Leon Berkowitz: Cascades of Light, Paintings from 1965-1986


South Florida’s longest-established fine art gallery, ArtSpace/Virginia Miller Galleries in downtown Coral Gables, registers another entry in regional art history on Nov. 7 when it opens an exhibition of important paintings by Leon Berkowitz.

Leon Berkowitz: Cascades of Light, Paintings from 1965-1986,” features a cross-section of his most important body of work, ranging from the earlier striped canvases to his mature, misty abstractions.

According to the New Art Examiner, “Berkowitz was the primary impetus behind the founding and development of the Washington Color School,” whose leading exponents include his close friends and colleagues Gene Davis and Morris Louis. The internationally renowned art movement grew out of the Workshop Art Center, an art collective started by Berkowitz and his wife, the poet Ida Fox, in 1947. Other notable artists associated with the workshop, either as teachers or participants, included Kenneth Noland, Howard Mehring and Thomas Downing.

Leon Berkowitz, Untitled, Oil on Canvas, 70 x 77 inches, 1966

Leon Berkowitz, Untitled, Oil on Canvas, 70 x 77 inches, 1966

The collective was “Washington’s earliest alternative space,” Berkowitz notes, and in 1953 it heralded the direction of contemporary art by featuring a retrospective of Willem de Kooning and the first one-person exhibition of Morris Louis.

“This is a rare opportunity to see a number of major works by this historically significant artist,” said Virginia Miller, the gallery’s owner and director, who gave the artist his first one-person show in Greater Miami in 1978. Paintings by Berkowitz also were included in the three-person inaugural exhibition of the gallery’s Coral Gables location in 1981 as well as in its “Master Works 1969-84” show in 2002.

After travelling for ten years in Spain, Wales, the Middle East and the Arizona desert, Berkowitz changed his style from bars of color to the soft, radiant canvases that characterize his late work. “For months on end I worked in nature, intently observing its secrets,” Berkowitz wrote. “Out of my concern with overcoming the materiality of pigment and the conversion of paint to light, I gave up all earth colors.”

Leon Berkowitz, Transition, Oil on Canvas, 100 x 82 inches, 1979

Leon Berkowitz, Transition, Oil on Canvas, 100 x 82 inches, 1979

“Light became a vocabulary, perhaps a language,” he said, describing his paintings as “the idea of the continuousness of space and light and form –it’s a time involvement. And it doesn’t exist in any of the so-called color school people.”

“Living and working as I did during those years in Europe in the open air under expanding skies, light itself became an ultimate goal. I became concerned with the dissolution of matter, the fragmentation of light, the conversion of ‘matter into spirit.’ I wanted to look into color, not at color. I was drawn to artists like Monet (his water lilies) and the American Luminists, particularly Martin Heade and Fritz Hugh Lane. Gradually I came to think of myself as a latter-day luminist.”

According to Berkowitz, his luminous, atmospheric canvases carried light, and through their inner light, exuded spirituality. Describing his work for a one-person show in 1976 at the renowned Phillips Collection, he said “I am endeavoring to find that blush of light over light and the color within the light; the depths through which we see when we look into and not at color.”

Writing in “Art in America” in March 2014, critic Mary Proenza noted that “Though Berkowitz’s hand is restrained, it’s not the “post-painterly” anti-signature of many second-generation Abstract Expressionists. In fact, his sumptuous, canny but subtle painterliness is key to the success of these late works, for which he is best known. In part, that’s because his techniques, stripped of inessentials, align well with his often-stated purpose: to see through color and light a transcendental interconnectedness in all things.”

Leon Berkowitz, Ten Lost Tribes of Israel, Oil on Canvas, 78 x 100 inches, 1972

Leon Berkowitz, Ten Lost Tribes of Israel, Oil on Canvas, 78 x 100 inches, 1972

Like Cezanne and Monet, Berkowitz described himself as developing “a religious sense of nature that grew clearer as these artists grew older. Both let the objective world drop out of their work as they discovered what was real and essential. And of course there was Turner, who surrendered the world of objects to find a single unity about him, a breath of sky interrupted by a single star. Radiance became the milieu in which their work existed, an enveloping containment of light—as though nature were a single continuum.”

