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American Memories by Leslie Lew


‘American Memories’ by renowned american neo-pop artist Leslie Lew opens may 3rd at ArtSpace/Virginia Miller Galleries in Coral Gables

Leslie Lew, Personal Problem-Dear Abby, Sculpted Oil on Canvas, 16 x 12 inches, 2012

Leslie Lew, Personal Problem-Dear Abby, Sculpted Oil on Canvas, 16 x 12 inches, 2012

Mickey Mouse, Popeye, Wonder Woman, Animal Crackers and Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes are some of the subjects of works in “American Memories,” a one-person exhibition of paintings and sculpture by Leslie Lew that opens from 6-10 p.m. Friday, May 3rd at ArtSpace/Virginia Miller Galleries.

“Leslie is a contemporary, neo-Pop version of Norman Rockwell,” said ArtSpace/Virginia Miller Galleries’ owner and director Virginia Miller.

“I’m grabbing memories,” says the artist. “Some of these are starting to fade.”

Featuring some of America’s most iconic images, Leslie Lew offers a nostalgic trip back to childhoods ranging from the 1930s to 1970s. Permission from The Walt Disney Company, DC Comics, and the Kellogg Company allows her to re-create comic book covers of America’s most beloved childhood heroes along with perennially favorite breakfast cereals.

“When faced with the legendary things and characters of our youth, rendered with unrestrained enthusiasm, it’s hard not to smile, to remember the pleasure of eating Animal Crackers, toting the box on its little white string; to feel a little girl’s aspiration to be Wonder Woman, and to be transported by cartoon lives—so familiar and yet so unlike our own,” noted Kathy Greenwood, a curator for Albany, NY International Airport’s Art & Culture Programs.

Leslie Lew, Spiderman 1, Mixed Media Monotype on Canvas, 18 x 13 inches

Leslie Lew, Spiderman 1, Mixed Media Monotype on Canvas, 18 x 13 inches

Contributing to the impact of her paintings is the artist’s special technique, which she calls “sculpted oil,” paintings on canvas in high relief to create a three-dimensional effect.

After earning her BFA and MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1982, Lew was one of a dozen artists selected to participate in a Whitney Museum studio program. She became a leading artist in New York’s East Village Art Movement, where she was friends with Jean-Michel Basquiat, who introduced her to Andy Warhol at her first opening in New York.

Lew lived and worked in a large Gramercy Park loft just above Julian Schnabel’s. Other well-known artists in the group included Robert Rauschenberg, Roy Lichtenstein, Kenny Scharf, and Keith Haring.

“Keith, Jean-Michel and Andy did a show of matchboxes in a pop-up gallery on 6th Street with me and other artists,” she recalls. “I did a painting of the opening, and I put Andy in the corner of it with his little Brownie camera. Andy loved young artists—he was always looking for the next new thing. He helped me a lot, introducing me to all sorts of people. We hung out together.

“I did my version of Andy’s silkscreen, ‘Moon Explorer,’ and he thought it was a hoot. He asked me to do a trade with him—my ‘Moon Explorer’ for one of his ‘Marilyns.’ Then he went into the hospital for a gall bladder operation and he died. I helped to archive all of his work for the foundation.”

Leslie Lew, Felix Juggling Nine Lives, 80 x 53 inches, Sculpted Oil on Canvas, 2007

Leslie Lew, Felix Juggling Nine Lives, 80 x 53 inches, Sculpted Oil on Canvas, 2007

Today Lew’s painting of “Moon Explorer” is owned—appropriately—by U.S. astronaut Robert C. “Woody” Spring. Her works are included in dozens of major collections, including those of Si Newhouse, the Tisch Family, Conde Nast, MCA Records, Sylvia Miles and Cyndi Lauper in New York; the Sainsbury Collection in London; and the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.

“My first painting of ‘Animal Crackers’ is in the lobby where children are admitted to the Mayo Clinic,” she said.

Lew has participated with the superstars of the contemporary art world in a number of other exhibitions. To cite only three:

In 1985 the Holly Solomon Gallery exhibition “57th between A & D” included works by Andy Warhol, Alex Katz, and Roy Lichtenstein with East Village artists Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring and Leslie Lew. The following year Lew and Warhol were among the artists in “The East Village” exhibit curated by Richard Martin, editor-in-chief of “Arts Magazine”, at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Lew and Warhol also were in “Small Works by Major Thinkers” in 1986 at the Bess Cutler Gallery in New York.

