Divergent Illusions


“Divergent Illusions,” an exhibition of paintings and sculpture by an acknowledged master and four highly accomplished mid-career artists from five countries, will open at ArtSpace/Virginia Miller Galleries with a reception from 6-10 p.m. Friday, Nov. 6th.

“Each of these artists offers the sort of unique, personal statement that I am constantly seeking in the art that I choose to exhibit,” said Virginia Miller, owner and director of Greater Miami’s longest-established contemporary fine art gallery, now in its 42nd year.

Artists selected by Miller for the show include Michael Roque Collins, an American painter; Michelle Concepción, a Puerto Rican working in Europe; Carlos Garcia de la Nuez, a Cuban artist working in Mexico; the late Armando Morales, a major Nicaraguan painter; Mario Segundo Pérez, an artist from Argentina; and Richard Taylor, an American sculptor.

Roque Collins’ utopian and dystopian subject matter, rendered in his heavily impastoed canvases, were last shown in the gallery in his 1999 one-person exhibition, “Gardens of Terrible Beauty.” Along with participating in numerous group exhibitions, he has held more than three dozen solo shows in prestigious museums and galleries in Cuba, Germany, and Peru as well as this country. His list of awards is longer than most artist’s biographies.

Concepción’s dreamy abstractions have been included in a number of the gallery’s solo and group exhibitions, notably the gallery’s spectacular one-person show of her paintings in 2008, “Volver: Recent Paintings,” and in such group exhibitions as “Five Abstract Visions” in 2008 and “Joyas Latinoamericanas” in 2009. Sometimes described as “visual meditations,” her flat canvases present uncanny illusions of depth and texture that leave other artists baffled.

Garcia, a member of the renowned 1980s generation of Cuban artists whose works subtly criticized the Castro regime, is considered the founder of Cuba’s historical “4 X 4” group, an important collective of abstract artists in the early 1980s. Miller included several of his paintings in her gallery’s historic 2013 exhibition, “The Silent Shout: Voices in Cuban Abstraction 1950-2013,” and in the following year, “Panoply: Paintings, Photographs and Sculpture.”

Considered one of the most important Nicaraguan artists, the late Armando Morales was awarded the Joachin Diaz Del Villar award at the Second Spanish-American Biennial in Havana in 1954, a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1958, “Best Latin American Artist” at the 5th São Paulo Biennial in 1959, a first prize in the Art of America and Spain competition in Madrid in 1963, and numerous other honors. Along with being widely exhibited in leading galleries and major museums, such as the Museo de Arte Contemporaneo and the the Rufino Tamayo Museum in Mexico City, the Museu de Arte Contemporanea de Universidade de Sao Paulo in Brazil, and the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes in Buenos Aires, his paintings are in numerous stellar collections, including those of the Museum of Modern Art in New York; the Art Museum of the Americas, Washington, D.C.; Harvard University Art Museums; the Saatchi Collection in London; and the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach, California.

The magic realism of Pérez has won the artist such international honors as the Cecilia Grierson Award at the Salón Nacional de Pintura in La Plata in1992; the Marco A. Roca Award at the Salón Pro Arte, Córdoba, also in 1992; and the first prize in the LXXXVIII National Salon of Painting in Buenos Aires in 1999. Recipient of a Pollock-Krasner Foundation grant, one of his most recent honors was to be curated into the national exhibition, “200 Years-200 Masters of Argentine Art” commemorating the nation’s bicentennial. His work often features tiny figures in immense landscapes and uniquely impastoed background. His work is regularly featured by such leading auction houses as Christie’s and Sotheby’s in New York and Leslie Hindman Auctioneers in Chicago.

Monumental outdoor sculptures by Taylor may be found at the Milwaukee Public Library and the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center, Wisconsin; Hardy Ivy Park in Atlanta, Georgia; City of East Lansing, Michigan; City Park in Beaverton, Oregon; the City of Dowagiac, Michigan; collection of the State of Wisconsin; Urban Ecology Center, Milwaukee, Wisconsin; and Southwestern Illinois College, Belleville, Illinois. His work is included in such major collections as those of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, Nieman Marcus, Visa, General Electric Medical Systems, Rockwell International, Rouse Properties in New York City, and Hewlett-Packard. Taylor feels that his works reflect his interest in “the cadences, rhythms, and syncopations of music and poetry.”