Over the years, Berkowitz developed an innovative technique, applying as many as 30 or 40 thin layers of paints with a brush, blotting the layers with rice paper or painting through the paper so that all are blended seamlessly. “The surface of (my) painting is like the surface of my skin,” he noted, because the skin is indicative of the living matter beneath it.

Born in Philadelphia in 1911, Berkowitz studied at the Pennsylvania Museum School and the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, the Art Students League in New York City, the Academie Grand Chaumiere, in Paris, the Academie de Belles Artes in Florence, and Mexico City College, Mexico, where he first exhibited in 1949. During World War II he was stationed in Virginia, and in 1945, after completing his military service, he moved to Washington, D.C.

Leon Berkowtz, Galilee, Oil on Canvas, 56 x 54 inches, 1965

Leon Berkowtz, Galilee, Oil on Canvas, 56 x 54 inches, 1965

He painted and taught art for more than ten years in D.C. high schools and later, in 1969, at The Corcoran Gallery’s School of Art, where he was chair of the painting department. He continued to teach there for almost twenty years, until his death in 1987.

Paintings by Berkowitz are included in some of the world’s most prestigious museums, including Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, Ridgefield, Connecticut; Boca Raton Museum of Art, Boca Raton, Florida; Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Golda Meir Collection, Jerusalem, Israel; High Museum of Art, Atlanta Georgia; Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.; Museum of Modern Art, New York City; National Museum of American Art, Washington, D.C.; Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach, Florida; Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.; Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota, Florida; and Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut, among others.

Since its opening in 1974, ArtSpace/Virginia Miller Galleries has been the site of more than 300 art exhibitions, many historic, such as the 1982 show by Washington Color School painter Sam Gilliam, whose painted canvas draped across a 35-foot wall was considered radical at the time. Highlights of key exhibitions may be found under “Gallery” at www.virginiamiller.com.

Leon Berkowitz, Unity 31, Oil on Canvas, 64 x 86 inches, 1973

Leon Berkowitz, Unity 31, Oil on Canvas, 64 x 86 inches, 1973

A public reception for “Cascades of Light” will be held at ArtSpace/Virginia Miller Galleries from 6-10 p.m. Friday, Nov. 7th. Located at 169 Madeira Avenue in downtown Coral Gables, the gallery is open from 11-6 Monday-Friday and evenings and Saturdays by appointment.

Panoply: Paintings, Photographs and Sculpture

Suzan Woodruff, The Color of Heat, Acrylic on Wood Panel, 60 x 46 inches, 2012

Suzan Woodruff, The Color of Heat, Acrylic on Wood Panel, 60 x 46 inches, 2012

ArtSpace/Virginia Miller Galleries in Coral Gables Presents Panoply: Paintings, Photographs and Sculpture

As suggested by its title, Panoply is a wide-ranging selection of more than two dozen colorful abstractions by eleven artists from six countries: the United States, Cuba, England, Egypt, Mexico and Venezuela.

Panoply: Paintings, Photographs and Sculpture, Part I, from May 2 through July 2014, will feature works by Bassmi, Trevor Bell, Bruce Checefsky, Michelle Concepción, Carlos Garcia, Aaron Karp, Aureliano Parra, José Rosabal, Linda Touby, José Angel Vincench, and Suzan Woodruff. Continue reading

The Silent Shout: Voices in Cuban Abstraction 1950-2013

Jose Rosabal, Untitled, 2013, Acrylic on canvas, 35 x 60 inches

Jose Rosabal, Untitled, 2013, Acrylic on canvas, 35 x 60 inches

Nine Cuban artists are featured in The Silent Shout: Voices in Cuban Abstraction 1950-2013, opening 6-10 p.m. Friday, Nov. 1st, at ArtSpace/Virginia Miller Galleries in downtown Coral Gables.  Three of the artists are being exhibited in Greater Miami for the first time.

See Gallery Tour here.

According to Rafael DiazCasas, one of the show’s three curators, “The Silent Shout is the first historical exhibition outside Cuba that includes a variety of Cuban artists of different generations working in abstraction.”

Abstract art was not sanctioned by the Fidel Castro regime and thus was not promoted in any of the country’s major venues until 1997, during the VI Havana Biennial, when the exhibition Pinturas del Silencio featured abstract works “to an extent that had not been achieved since the exhibition Expresionismo Abstracto at Galeria Habana, in 1963,” DiazCasas said.

