Women-Run Galleries Steal the Show at Miami’s Untitled Art Fair

Galerie Magazine

Cohesive exhibition spaces and a sale of masterful prints to benefit a worthwhile cause make this a must-visit stop during Miami Art Week

Few are able to hit the many “satellite” fairs that have popped up around Art Basel in Miami Beach, but, Untitled has earned its way to the top of the bucket list for many collectors. With its tent set up right on the beach at Ocean Drive and 12th Street and a spacious deck overlooking the ocean, Untitled is a fun, early stop before Art Week fatigue sets in. (It’s manageable and it’s nice not to be stuck in windowless convention center all day.)

For its seventh edition, Untitled has really come into its own. Two women gallerists occupy the power positions that are often reserved for the likes of Gagosian, Pace, and Zwirner at larger fairs. Here, visitors are greeted with large booths from New York gallerist Josée Bienvenu and Seattle’s Mariane Ibrahim.

Ibrahim, in her second year at the fair, has a dynamic and extremely international group show with works by Clay Apenouvon, Kudzanai Chiurai, Alexandra Karakashian, Sergio Lucena, Zohra Opoku, and the terrific Lina Iris Viktor. One standout is also new to the gallery: Florine Demosthene, who grew up between New York and Haiti, and currently divides her time among New York, Accra, and Johannesburg. Lining the outer walls of the booth are Demosthene’s pale-colored figurative works on paper that appear to be watercolor, but are in fact beautifully complex mixed media with Mylar, ink and glitter.

A treat at Untitled is that a number of booths presenting varied artists have made a real effort to present a cohesive exhibition. Los Angeles–based Steve Turner Gallery’s booth is among the strongest. Despite a diverse array incorporating nine artists, there’s a unity of palette and sensibility that makes the stand cohere as if it were a mini-exhibition in a museum. The gallery has installed a wainscoted wall and tan-and-white checkerboard flooring that together evoke a homey kitchen or early-20th-century diner and provides a warm setting for what appears to be folk art or art by self-taught or so-called “outsider” artists.

Yet, the artists featured are all in fact art-world insiders, and most attended prestigious art programs like Rhode Island School of Design, Art Institute of Chicago, Carnegie Mellon, Yale, and Cal Arts or elite residencies like Skowhegan. They include Laylah Ali, Samantha Bittman, Mariel Capanna, Nick Doyle, Lucy Fradkin, Kevin McNamee-Tweed, Paige Jiyoung Moon, Camilo Restrepo, and Hannah Epstein, who is a highlight with her smattering of soft textile wall sculptures. (Epstein’s solo show at the gallery opens January 5 and runs through February 16.)

According to the materials accompanying this presentation, “Each artist has made the deliberate choice to sidestep much of his/her formal instruction in order to create works that instead involve such traditional craft techniques as weaving, ceramics, woodcarving, or welding…They are part of a movement away from technology and new media but they retain conceptual rigor and a societal/political purpose, making their iteration of folk art something new, something more than merely naive or primitive art for its own sake.”

Another noteworthy cohesive booth is Burning in Water, which just this fall became one of the tenants of the new Highline Nine art spaces in New York. The gallery has successfully juxtaposed works by artists of two generations: Twisty wall sculptures of colorful rope and canvas by the Miami-born and Brooklyn-based artist Rachel Eulena Williams (born 1991) surrounds canvases by the renowned Oakland-based Oliver Lee Jackson, who emerged in the late 1960s in association with the Black Artists Group (BAG) in St. Louis. The National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC is mounting a survey of Jackson’s work over the last 15 years March 24 through September 2.

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