Art Basel: Soaring with a virtual Light Spirit

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Miami Art Week brings thousands of artists, artworks, and their alternate visions to Miami. But none like the one in a small room in a shared work space on Lincoln Road, where for several days this week you could visit an alternate universe, where you can float in a starry ether and summon a giggling, zooming creature with a magic wand.

Called Light Spirit, it’s a new virtual reality program using groundbreaking new technology that’s set to explode the genre in the next year. Created by L.A. virtual reality company New Tropics and former Miami creative duo Friends With You, known for their surreal, bright, amorphous figures, designs, and installations, Light Spirit got its first experimental outing during Miami Art Week. Instead of dueling with soldiers or surveying a landscape, Light Spirit, using a new headset and laser technology called HTC Vive, allows you to physically interact with an animated environment and creature. It’s like being part of a psychedelic cartoon.


Huge media and entertainment companies have been working for several years to move into this new virtual space; last year Facebook bought Occulus VR, another immersive reality company, for $2 billion, and Sony is developing a new virtual reality headset, Project Morpheus, for Playstation. But New Tropics has a more creative goal – to expand your mind. The three technical creators of Light Spirit say they’re the first to work with artists in using this cutting edge new technology. This week, some 100 artists, gallerists, curators, and other creative types tried it out.

"This is how to immerse people in their brain,” says New Tropics’ Josh Randall, formerly director of the studio which created the hit video game series Guitar Hero and Rock Band. “We’re interested in creating our own new worlds that you’d never get to experience in real life.”

On Friday (which between the rain, the traffic, and the depressing news, was a very good day to escape from reality), I stepped into a small 12 by 12 foot room, strapped on a sense-muffling headset, put on a pair of enormous headphones, and took a black joystick-like object in my hands – and was sucked into empty deep blue space filled with floating white sparkles. The joystick became a kind of sceptre tipped with a rainbow-colored globe; as I waved it, more sparks exploded, and a fluid, bulbous little smiling creature, like an animated, oblong balloon, appeared. It giggled and squirmed as I waved the wand – I could stroke it, lead it in waves and circles, and as I expanded my movements, faster and larger, the creature bloomed to almost my size, then soared overhead, streaking across the virtual sky like a bright tubular comet, squealing with delight while music boomed and echoed – I could even send it whirling under my feet. As I settled down, it edged closer, and as I touched its undulating surface, the wand disappeared inside it and the space around me bloomed into psychedelic color, blobs and shapes swelling and swirling, as if I’d disappeared inside a lava lamp. 

Afterwards I felt dizzy, disoriented, and slightly queasy at being back in the solid, sharply defined world of right angles and hard, unmoving objects. Randall and co-creator Adam Robezzoli say the creature responds to the person, adapting to what you do – playful and engaging if you engage it, shrieking and disappearing if you poke or hit it. (Marketing managers were the only ones who’d gotten aggressive, they said.) The music also changes with the player’s movements. There's no skill required, no competition, no fear - just play and surreal sensation.

Part of the challenge in creating Light Spirit, Randall said, was figuring out how to get the program to respond to each person individually. “We taught the system to respond to my way of moving, and then when it had other people it didn’t know what to do,” he said. The creature had to be completely unreal, and yet have a personality – it’s like a cross between a baby, a fish, a bubble, and a friendly ghost, with a little purring kitten thrown in. “We really wanted to make an otherworldly creature that’s fun to touch,” Randall says.

Randall and his New Tropics collaborators hope the next step for this new virtual universe will be for people to play together in virtual reality space. (With lots of Light Spirits, perhaps?) "It's so compelling," he says. "But it would be way more fun to do it with friends."

- Jordan Levin / Arts & entertainment writer
[email protected] / @jordanglevin


Art Basel: Soul Basel and Art Africa Miami positions Overtown as a hub for art and culture

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By Fabiola Fleuranvil, [email protected]

Historic Overtown proved that all of the Basel action wasn’t limited to only Wynwood, Midtown, and Miami Beach. For the second year now, Soul Basel became the destination for soulful art and culture as part of the Art of Black Miami marketing vehicle to bring awareness to Black art for all perspectives to include African-American, Latin, Afro-Cuban, Caribbean, and African exhibition and programming. Art of Black Miami is presented by the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau and a collective of curators.