The “Cafe Vered” show at Vered Gallery in East Hampton in 1995 included “Animal Crackers” by Lew along with works by Janet Fish, Audrey Flack, Red Grooms, Donald Lipski, Larry Rivers, Donald Sultan, Andy Warhol and Tom Wesselmann, among others.

Leslie Lew, Wonder Woman Again Saves the Day, Sculpted Oil on Canvas, 38 x 28 inches, 2000

Leslie Lew, Wonder Woman Again Saves the Day, Sculpted Oil on Canvas, 38 x 28 inches, 2000

Lew has exhibited in numerous other prestigious venues, such as Jack Tilton and OK Harris galleries in New York City; the Light Gallery in Los Angeles and Hamilton Galleries in Santa Monica; and in a number of museums here and abroad. In Manhattan, for example, her paintings have been included in exhibitions at the Visual Arts Museum, Parsons School of Design, SoHo Center for the Visual Arts, the Henry Street Settlement Museum, and the Alternative Museum. Lew’s paintings have been included in travelling exhibitions of the Carnegie Mellon Museum and Guggenheim Museum in this country and in shows in Amsterdam, Berlin, Copenhagen, St. Petersburg, and Sofia, Bulgaria.

In Miami, Lew is included in the Martin Z. Margulies Collection, “recognized as one of the major collections of contemporary art in the world,” according to Newsweek critic Peter Plagens.

According to critic Peter Frank, “by appropriating two or three generations of imagery, from wartime cartoons to cold-war-era reading primers to the streamlined sci-fi fantasies of the space race, Lew seems to mark off the growth spurts of mid-20th Century America…Lew re-enacts the recent evolution of American visual culture without having to depict it. A child of our time, Leslie Lew has appropriated Pop Art itself.”

Leslie Lew, Surprise Mickey, Mixed Media Monotype on Canvas, 18 x 14 inches

Leslie Lew, Surprise Mickey, Mixed Media Monotype on Canvas, 18 x 14 inches

“We are delighted to have this opportunity to introduce yet another historically significant artist to our clientele,” said Virginia Miller. “Leslie Lew’s work is an absolute joy.”

“American Memories” will be exhibited at ArtSpace/Virginia Miller Galleries from May 3rd through July 2013. Along with our opening reception on Friday, May 3rd, additional receptions for this exhibition will be held from 6 to 10 pm on Friday, June 7th and July 5th.

Gallery hours are 11-6 Monday through Friday and by appointment on Saturdays and evenings. For more information, call 305-444-4493 or visit the gallery web site, www.virginiamiller.com.

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Vincench vs Vincench: A Dissident Dialogue from Cuba


ArtSpace/Virginia Miller Galleries of Coral Gables, which has introduced historically significant artists and art movements to this region and the nation since 1974, made art history again on Friday, Nov. 4th with the first solo exhibition in the United States of Cuban artist José Angel Vincench.

The Havana-based artist, who has held one-person exhibitions in Canada, Ecuador, the Republic of Cameroon, Switzerland, and leading galleries in Cuba, along with participating in five dozen group shows in leading galleries in North and South America and Europe, will exhibit more than 150 new paintings and wall-mounted installations of canvas and paper “shopping bags” shaped into letters from his two new series, Dissident and Exile.

Fourteen of the four-foot Dissident paintings, each in a different language, will be in “Vincench vs Vincench: A Dissident Dialogue from Cuba.” Vincench superimposes a stencil of the definition of dissent in each language over an abstract painting, obscuring parts of the words with a white overlay that allows a faint suggestion of the original painting to be seen.

In her El Nuevo Herald review on Sept. 4th curator and art critic Janet Batet noted that “With a highly rigorous conceptual proposal, Vincench bases his work in art history-specifically the Cuban tradition of abstract art-deconstructing the Cuban reality and encouraging a critical reading. Relying, as central subject, in the social and religious entity that embodies the Cuban, the artist undertakes research areas, typical of sociology, integrating popular beliefs, personal life experiences and current sociopolitical events of recent history of the island.”