The Silent Shout is not a survey exhibition, but rather the product of a curatorial vision taking Pinturas del Silencio as its departure, a continuation of the themes, attitudes and ideas explored in that landmark show,” he noted.

One of the curators of Pinturas del Silencio—José Angel Vincench—is an artist whose work is included in The Silent Shout as well as being one of its three curators. The third curator of The Silent Shout, Janet Batet, wrote the catalog essay for the 1997 exhibition and co-authored, with Rafael DiazCasas, the essay for the catalog for The Silent Shout.

Other artists whose paintings are included in The Silent Shout are Hugo Consuegra, Sandú Darié, Carlos García, Luis Enrique López, Raúl Martínez, Pedro de Oraá, José Rosabal, and Loló Soldevilla.

“Since the 1950s, abstraction has been viewed by Cuban-born artists as an artistic form and movement closely associated with ideals of social engagement,” DiazCasas explained. “The Silent Shout is the first show since Pinturas del Silencio to explore those ideals through works taken from a range of the most significant Cuban abstract artists of the past 60 years.

“This is the first time since 1961 that the works of Darié, Soldevilla, Oraá and Rosabal have been exhibited together, so this is a reunion of a significant part of the “10 Pintores Concretos” group. Also it is the first time that the works of Rosabal, Carlos García and Luis Enrique López have been shown in Miami.

“Darié, Loló, Oraá and Rosabal were members of ‘10 Pintores Concretos;’ Consuegra and Martinez members of ‘Los Once.’ The work of Carlos Garcia built on the avenues opened by Los Once, while Luis Enrique Lopez furthered 10 Pintores Concretos’ language, which uses form as a goal of walking away from any type of representation. Enrique Lopez’s formal approach to the playfulness of light, and the adaptation of the human eye to its perception, is a lucid insight on the social unconscious of today’s Cuban society.

“Vincench’s appropriation of abstraction is more radical because he uses pure forms to comment upon his social concerns, recent Cuban political history and daily life,” DiazCasas concluded.

The Silent Shout is the latest in a series of ArtSpace/Virginia Miller Gallery exhibitions over the past 40 years that have been the first of their kind in the nation or region (see virginiamiller.com/gallery).  Located in the heart of the Coral Gables business district at 169 Madeira Ave., the gallery is open Monday-Friday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and by appointment on Saturdays and evenings.



img_0636“Autocycles,” the latest twists in the lifelong evolution of paintings by Matt Carone, will open at ArtSpace/Virginia Miller Galleries at 7 p.m. Friday, Mar. 6th.

Largely inspired by his 45-year friendship with the famed Chilean painter Roberto Matta, Carone’s paintings recently took a turn toward a more patterned abstraction.

According to the artist, the new subtly toned works “seem to be an opening of a new door of automatism.

“The approach is similar to the past works but the image is arrived at more spontaneously and graphically,” Carone says. “Subconscious symbols and rhythmic gestures relating to each other or canceling each other out seem to be the building blocks to the final statement.

“The seed,” he acknowledges, “was planted by Matta.”

Like the abstract expressionists, Carone seeks “a spontaneous image as a consequence of a gesture…dictated more by the subconscious than by a rational, disclplined procedure.”

Carone became interested in art as an adolescent during the summer of 1944, when he was asked to model for Hans Hoffman. His older brother, the well-known painter Nicolas Carone, was studying with Hoffman.

Through his brother and years of involvement in art, Carone has had a close association with many of the era’s most famous artists and critics, including Conrad Marca-Relli, James Brooks, Paul Jenkins, Sandro Chia, Larry Rivers, Balcolm Greene, James Rosenquist, Duane Hanson, Thomas Hoving, Clement Greenberg and many others.

His extensive professional biography lists one-person exhibitions in such museums as the Fort Lauderdale Museum of Art, the Boca Raton Museum, and the Palazzo Panni Museum in Arco di Trento, Italy, along with numerous leading private galleries.

View artworks here

Emerging Chinese Artists

Emerging Chinese, Mid-Career Artists of the Americas To Be Exhibited at Bridge Art Fair-Wynwood and at ArtSpace/Virginia Miller Galleries in Coral Gables, Florida

ArtSpace/Virginia Miller Galleries in downtown Coral Gables continues its 35-year tradition of introducing important artists and art movements to this area with “SAVE AS: Contemporary Chinese Art Born of Ancient Traditions,” the first major exhibition of paintings in this country by Cao Xiaodong, opening from 7-10 p.m. Friday, Nov. 7th.

