Daniel Arsham welcomes us to the future with his installation on, and I will quote from the gallery blurb here, “an excavation trench in the gallery’s floor holding thousands of calcified artifacts — a muted cacophony of 20th century media devices.” My first thought was to ask how this would differ from the closet in my work room, overflowing with the must-have devices of yesteryear now lolling in obscurity with a wispy connection to past and present life on earth; but I suppose this exercise into digging up the past is exactly the point of this exhibition; Locust Project is consistently poignant and timely in exhuming universal truths common to all.
Arsham’s iconic sculptural and architectural work has not graced a major Miami show since 2010. Rumor has it Hurricane Andrew’s creative reconfiguring of our personal space made a hulking impact on little Daniel, hovering in a closet for the duration of its wrath. The skewed detritus of this event worms its way into the sensibility of “Welcome to the Future” project as he presents our rapidly morphing daily lives in a form that encompasses architecture and sculpture, twisting images into a vague recognition of our own rapidly galloping existence.
I waltzed into Locust Project and immediately stopped in my tracks as I faced down what was clearly a trench dug into the gallery floor....right through the concrete several feet deep and full across the entire main gallery. I quickly corralled the delightful and obviously daring Executive Director and Chief Curator Chana Sheldon for explanation and the dirt on how many throbbing headaches this project must’ve engendered.
“If I’m able to sleep at night, I’m not doing my job,” said Sheldon. I pondered this rule of thumb as we spoke further. “It’s been a challenging exhibition” she shared, “but that’s what we live for. We have a very unique program; exhibitions come out of proposals. Daniel’s show in Miami comes out of a two year conversation with the artist...what would it mean for him to have a big homecoming in Miami?” (Ashram recently returned to Miami after being in New York off and on for 15 years.)
“His proposal is very site specific. We couldn’t be happier with the outcome. He created more than 3,000 objects. It had to happen in a way that is outside of the way he normally functions in his studio and that’s the beauty of Locust Projects..... to go outside of your comfort zone. He was really pushing his practice.”
“It’s a challenge but that’s what we’re here for.”
I searched out the artist for further clarification. He appeared as a self-possessed young soul as we stood in the main gallery. I peered into the abyss, allowing my eyes to focus on what was lounging in his big dig and asked about how he came to this specific idea inaugurating his Miami homecoming. What is the process? From where?
“I grew up in Miami. In 2001 I moved back from school in New York and had a gallery in this space (where Locust Projects now resides) called Place Maker, so I know the architecture here very well. I had already begun this series of fictional archeological objects...Chana pushed me to think about extending this into a larger gesture. These works are about a fictional archeology, in many ways archeology of the present . . .objects that we’re familiar with, but appear to be thousands of years old; a mixture of things 60-70 years old til now.”
He continued: “The objects are icons of a particular moment in time, a distilled version of ourselves. I began with the originals (objects) and they all are made from molds... out of geological materials: volcanic ash, obsidian and crystal.”
Arsham began this artistic odyssey while on Easter Island, making paintings of the moai statues. Archeologists were there excavating and found objects that archeologists from 100 years ago had left. These artifacts along with the 1,000 year old statues started the direction we now see before us. He uses only geological materials to create the fictional archeological site.
Arsham has designed sets for Merce Cunningham as well as collaborating with Alex Mustonen in their art and architecture endeavor, the Brooklyn based Snarkitecture.
Wait, there’s more:
In the Project Room, artist Simón Vega created “a series of sculptures that have been moving through happenings that he’s created throughout the city over the past few months and are inspired by the community to get together and make something happen. He uses the opportunity to experiment in Miami. We will have a video to show what’s happened over the last few months,” explained Sheldon.
It is a social/sculptural experiment that “has to do with 3rd world esthetics.” I learned from Vega. “Coming here to Miami, and being pushed by Locust to do experimental work and not the normal work, which I think is great. I was interested in the happenings that take place in Miami all this spontaneous, organic summer happenings in Miami, the way the art community articulates itself the cultural bubbles in Miami and how they interact. I was interested in social sculpture, to mix the two different elements to connect with the happenings which is very 60‘s, 70s. Where I come from, El Salvador, people really adapt to street vendor stands (which are incorporated in the piece).”
The final installation will have sound. "The (street vendor) bars I will leave on the sidewalk in different areas in Miami (which we will see in videos) and see what happens. Brickell, Little Havana, Haiti.”
"People were invited to build (this installation), bar-be-que and do music. When people help it really adds to the creative process. We had the tools, the wood..we had the bars open, with music and the bar-be-que with local Miami artists... the idea is to have everyone active.”
Simón Vega also has a piece at PAMM at the moment. Don’t miss.
Daniel Arsham: Welcome to the Future
Simón Vega: Sub Tropical Sculptures
Nov. 15 to January 2015
3852 North Miami Avenue Miami, 33127
Opening Reception Saturday, Nov. 15 at 7 p.m.
Reception Celebrating Art Basel Miami Beach: Thursday, Dec. 4, 7 to 10 p.m.
Gallery Hours: Tuesday-Saturday, noon to 5 p.m.
Extended Gallery Hours for Art Basel Miami Beach: Dec. 1 to 6, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.