“Divergent Illusions” will be exhibited through February 2016 at ArtSpace/Virginia Miller Galleries. Located at 169 Madeira Avenue in downtown Coral Gables, Florida, gallery hours are 11 to 6 Tuesday-Friday and by appointment.

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. (more…)

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.


Color, Form, Space: Three Abstract Artists


Three mid-career artists with distinctive visions of abstract paintings will be featured in “Color, Form, Space,” opening from 6-10 p.m. Friday, Oct. 5th at ArtSpace/Virginia Miller Galleries in Coral Gables.

The background of the artists is as varied as their works: Bassmi Ibrahim, who paints under the single name Bassmi, is from Egypt and now lives in this country; Michelle Concepción is from Puerto Rico and lives in Germany; and Florian Depenthal is German and divides his time between Europe and this country.

“The unifying principles of the exhibition are that all three artists are superb colorists who work in a non-gestural manner,” said gallery owner and director Virginia Miller.  “Rather than a literal view, they are concerned with the emotional effect.”

In the words of Constantin Brancusi:  “Abstract (art) is the most realistic, because what is real is not the exterior but the idea, the essence of things.”

In the words of critic Peter Frank, “The hundred-year history of abstract art is a history of distilling the ineffable. Whether motivated by intellectual argument or spiritual quest, the abstractionists in our midst have chosen not to depend on the recognizable world as a subject, although it remains available to them, and us, as a visual or conceptual armature; rather, it is the world inside their heads, and ours, they choose to elaborate.”

Bassmi has held solo exhibitions in galleries in Cairo, New York, and Paris as well as the Burroughs-Chapin Museum in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; the Pensacola Museum of Art; the Ormond Beach Memorial Museum; and the Hardin Art Center in Gadsden, Alabama, among numerous other venues.

According to art critic John Mendelsohn, Bassmi’s paintings “speak in a language that we intuitively recognize—the movement of water, the massing of clouds, the delicacy of light in mist…the luminosity of translucent color alerts us to the essentially non-physical nature of what Bassmi is pointing to… the far shore of experience, where delight is the most natural thing in the world.”

Michelle Concepción has exhibited widely in Europe, the U.S. and the Caribbean, with solo exhibitions in Frankfurt, Barcelona and at ArtSpace/Virginia Miller Galleries. In his essay for her most recent one-person show at the gallery, Peter Frank summarized her work with an observation that might apply to all the paintings in this exhibition:

“Michelle Concepción follows in the footsteps of Kandinsky, Malevich, Mondrian, and a host of nonobjective painters who in their various ways have explored and conveyed what was at once deep inside them and all around them, visually inchoate but profoundly immediate in experience. When this auratic force emerges and coalesces, we tend to find the mundane world in such formulations. But even as we do, those formulations act upon us and within us. Concepción’s is an art not of things, but of their ghosts.”

Paintings of Florian Depenthal have been exhibited in numerous prestigious venues in his native Germany as well as in this country and are included in such important permanent collections as those of H.P. Schwerfel-Sammlung, Paris; Stone Container Corporation, Grant Thornton Collection, and Lake Point Tower Collection in Chicago.

Depenthal’s prior series of canvases included semi-abstract references to foliage and classical architecture. In the words of critic Janet Batet, his “dazzling canvases”… “are loaded with powerful expression. Each emphatic stroke …evidences a trace of mood, the vivid feeling invading the canvas before being tempered by reason.” His new work softens the edges of his subject matter as well as his somewhat flamboyant palette.

“Color, Form, Space” will be exhibited at ArtSpace/Virginia Miller Galleries, 169 Madeira Avenue in downtown Coral Gables, through Jan. 2013. 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.”



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/”>.