Although his computerized screen-pattern technique and compositions clearly categorize Xiaodong as a contemporary artist, his style is compared by Chinese critics to that of their ancient ink and watercolor landscapes because of his use of traditional tones and his paintings’ nostalgic sense of preserving the past.

Xiaodong’s favorite subject matter is to contrast Western cultural icons with their Chinese counterparts, such as Hugh Hefner with Mao Zedong, or Playboy Bunnies with young women wearing Mao-era uniforms. He is well known in China for his 500-portrait mural of Chinese who were famous from 1911 to 1949.

The second artist to be exhibited is Li Xiaofeng, a 43-year-old Beijing artist. After being introduced by the gallery at the Bridge Art Fair in Wynwood, Xiaofeng’s two full-length dresses and a man’s jacket, shirt and necktie made of broken pieces of ancient Chinese porcelain will be added to the exhibition in Coral Gables. Two receptions will be given for the expanded “SAVE AS” exhibition from 7-10 p.m. Friday, Jan. 2nd, and again on Friday, Feb. 6th.

Being exhibited outside China for the first time, the sculptural “garments” consist of shards of Ming, Qing, Yuan and Song dynasty porcelain that the artist has fitted together so perfectly the finished dresses and jacket appear to have been designed for their materials. Mounted onto a leather undergarment, the works open on the sides or back, just like an actual dress or jacket, and can be modeled as if they were of fabric.

Sharing ArtSpace/Virginia Miller Galleries’ Chinese booth at the Bridge Art Fair in Wynwood from Dec. 2nd – 7th will be artists introduced to this region by the gallery in two major exhibitions last year, including painters Li Bo, Kang Can, Liang Haopeng, Yang Na, and Liao Zhenwu, along with newcomer Mu Lei and stainless-steel sculptor Liao Yibai.

Li Bo disregards the conventions of composition and scale and depicts his subjects in the same size along a linear path. According to the artist, the string of apparently unrelated objects in Li Bo’s enigmatic painting should be viewed in context of television, other media outlets, and particularly the Internet, where random “surfing” can provide serendipitous juxtapositions even poetic insights.

Kang Can depicts his swiftly evolving nation as an infant in overwhelming situations, such as perched atop an enormous club sandwich or hypodermic needle. As China’s widespread industrial and manufacturing abuses continue to be disclosed, his babies remind us of the vulnerability of his nation as well as its awesome potential for continued economic growth.

Liang Haopeng’s works are mostly paintings of unruly behavior, chaotic gatherings often depicting verbal and physical arguments. He deliberately paints the figures in his canvases with oblique lighting and rimmed in red, so they appear violent and sinister. By capturing his subjects in peak action—what the renowned photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson called “the decisive moment”—Haopeng creates a powerful sense of tension between the painting and its viewers.

Yang Na’s doll-like, self-absorbed women, inspired by internationally popular anime cartoon characters, epitomize the sexual fantasies of global mass media. Her emphasis on cosmetic enhancements may refer to the avatars of video games, whose persona are created from a menu of facial features, hairstyles, and clothes.

Born and educated in Sichuan, Liao Zhenwu’s current series of paintings were inspired by the recent devastating earthquakes in that region. The gritty shades of black and gray in his paintings also refer to the polluted air in China’s cities.

Mu Lei, being shown outside China for the first time, compares the trendy young urban women of China with high-powered fighter planes and other armaments, suggesting that both are equally dangerous.

Liao Yibai’s welded stainless-steel sculpture places his dog, Man-Man, in birdlike poses and guardian-lion masks, sometimes with wings. Yibai, who grew up in an accident-prone factory that made propellants for China’s defense missiles, often incorporates hand tools into his limited-edition works.

Across the aisle from the gallery’s Chinese booth at Bridge Art Fair-Wynwood, ArtSpace/Virginia Miller Galleries will present mid-career artists from the Americas.

Mateo Arguelles Pitt, an Argentine artist whose works often contrast spaces crammed full of people in confrontation or communion with relatively empty spaces or flat planes, will be represented by “Sunflowers,” a four-by-five foot mixed media painting, and three of his sculptures of an alert dog. Pitt says that these recent three-dimensional themes speak of the relationship between people and nature, as an extension of our bodies.

