on several canvases simultaneously in her studio, spraying across them in one movement. So, in this way, each work provides a glimpse of a larger gesture.
Tea Time in New Haven, Enugu, 2013 by Njideka Akunyili Crosby
Victoria Miro Gallery
The works on view in Victoria Miro's selection celebrate the rich dialogue between abstraction and figuration that occurs among artists on their roster. Highlights include Kudzanai-Violet Hwami, Hernan Bas (whose solo exhibition The Conceptualists will open at The Bass Museum during Miami Art Week), alongside prominent historical works by Sarah Sze, Yayoi Kusama, and Njideka Akunyili Crosby.
Acrylic, collage, colour pencil, charcoal and transfers on paper. 213.4 x 282 cm.
My personal favourite is the renowned work by Crosby titled Tea Time in New Haven, Enugu, 2013. This iconic mixed-media work on paper is a real gem from her oeuvre; some might recognise it from 2016 when it was exhibited in the Hammer Museum in LA. It visualises mixed identity: the domestic interior epitomises Middle America, yet typical West African foods like will of God special bread and Oxford sweetened cabin biscuits fill the table. The art pictured on the walls emphasises this duality; ethnographic African designs are framed in a decorative Western aesthetic. It's a beautiful work that needs to be seen up close!
Springtime in the Schwarzwald (Black Forest). Or, Sistas, gonna work it out! The body double of a high functionary in the Qing diplomatic court and her jubilant childhood friend journey to Mannheim to meet with clandestine Prussian officials regarding a maritime alliance to prevent the Frenglish from using gunboat diplomacy at their ports. 1799., 2023 by Umar Rashid
This colossal painting displays two women on horseback brandishing swords as they make their way through a lush green forest. Just behind them, a multicoloured square hovers like a Frank Stella canvas suspended in the air, immediately highlighting the dream-like and surreal qualities of the scene. It's a painting that immediately captures the imagination and offers more questions than answers.
Acrylic and ink on canvas.14 x 182.9 x 4.1 cm.
Born in 1976 in Chicago, Rashid (who also goes by the name Frohawk Two Feathers) is deeply influenced by his intense research of global colonial history, becoming a walking encyclopedia that serves as the origin of his painterly work. Over the past 20 years, Rashid has created the fictional Frenglish Empire in his paintings, which he imagines existed from 1648 to 1880. This alternative reality and its many narratives are told with elaborate details that draw parallels to past civilisations that did exist, thus blurring reality and fiction.
Riscos en Sombra,1985 by Olga de Amaral
As its title suggests, Riscos en Sombra (1985), meaning 'markings in shadow', explores the effects of colour generated by the passage of light across a woven surface of hand-dyed horsehair and wool. Olga de Amaral started using horsehair early in her artistic career in the late 1960s as a secondary material, incorporating it into some of her woven-wool fibre sculptures made in complex, braided or interlaced woven arrangements. Work from her Tierra y Oro series can be found in the permanent collection of Houston's Museum of Fine Arts and the New York's Museum of Arts and Design.
Horsehair and wool. 289.6 x 210.8 x 6.4 cm.
Amaral uses light as a medium to create the illusion of movement. The position of the strips in relation to the light source and the varying degrees of tightness of the weave produce rippling, wave-like forms reminiscent of a moiré interference pattern. Although Riscos en Sombra does not incorporate gold as a material, this play of light nonetheless evokes the lustre of precious metal.
Amaral's work has often been likened to the hermetic practice of alchemy. She only achieves this effect in Riscos en Sombra through the deft manipulation of light and colour. The artist has not shied away from remarking on the spiritual dimensions of her work, which, like the Baroque church spaces of her Catholic upbringing, make use of light to invoke a quiet sense of the sacred. The artist states, 'as I build these surfaces, I create spaces of meditation, contemplation and reflection.'
Spied Upon Scene: Window, 2017 by Ed Ruscha
One of the most internationally celebrated figures in American contemporary art, Ed Ruscha has depicted the landscapes of the American West for over six decades. Harking back to Ruscha's iconic mountain works, the Spied Upon Scene series presents majestic mountain ranges and picturesque settings.
Acrylic on museum board paper. 100.4 × 151.3 cm.
Emblematic of Ruscha's deadpan aesthetic, in Spied Upon Scene: Window, 2017, the artist reimagines a traditional landscape painting, enticing the viewer to gaze or spy upon the landscape while the window frame isolates and confines the observer like a fading vignette over a film. The composition nods to the American film industry, playing on the Paramount Pictures logo and Los Angeles culture. Like much of Ruscha's oeuvre, the work is imbued with a sense of sentimentality and strangeness, bringing our attention to something we might ordinarily miss and elevating it to the level of something worthy of being seen.
Volatile Structures, organised by Jason Cori and Jeremy Scholar
Outside the Fair walls… M Building Miami
If you happen to be planning a visit to the iconic Rubell Museum during your stay in Miami, it's worth passing by this little exhibition. Located in the charismatic M Building, Volatile Structures is conceived as a gathering that explores the confluence of landscape and architecture through the lens of two generations.
194 NW 30th Street, Miami FL, 33127
Featuring works by prominent names such as Richard Long, Günther Förg, Karin Mamma Andersson, and Peter Doig, it is an intimate display showcasing an eclectic selection of pieces across mediums. This dialogue between the man-made and the natural comes across in every composition. As Peter Doig himself stated: 'I was attracted to the contrast between the built and the natural and the way nature seemed to be encroaching on it.'
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