In this instance, the artist is targeting the sociopolitical phenomena of dissent. “In Cuba, a dissident is the very worst thing you can be,” Vincench explains. “No one wants to be associated with a dissident. Because I am an artist, an intellectual, I see things differently. I want to show people that dissidence is just another way of looking at something.”

His other way of looking at something turns out to be spectacular, according to gallery owner-director Virginia Miller. “Although these are paintings of words, Vincench’s extraordinary technique transforms them into gorgeous semi-abstractions,” she said.

Rounding out the “Exile” portion of the show are smaller canvases with partially obliterated definitions of dissent and exile, along with five paintings of brick “houses” whose exterior walls can be grouped together to spell out the letters E X I L E. A companion work, planned for the Havana Biennial, is a series of small white houses mounted on trailers. A preview of that project will be displayed on a gallery laptop.

Another element in the exhibition is a one-meter tall Christmas tree created by Vincench in conjunction with the annual “Festival of the Trees” being held at the Coral Gables Museum to benefit the interior architecture department of Florida International University. Vincench’s “Reconciliation” tree is crafted of deeply incised cedar slats, each bearing a part of the definition of reconciliation in Spanish on one side and English on the other, elaborating on his themes of dissidence and exile.

Born in Holguin, Cuba, in 1973, Vincench attended the school of plastic arts and high school there before being accepted at the Instituto Superior de Arte in Havana. He began exhibiting at the Holguin Center of Art in 1992.

Works by Vincench are included in such collections as the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes in Havana and have been exhibited in major art fairs and at the Barbican Centre in London.

Greater Miami’s longest-established contemporary fine art gallery, ArtSpace/Virginia Miller Galleries is located in downtown Coral Gables at 169 Madeira Avenue. Gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and by appointment on Saturday. For more information, call 305-444-4493.

Latin American Masters of Today and Tomorrow


ArtSpace/Virginia Miller Galleries, which has regularly scheduled exhibitions of master and mid-career Latin American artists since it opened in 1974, has combined the two in a show titled “Latin American Masters of Today and Tomorrow.”

Included are original works by masters Roberto Matta, Amelia Pelaez, Elmar Rojas and Francisco Zuñiga. Mid-career artists represented include the well-known Cuban artists José Bedia, Roberto Fabelo, Manuel Mendive, and José Angel Vincench.

Dominating one gallery wall is “Zintkála Chanupa, Pájaro Pipa,” a 10-foot painting by the internationally renowned Bedia, who took first place in painting at the IV Beijing International Art Biennale last October.

Fabelo is represented by a four-by-five foot watercolor of a mature nude woman wearing a bronze bird-beak war helmet, red high-heeled pumps, and strap-on wings astride a rooster with prominent spurs, a characteristically surreal example of his work.

In his first exhibition at this gallery, Vincench has two four- foot square canvases from his new series on dissidents in his homeland, which will be presented in a solo exhibition starting in November. According to author Darys J. Vázquez Aguiar, “Vincench teaches us the power of words, of the ordinary phrase or the written commentary, of ethical sentences that separate good from evil. Letters are sacred messages, voices repeated through time to remind us that there are such things as eternal truths.”

Included in this show are canvases by Antonio Amaral of Brazil; a collage painting by Victor Chab and two mixed media works by Mateo Arguello Pitt, both from Argentina; oils on linen by Gustavo Schmidt of Chile and Marco Tulio of Colombia; and an important large canvas by Sergio Garval of Mexico.

Schmidt, also making his premiere appearance in an ArtSpace/Virginia Miller Galleries exhibition, is showing a crystal sphere that floats in front of a draping fabric above an arrangement of eggs, a work of magic realism in dreamy tones of mauve.

José Benito of Argentina is represented by a wood construction and two mixed-media assemblage works. One of the latter, the eight-by-five-foot “Obsesiones Privadas,” includes a figure surrounded by slate-gray elements such as an easel, palette and book.

A tabletop sculpture in mahogany, oak, teak and cedar is by Melquiades Rosario Sastre, professionally known as Melquiades. In his article in Arte al Día online, critic Ricardo Pau Llosa calls him “not only Puerto Rico’s most important contemporary sculptor (but also) one of the finest contemporary artists anywhere.”

Paul-Llosa goes on to note that Melquiades has not simply rejected the current theoretical underpinnings of most contemporary art, but “is a thinking man who bases his creativity on reflection and not simply on enacting the dicta of this or that current trend. He is a sculptor of ideas, not an illustrator of passing notions.”