Soul Basel kicked off with the fifth installment of the Art Africa Miami Arts Fair, which opened to much fanfare at the Historic Lyric Theater in Overtown to a crowd of more than 200 civic leaders, art enthusiasts, and influencers. Everyone from Commissioner Keon Hardemon and Mayor Wayne Messam of Miramar to Senator Dwight Bullard, Dr. Dorothy Fields, and Carole Ann Taylor attended the VIP First Look opening reception. The two-story gallery exhibited contemporary art from the global African Diaspora and is presented by the Urban Collective to celebrate the renaissance of Overtown. The weeklong lineup includes a collection of exhibits, lectures, and live entertainment.

Following the Art Africa opening, many of the attendees made their way across the street for another Soul Basel experience at the Ward Rooming House Gallery presented by the Black Archives History & Research Foundation of South Florida. At the Ward Gallery is a daily lineup of live music in a soulful chic outdoor pop up cigar bar with hand rolled cigars by Cuban Crafters, guest DJs each night, and an art, poetry, and live jazz event on Saturday, December 5.
On display is the “No More Blues” photographic exhibit by Miami born Haitian-American photographer, Cendino Teme. The exhibit features a compelling compilation of images from the I-95 peaceful protests that took place in and around Wynwood during the 2014 Art Basel. Teme spectacularly captures the zeal, tenacity, and fearlessness of millennials seeking urgent change and action in the name of the Black Lives Matter movement.

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Art Africa Miami opening1.jpg

Art Africa Miami opening1.jpg


Art Basel: 'General Hospital' star Ian Buchanan opens 'Sway;' aims for Basel fix

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Scottish soap star Ian Buchanan, General Hospital's beloved, and presumed dead, Duke Lavery, opened Sway: A Dance Trilogy Thursday night at downtown Miami's Olympia Theater to support Doral-based Alfalit International. The non-profit literacy organization is a beneficiary of the theatrical dance event, which is headlined by Dancing With the Stars pros Maksim Chmerkovskiy and brother Valentin, Tony Dovolani and Peta Murgatroyd. Season 18 and 20 winners, Olympian Meryl Davis and actress Rumer Willis are also featured performers.
No dancing for the dashing Scot, who joked that Murgatroyd's sexy salsa moves could inspire some "boogying" on stage. One sure bet, though, "I'll be heading over to see some of Art Basel," Buchanan said.
Sway continues through Sunday at the Olympia.


Fridge Art Fair back on after last minute cancellation

Fridge Art Fair, planned for Miami Beach, is back on after a last-minute cancellation.

The small fair’s Facebook and Twitter accounts announced Friday that the event is still happening despite an email (reproduced below) from founder Eric Ginsburg saying it was off on Thursday.

The cancellation had to do with problems over a special-events permit from the city of Miami Beach, Ginsburg told the Miami Herald. But the fair managed to secure the blessing of city officials late Thursday night.

“It was a complete nightmare,” Ginsburg said. “Yesterday was the worst day of my life. I felt terrible for all the galleries and artists. We’re a little fair. We don’t have the funds the other fairs have . . . I’m just beyond glad we managed to fix it.”

Fridge takes place at the Holiday Inn, 4333 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sunday.


To Whom It May Concern:
For reasons I cannot state here we have no choice but to cancel Fridge
Art Fair at the Holiday Inn Miami Beach.

I can say with whatever little I have left we had a great fair planed
with the most amazing people involved and truly wanted nothing but the best for
all involved.

Somehow someway we will make it up to all involved as I can not get into
details but am truly speechless about many things and hence for reasons beyond
our control

we are forced to cancel Fridge Art Fair Miami Beach Dec 3-6.
I truly thank you with every ounce of my being for your support and I
pray that you truly look at our website and checkout our amazing fair that was

With much sadness and despair,
Eric Ginsburg
Fridge Art Fair


Art Basel - "Pore" at Locust Projects a dance of moods


The ideas behind sculptor Martha Friedman and dancer/choreographer Silas Riener's Pore, commissioned by Locust Projects in the Design District, are complex enough - form and materials, dependence and physicality. But in a performance on Thursday morning, Pore came to moody, stretchy, physical life.