Mexican artist Sergio Garval, winner of a number of his country’s leading awards, often chooses subjects of decadence and destruction for his mixed- media drawings on board and oils on canvas.

Other artists sharing the booth include Alfredo Arcia, Benjamin Cañas, Matt Carone, Humberto Castro, Michelle Concepción, Arnaldo Roche-Rabell, Elmar Rojas, Soledad Salamé, and Mariano Vargas.

Greater Miami’s longest-established contemporary fine art gallery, ArtSpace/Virginia Miller Galleries has been exhibiting outstanding artists since 1974. For more information, call 305-444-4493 or visit the gallery website, www.virginiamiller.com.

Abstracciones suspendidas: Michelle Concepción

Over and over7, 60 x 40 in, acrylic on canvas, 2007

Especial/El Nuevo Herald

Silencio, sosiego, deleite. Si hay un sesgo para la meditación y un reconciliador viaje interior, tan necesario y siempre relegado por las premuras de la vida cotidiana, este privilegiado momento lo pone ahora a nuestro alcance Art Space, Virginia Miller Gallery. Volver: recent paintings es el título de la muestra personal de Michelle Concepción, cuyo sentido por la composición, y el juego con las formas y el color, crean universos de gran poder evocador.

Mucho se ha conjeturado sobre la naturaleza de la obra de Concepción. Algunos parecen descubrir elementos microcelulares; otros, galácticos. Lo cierto es que, independientemente de la micro o macro escala inferida, su pintura, altamente sugerente, ofrece al espectador el camino propicio a la imaginación y el pleno goce de la forma per se.

Los cuadros, la mayoría de gran formato, están casi siempre poblados por formas abstractas, reminiscencias ovoides o suertes de paramecios, rocas o asteroides suspendidos. Otras veces, como en la obra Twist, trazos de movimientos, como estelas de trayectorias que fueron animan el ojo del espectador, presa de la travesía. En este sentido, las obras bien parecieran la impronta de la exposición en una cámara oscura, donde el movimiento del sujeto fotografiado deja una especie de secuela que más tarde le definirá, cuando ya no esté presente.

Michelle Concepción introduce, de esta manera, una nueva dimensión de la que poco se ha hablado en su obra: el tiempo. Sus cuadros, impregnados de la noción de movimiento, insinúan formas que navegan, sin prisa, en consonancia absoluta. Esta idea de tiempo es reforzada con un recurso sinestésico: la sensación espacial, tridimensional, donde el fondo dominantemente negro y la superposición de formas logran la efectiva sensación de profundidad y el medio propicio para la danza de forma y color a la que asistimos. El hecho de que Michelle haya dado el título de Volver a la muestra emplaza también nuevos niveles de lectura asociados una vez más a la dimensión temporal, donde microcosmos y macrocosmos se imbrican en un sugerente discursar.

Si en su etapa precedente todavía la artista estaba más apegada al dibujo, al trazo de realidad, a la representación, ahora Michelle Concepción nos ofrece una obra mucho más depurada, con un estilo más personal alcanzando, a mi juicio, su madurez como artista. Atendiendo al color, dos tipos de obras saltan a la vista, una monocroma, donde el gusto por la paleta de grises es una constante, y otra donde la explosión de colores radiantes se impone. Limas, aquas, bermellones, naranjas encendidos coexisten, se superponen y fusionan a ratos a través de transparencias que sugieren, a veces, el elemento acuoso como medio dominante; otras, las formas parecen suspendidas, como flotando en el éter.

El proceso de producción de la obra es tan estético que parece en sí mismo un performance. En la presente muestra, un video expuesto al público, registra a la artista en plena faena creativa: movimientos sinuosos, de amplias curvas, cadenciosa danza entre la artista y el lienzo que garantizan el nacimiento del grácil universo que conforma la obra de Michelle Concepción.

La artista ha apuntado lo complejo del proceso creativo de sus cuadros que puede llegar a tomar varios meses, y hasta un año. Dispuesto el cuadro sobre el piso, múltiples son las capas de pintura que, como estratos o sedimentos que el tiempo va dejando, la artista imprime al lienzo. Tanto es magnificado ese tiempo, que puede hablarse por momentos de un tiempo suspendido, y es justo en esos momentos más logrados que alcanzamos la comunión más completa con la forma pura, desprovista de cualquier referencia cotidiana, ese momento mágico en el que somos nosotros y sólo nosotros frente al acto estético más puro.