Portal: Contemporary Chinese Paintings, Prints, Photos and Sculpture


Some of the most important contemporary artists of China will be featured in “Portal: Contemporary Chinese Paintings, Prints, Photos and Sculpture,” an exhibition to open at ArtSpace/Virginia Miller Galleries from 7-10 p.m. Friday, Jan. 7th. Internationally recognized superstars in the show include Zhang Xiaogang, Feng Zhengjie, Yang Qian, Guo Wei, Huang Yan, and Sui Jianguo. Along with a wide selection of serigraphs, the exhibition will include a Plexiglass “throne” chair by Yang Fan.

Zhang is best known for his series called “Big Family” portraits, inspired by old family photos and European surrealism. Their staring, expressionless poses comment on Chinese collectivism while small differences offer a glimpse of their individuality.

Feng Zhengjie, another of the best-known Chinese artists, will be represented by three of his “Chinese Portrait Series” silkscreens. Their exaggerated makeup and flamboyant hairdos reflect the artist’s view that “the influence of the Western culture makes our women appear as hybrids sometimes.”

The multimedia artist Huang Yan superimposes traditional Chinese landscape scenes upon photos of faces and the human body. His fusion of ancient art forms with contemporary views of the body creates a new concept that every Chinese can relate to.

Sui Jianguo, referred to as “a leading figure of China’s New Sculpture movement” in the “China Onward” catalog of the renowned Estella Collection, draws attention “to the political and economic system behind the toy industry” through his “Made in China” series and toy dinosaurs. He views his dinosaurs as parallels to much of the world’s manufacturing: designed in the West, made in China, and then exported globally—not unlike Chinese contemporary art, inspired by Western traditions.

Works by Zhang, Feng and Yan are in the Sigg Collection, widely considered the world’s largest and most comprehensive collection of contemporary Chinese art. All three artists were included in “Mahjong,” an important exhibition held in 2009 at the University of California’s Berkeley Art Museum, as well as the current “101 Artworks-A Stroll through the Sigg Collection” at 88MOCCA, the Museum of Chinese Contemporary Art on the Web. Both shows were compiled from SIGG Collection artworks.

Along with sculpture by Sui, artworks by Feng, Guo, Huang, and Zhang also are represented in the Estella Collection of Chinese Contemporary Art, first exhibited at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Humlebæk, Denmark in 2007.

The works by Yang Qian are from his “Bathroom” series, images viewed through a mist of water drops, suggesting the overlapping of reality and illusion, sometimes categorized as “dual paintings.”

Works by Guo Wei focus on everyday life, often with relationships between adolescents, emphasizing the development of individualism in China since the homogenization of the Cultural Revolution.

Leading print and online publications, such as “The Economist,” “The London Times,” and Artprice.com have reported the soaring prices of contemporary Chinese art. Although virtually all art prices recently dropped somewhat as the worldwide economy sagged, the media have reported that contemporary Chinese art prices are leading their resurgence.

“Some of the artists in this show are stellar,” said gallery owner and curator Virginia Miller. “For example, in October 2007 Charles Saatchi, one of the world’s great collectors, paid $1,570,800 for a painting by Zhang Xiaogang. In 2006 one of his paintings sold for $2.3 million.”

“This will be our fourth exhibition of contemporary Chinese art,” Miller noted. “These works offer an exceptional opportunity to acquire original works by some of China’s leading artists.”

Included in “Portal” will be paintings by artists who were represented in earlier Chinese shows at the gallery, including Wang Niandong and Cao Xiaodong. Wang is well known in China and abroad for hyper-realistic images of women as commercialized products. Cao, one of the many artists forced to become graphic artists during the Cultural Revolution, contrasts that era’s uniforms with Playboy bunnies and Mao Zedong with Hugh Hefner. His paintings are rendered in Ben Day dots reminiscent of the screens for printing old newspaper photos.

A number of works in the exhibition will be serigraphs. Serigraphs, the art of printing multiple images through screens originally made of silk, originated in China more than a thousand years ago. The technique became popular with artists throughout history due to its versatility. In recent years the market for limited-edition serigraphs by contemporary artists soared; in 2010 a serigraph by Andy Warhol sold for $63,362,500.