Each of Friedman's wall size rubber sculptures, really tapestries with extensions that become costume, prop and part of Riener's dancing, represents one of the four medieval 'humors' of humanity. Yellow is Choleric - uptight and upright. Blue is Phlegmatic, passive and droopy. Red is Sanguinic, passionate, physical, pulsing with blood. And black is Melancholic - the intense, depressed, ecstasy of emotional agony often associated with artists.

In many ways, the performance's four sections illustrate those characteristics. Riener, almost naked in a dance belt, moved from one color field to another, adjusting a single light to illuminate each new spot. His deliberate pace and concentration, the sense that he was immersed in the tactile qualities of the rubber, the emotions of his four solos, were hypnotic. In Choleric, he donned pointe shoes and draped a long narrow yellow sheath of rubber, lined with yellow tubes, over himself. His movements are tense, sharp, angular, up and down, he extends a leg into a precisely angled bend, rises up on to pointe, raises his arms over head, his face taut.

For Phlegmatic, where pale blue and grey tubes extend up and out to wrap around a leotard that Riener dons, proceeding to tangle himself in the floppy mass of squashy cables, slowly reaching sideways, only to collapse, rolling, curling, squirming, all in slow passive motion. Even a slow arabesque, on an odd block rubber "shoe" is droopy and passive.

The wall covering for Sanguinic is filled with tubes like the valves of a heart, and Riener emerges from behind this screen into a kind of giant rubber hood, wearing bright red sneakers and red rubber trunks, he bobs, ripples his feet, pulses his chest like a club dancer whose heart is going out of control, while his giant red cloak ripples behind him. 

And finally, in Melancholic, whose black hanging has a tar-like liquid sheen, Riener clambers into a jumpsuit with a black winglike appendage running down his leg, tying it around his limb over and over. He walks slowly outward, stretching the rubber rope to its limits, reaching and arching into the red field of Sanguinic, then into the bright yellow area of Choleric, repeatedly arching and being pulled back. It's eerie - a muscular metaphor for how our emotions keep pulling us back under.

- Jordan Levin

Pore repeats 11 a.m. Friday, 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. Saturday, and 11 a.m. Sunday at Locust Projects, 3852 No. Miami Ave., Miami. Free, locustprojects.org


Art Basel: Obsolete Media - Tiny windows on the world


Walk into Kevin Arrow and Barron Sherer's Obsolete Media Miami loft in the Design District is like stepping into the past - or at least the mechanics for remembering it. There are shelves of slide projectors, reel to reel tape players, little box record players, old film projectors, boxes and boxes of slides, towers of big round metal film storage boxes.

Getting a grip on old-fashioned imagery has fascinated the two artists for well over 20 years. "A slide is like a tiny little window to another place, to the universe," says Arrow, who is art and collections manager at the Frost Science Museum. He used to create psychedelic slide and film projections for South Beach clubs, fills his life and Facebook feed with eclectic imagery. "You can put it in a projector and blast it to the size of a wall. It's a window to look into the past. And these are the machines that enable us to activate this stuff."

Last March they got a Wavemaker grant from Miami's Cannonball and the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Arts (enabling them to put in AC before the combination of heat and the smell of Harry's Pizza downstairs asphyxiated them and melted their slides), and Dacra has donated space in the Madonna Building. Now Arrow and Sherer are spreading the word - and the access - to their treasures with Obsolete Media Miami, letting artists and students borrow, create with, use and be inspired by their library. One New York artist came to them for slide projectors because she couldn't find any in New York. A group of DASH students, many of whom had never seen a slide, came in to make their own. Teens and twenty-somethings are fascinated by pictures and media that you don't operate with the swipe of a finger on a phone screen, says Sherer, who spent some 15 years as a curator and preservationist at the Lynn & Louis Wolfson II Florida Moving Image Archives.

"If it's organic and tactile it's attractive to millenials," says Scherer. "They're not used to holding things in their hands." 

- Jordan Levin


Art Basel: Artist pirates Trump's old campaign bus in Wynwood

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Donald Trump may want to fire the staffer who let his old Iowa campaign bus fall into the hands of a lefty artist from Philly.

The anonymous artist, known as t. Rutt, bought the bus for $14,000 from the businessman who owned it -- Trump was just leasing -- and turned it into a traveling anti-Donald art show.

The 1981 MCI motor coach's latest stop is Wynwood, where it's in town for Art Basel until Sunday at the Conception Art Fair, near the corner of Northwest 29th Street and Northwest Sixth Avenue.