Sin duda, el carácter evocador es el leitmotiv de la obra de Michelle Concepción donde, a partir del elemento mínimo –textura, color y luz–, la artista logra hacer sentir en el espectador las más disímiles sensaciones, todas válidas.

Conocida en el circuito europeo, principalmente en Alemania y España, donde ha presentado varias muestras individuales, la artista realiza, con Volver: Recent Paintings, su primera exposición individual en suelo americano, aún cuando su obra nos sea ya familiar a través de varias muestras colectivas a nivel nacional.•

Volver: Recent Paintings‘ de Michelle Concepción. Hasta el 26 de septiembre. ArtSpace/Virginia Miller Galleries, 169 Madeira Avenue, Coral Gables, (305) 444-4493).

Chinese Artists Debut in 'Under the Radar'


ArtSpace/Virginia Miller Galleries Presents
Florida Debut of Emerging Chinese Artists

“Under the Radar: First Florida Exhibition-Nine Chinese Artists Interpret the Figure,” the new exhibition at ArtSpace/Virginia Miller Galleries in downtown Coral Gables, might as well be called “U.S. Debut of Contemporary Chinese Artists.”

It’s the first show in the United States for eight of the nine artists, mostly in their 20s and 30s with only a handful of exhibitions in their biographies. “We thought it was the first U.S. show for all the artists until we found out that Lu Qiming was in two group exhibitions in New York and at the Smart Museum of the University of Chicago,” says gallery owner Virginia Miller.

The work is very different from the gallery’s last exhibition, which featured pioneering Chinese neo-pop artists. “Each of the artists in this show has a very different style and unique subject matter, Miller says. “Several are subtly critical of their government. It’s a fascinating look into their world.”

Senior artist in the group, in terms of exhibitions, is Lu Qiming, whose oils depict a barely clad figure dangling above the sea on a single rope. According to the artist, “The politics of our society keep us dangling above a mysterious future, leaving us all at the mercy of the hands that hold our strings.”

The most spectacular work in the show is a triptych by Liao Zhenwu stretching across 27 feet. Its three panels are a stylized, painterly depiction of the motorcyclists in the artist’s gray, gritty hometown in Sichuan. Zhenwu’s other paintings, also rendered in shades of gray, white and black, either show other motorcyclists or are one of his series inspired by the mannikins in Beijing’s showroom windows.

The lone sculptor in the exhibition is Liao Yibai, whose stylized, fabricated stainless steel figures represent a traveler’s angel, a worker’s angel, and a particularly blessed angel being drenched in an apparent rainstorm, whose symbolic splashing represents holiness, goodness and brightness to traditional Buddhists. The last work, a highly complex piece with numerous individual splashes of raindrops, is the first to be completed in Yibai’s usual series of eight in this size.

Confronting visitors to the gallery as they step inside is a six-and-a-half foot painting by Liang Haopeng titled “The Bicycle Thieves.” His first work exhibited outside China, the painting depicts a stripped bicycle surrounded by five thuggish men, each rimmed in red, with their mouths open and hands caught in mid-gesture, apparently reacting to their imminent arrest. Haopeng’s paintings generally show unruly behavior, chaotic gatherings or arguments, capturing tense and anxious moments.

Two canvases by Li Jia, each nearly six feet tall, show a female puppet dangling from a red rose and another sitting on a thorny rose with tears in her oversized eyes, their large eyes and doll-like heads reflected the influence of anime, the wildly popular Japanese comics. The artist’s vision is clarified by her statement that “our vision of beauty is manipulated by the marketplace.” Because of the color and wilting condition of the roses, some viewers wonder whether they might be a visual metaphor for China’s socialist government.

Clearly, some contemporary Chinese artists take humorous potshots at their government. As an example, Zhu Yan’s cartoon-like characters belie his politically charged, sarcastic titles. “I Love Tianamen Square,” for example, shows a chorus of rigid, tight-lipped men in front of the square, with another clutching a bouquet tightly to his chest—clearly, a picture devoid of affection for the subject of its title.

