Running a young gallery is no easy feat: It requires stamina, fearlessness, and vision. Art Basel Miami Beach’s Positions sector, dedicated to solo presentations by emerging talents, is the perfect place to discover such spaces. This year’s participants – and their artists – are particularly committed to convey an uncompromising idea of what contemporary art can be.
A quick look at Chapter NY’s exhibition history is enough to reveal founder Nicole Russo’s interest in ingenious new forms of image-making. Many of the artists represented by the New York City gallery are engaged in practices questioning iconographic norms. Willa Nasatir, the artist Chapter is showing at Art Basel Miami Beach, skillfully manipulates the constants of photography. ‘What attracts me to Nasatir’s practice is how she subverts traditional methods by which narratives are visually constructed, interpreted, and revealed’, says Russo. The American artist’s work toys with the idea of visual implosion, reflecting Chapter NY’s focus on questioning the very nature of disciplines and genres.
Far away from the Lower East Side, Dianne Tanzer and Nicola Stein operate This is No Fantasy, one of Australia’s most prominent champions of both local and international talents. In their Melbourne gallery, the two have been pursuing an eclectic program that eschews trendiness and gives fresh insights into Australia’s art scene. In Miami Beach, the gallery will be showing paintings by Vincent Namatjira. In his canvases, public figures linked to the country’s colonial history and current political tensions rub shoulders with Namatjira himself, often in oddly familiar situations. Humor is what dominates these pointedly naive portraits, enabling the artist to get ‘a bit of cheeky revenge’, to quote Namatjira himself.
In Zurich, Maria Bernheim runs a particularly astute program. ‘I want people to come into my gallery and not know what to expect’, she says. Indeed, the artists Bernheim features seem to share a predilection for a tongue-in-cheek kind of disruptiveness. Ebecho Muslimova, who is based in New York City and whose work will be shown by Bernheim in Miami Beach, certainly matches this description. In her waggish pieces, her alter-ego Fatebe inevitably ends caught up in absurd and surreal situations – her body twisted, stretched, tested, but never annihilated. Executed in a style borrowing from illustration and caricature, Muslimova’s pieces are acerbic yet funny scenes of female resilience.
Mexico City’s Parque Galería is committed to politically-engaged practices. Director Mauricio Cadena and his team collaborate with artists investigating the structures – both physical and metaphysical – in which we exist. In Miami Beach, Ecuadorian artist Oscar Santillán will present an installation that blends high-tech elements, astronomical patterns, and raw materials. Santillán mediates the result of his research on early transcontinental travel and scientific exploration through a visual language combining minimalism and raw energy. ‘I think it’s time to be radical’, says Cadena. ‘Santilláns’ work demonstrates that history and science have a boldness and politicalness that resonates with the current situation of the world’.
The political also occupies center stage at Jérôme Poggi. The Paris gallery’s program owes its reputation to a diverse roster, which includes artists from Brazil to Azerbaijan. Many of them tackle the legacy of oppressive and exploitative systems in their work. In Miami Beach, Poggi will dedicate its booth to brand-new pieces by Canadian artist Kapwani Kiwanga, the 2018 winner of the National Gallery of Canada’s Sobey Art Award. For her ‘Nations’ series, Kiwanga has cooperated with craftspeople from Miami’s Haitian community to create shimmering tapestries reflecting on the Caribbean’s African diaspora. Here too, the hybridization between an lyrical visual language and complex socio-historical subject matter mirrors one of the gallery’s central conceptual concerns.
Sensuousness and grit pervade Bodega’s program. The gallery, run by Elyse Derosia and Eric Veit, focuses on artists taking mundane details of everyday life as starting points to reflect on our existence. Formats, techniques, and materials one encounters at Bodega are hence often unconventional. Carlos Reyes, for example, has used felt hats, bread, discarded drains, or parts of a former sauna in his practice. Reyes is interested in evanescent traces, and how to capture the transition from presence to absence. In Miami Beach, his presentation will ‘extend (his) poetic investigations of air, light, and heat as material, as well as the socio-personal trace and weight of objects through locational shifts’, says Derosia. Ultimately, these thoughtful yet uncompromising commentaries on contemporary life reflect the concerns of a generation that feels torn between apathy and rage towards the increasing jeopardization of decency.
Discover more artists and galleries participating in this year’s Positions sector here.
Top image: Willa Nasatir, Other Life #5 (Angel) (detail), 2018. Courtesy of the artist and Chapter NY, New York City.