"Presidential campaigns can be such a frustrating process," said David Gleeson, director of the Philadelphia-based gallery Crane Arts, which represents t. Rutt. "The idea behind this show is that you can either get frustrated and angry or you can get frustrated and creative."

The artist repainted the bus' banner on one side to read "T. RUMP" instead of "TRUMP." A banner on the other side says #MakeFruitPunchGreatAgain, replacing Trump's more familiar slogan #MakeAmericaGreatAgain.

Visitors are encouraged to throw small cups of fruit punch onto the bus.

T. Rutt is an homage to R. Mutt, the name French artist Marcel Duchamp signed on his famous piece Fountain, a porcelain urinal he bought from a manufacturer and presented to the public as art in 1917. The piece launched the avant-garde Dada movement.

Trump's campaign had been leasing the 14-seat bus from Des Moines businessman Steve Drake, who wanted to sell. When the Donald declined his offer, the company sold to t. Rutt instead, Trump lettering on the side and all. (The campaign did not respond to a request for comment but several media outlets have confirmed the account.)

The bus comes with 14 seats, two couches, a working bathroom, speakers and about 1 million miles on the gauge. It only gets about 8 miles to the gallon, said Gleeson, who picked up the bus in Iowa then drove it to Miami via Philadelphia.

"I have to say that I love this old bus like a stray dog," he said.

There's no asking price for the piece but Gleeson said he would be open to offers down the road. But first, he's planning on taking it to New Hampshire for the presidential primary in February.


Trump bus.jpg

Trump bus.jpg

Fridge Art Fair is cancelled

Fridge Art Fair disseminated a press release at 3:15 p.m. with this cancellation notice. 

From [email protected]:

December 3, 2015

For Immediate Release:

Fridge Art Fair has been canceled.

To Whom It May Concern:

For reasons I cannot state here we have no choice but to cancel Fridge Art Fair at the Holiday Inn Miami Beach.

I can say with whatever little I have left we had a great fair planed with the most amazing people involved and truly wanted nothing but the best for all involved.

Somehow someway we will make it up to all involved as I can not get into details but am truly speechless about many things and hence for reasons beyond our control we are forced to cancel Fridge Art Fair Miami Beach Dec 3-6.

I truly thank you with every ounce of my being for your support and I pray that you truly look at our website and checkout our amazing fair that was almost.

With much sadness and despair

Eric Ginsburg
Fridge Art Fair

- By Galena Mosovich

Spectrum Miami brings out the crowds



North of downtown and south of Midtown, at 17th and Northeast Second Ave., is usually a fairly desolate area. You’ve got the Miami Cemetery a block north and not a whole lot in between. But on Wednesday evening, the streets were buzzing in this so-called Arts & Entertainment District. Enormous tents were set up for the grand opening of Spectrum Miami art fair, where locals perused offerings from artists and galleries from all over the world while sipping rose and coconut water and munching on gluten-free chips and hummus.

It was a jovial, festive atmosphere, though the lines for the luxe Porta Potties got a little fierce.

“It’s quite a scene, very different from New York,” said New Jersey Shore-based artist Jim Inzero, who uses beeswax for his evocative paintings. “I think the weather has something to do with it. People are more relaxed here. I’m just not so sure they are ready to buy.”

Info and hours: http://spectrum-miami.com-



Latin American works from Jorge Pérez collection on display in Wynwood



An array of fine works by Latin American artists from the collection of developer Jorge Pérez is on display at the Mana Convention Center in Wynwood.

One fair-goer exclaimed that a blue-and-green collage of stuffed animal skins by Argentine artist Agustina Woodgate would look lovely in her friend's apartment at Paraiso Bay, a luxury Miami condo tower built by Pérez's Related Group.

Alas, the work was not for sale.

The exhibit, "A Sense of Place," features more than 50 works from Pérez's collection, all of which is promised to the Pérez Art Museum Miami.

It was co-curated by Patricia Hanna, Related's art director, and Anelys Alvarez, assistant curator at Related and former professor of art history at Universidad de La Habana in Cuba.

Said Hanna; "We were trying to show Jorge's evolution and idiosyncrasies as a collector . . . particularly his Latin American identity and his experience as an exile."

-- Nicholas Nehamas 



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