BY BRENDA MABBITT
Two panels hang side-by-side next to the entrance of the Art Miami tent at this week’s Art Basel Miami Beach. The first panel features Diego Velazquez’s “Infanta Margarita Teresa in a Blue Dress”. In the second panel is Shin Yun-bok’s “Portrait of a Beauty”. You watch the panels for a few minutes before you begin to notice the tiny ants cutting away bits and pieces of each painting and carrying them from one panel to the other. By the end of the sequence, each is wearing the other’s dress. The piece, “Moobongtap” is a collaboration between Korean artist Lee Lee Nam and fashion designer Sul Yun-Hyoung, and was featured as part of the “Soul to Seoul” exhibit at this year’s Art Miami Fair. Curated by renowned arts matron Bernice Steinbaum, the exhibit also featured another Lee Lee Nam creation, “New Bak-Yeon Fall”. Taking the original painting by artist Jeong Seong, Lee creates freely cascading water, with the original painting’s title, signature and stamp tumbling down the falls into Gomodam Pond.
This month, all of the fairs at Art Basel Miami Beach had plenty to offer in the way of this marriage of classic and digital media. Some pieces were straight-on video installations, such as Max Grüter’s “Winker”, a playful video of an astronaut floating upside-down in space, slowly twirling, then smiling and waving at the viewer. Others, like Nam’s pieces, integrate movement inside traditional media, reminiscent of the magical paintings in the “Harry Potter” movies.
Just inside the Art Miami tent, Galerie Forsblom featured a number of pieces by renowned multimedia artist Tony Oursler. For nearly four decades, Oursler has been incorporating video into his installations, beginning with single-channel video and experimenting with projecting onto various surfaces, like his 1994 “Judy” installation. For one of the works at the Galerie Forsblom installation, Oursler incorporated the use of a pico projector no bigger than a cell phone to project tiny images onto a small, mixed-media sculpture mounted onto a steel pole. The piece, “Vestigial”, is one that is best appreciated up close, as it keeps the viewer’s eyes looking intently for a tiny video projection they might have missed.
At the PULSE tent, Artmiami TV spoke with mixed media artist Federico Solmi, whose work tells stories of power, corruption and consequence. In his artist statement, Solmi states, “Typically in my work, I express a harsh criticism toward the system that approves and trusts without questioning the fragile foundation on which our culture and post-modernist society is based.” One of Solmi’s protagonists, fictitious tycoon Dick Richman, star of his 2010 video installation, “Douchebag City”, was inspired by the recent economic collapse and the major players on Wall Street that he blames it on. He is featured in animated video form in the center frame of a brightly colored dollar bill. For Richman’s character, along with Solmi’s subsequent characters, including the dictator in his most recent project, “Chinese Democracy and the Last Day on Earth”, Solmi combines hand-drawn animation with 3D software normally utilized in creating video games. “Digital Media is in our everyday life,” explains Solmi. “As an artist, I like to combine traditional media with the best technology available today.” The result is an in-your-face look at human nature at its grungiest, brought to you in living, moving color.
So, does this increasing interest in digital media as an art form mean that traditional media will soon go the way of the dinosaur? Probably not. There’s still nothing like the smell of canvas and oils when strolling through a gallery. Even so, it’s clear that digital media has made a profound impact on the art world, giving artists yet another avenue to channel their creativity.