Most enigmatic of the works in the exhibition is a five-foot painting by Cui Jin. Titled “Wait Behind and Wait For,” it shows a full-length female figure, enveloped in what appears to be crinkled translucent paper or plastic wrap, and wearing elbow-length scarlet lace gloves and an opaque, fringed scarlet hood with an embellished mouth. The symbolic coverings, suggestive of those worn by brides on their wedding day, have been interpreted as referring to the sense of entrapment of women entering marriage.

Compared to Cui Jin’s eerie, anonymous figure, the three paintings by Wang Limin appear to be straightforward portraits of attractive young women, each wearing the military-style uniforms of the cultural revolution era. Those familiar with the symbolism of the red crysanthemum and red medal on their chests, however, suspect that the artist is subtly contrasting the flower’s representation of joy and success with the unhappy regimentation of the Mao Zedong era.

He Zubin, another of the artists being shown outside China for the first time, has been called a “quintessential Chinese artist.” Like the landscapes of Thomas Hart Benton, He Zubin’s figurative works curl into graceful compositions with elongated, elegant fingers and faces, all rendered in muted colors.

“All of these are highly promising emerging artists with accomplished techniques,” said Miller.

Located at 169 Madeira Avenue in downtown Coral Gables, ArtSpace/Virginia Miller Galleries is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and by appointment. The works also may be viewed on the gallery website, < “http://www.virginiamiller.com/”>.

South Florida's First Exhibition Of Contemporary Chinese Neo-Pop Art

South Florida’s First Exhibition Of Contemporary Chinese Neo-Pop Art

ArtSpace/Virginia Miller Galleries, which has brought historically significant and innovative art to South Florida for 33 years, is about to do it again with the latest hot ticket on the art market, contemporary Chinese Neo-Pop art.

True to its tradition, the gallery will present Six 21st Century Chinese Neo-Pop Artists, the region’s first exhibition of this pioneering art movement, from Nov. 2nd through February 2008.

“We are fortunate indeed to be able to offer these works at a time when contemporary Chinese art is one of the most sought-after categories for the art world’s collectors,” said gallery owner and director Virginia Miller.

As recently noted by Suzanne Muchnic in the Los Angeles Times, Contemporary Chinese art has made a big splash on the art scene during the last decade or so, grabbing attention at major international exhibitions and commanding enormous prices at auction.

A recent article in Forbes magazine reported that the market for Chinese art began to soar three years ago. “In 2004 Christie’s only sold about $18 million worth of postwar and contemporary Chinese art; in 2006 those sales hit $120 million,” noted writer Barnaby Conrad III, citing one Chinese artist whose portrait prices shot from $76,500 to $1.4 million in four years.

“Clearly, the prices reflect the skyrocketing Chinese economy and its newly affluent professionals,” noted Miller, “but the fresh outlook of a new group of contemporary artists, born during an era of their country’s tremendous social, political and economic upheaval, is the basis for the booming international market in these works.”

Among our nation’s major museums incorporating Chinese contemporary work into their exhibitions and acquiring it for their permanent collections are the Museum of Modern Art and the Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Denver Art Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. Others are certain to follow suit.

“These works of representative Chinese Neo-Pop artists present us with a glimpse into the efforts of their nation’s artists to process the Western influences on the rapid changes in Chinese society during this extraordinary era,” Miller explained.

The most recognized of the artists being exhibited is Lu Peng. Born in Beijing in 1967, he has participated in more than 70 exhibitions in prestigious museums and galleries around the world. Two years older, Liu Yan‘s 28 exhibitions include group shows in Paris, Minnesota and the Cologne art fair. Their works tend to contrast traditional subjects with rock stars and media icons.

Xiong Lijun and Kang Can, two of the four younger artists in the show, are strongly influenced by Japanese “manga” comics and their animated versions. Yang Na clearly is deeply concerned about the influence of Western culture upon the relative infancy of the new materialism in China. And the provocative juxtapositions of Li Bo also remind us of the incredible contrast between Chinese tradition and his generation’s new affluence and its emphasis on the Internet, where “surfing” can create fortuitous associations just as those triggered by his iconic images.

“These are extraordinary examples of contemporary Chinese Neo-Pop art,” Miller said. “When we have the perspective of a few years to look back on this show, we’ll be able to see how this fascinating group of artists fits into the evolution of the international art market as well as to more fully appreciate their position in art history.”

Located in the Coral Gables business district at 169 Madeira Ave., ArtSpace/Virginia Miller Galleries is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and by appointment. For more information, call 305-444-4493.