Amid the 25-odd art fairs taking place in Miami this week, PULSE Miami Beach stands apart from the competition with its focus on single-artist presentations, and an impressive contingent of work by female artists.
Strong feminist statements are to be found at every turn: Zoe Buckman’s Champ, a giant neon pair of ovaries with boxing gloves, packed a literal punch as one of the PULSE Projects pieces, in the rear of the north tent. At Sienna Patti of Lenox, Massachusetts, photographs by Lauren Kalman, in which she’s covered her privates in gold leaf, added an air of elegance via the ornamentation of an orifice.
In another project, Erica Prince presented her piece Transformational Makeover, which aims to give women a new perspective on their appearance and identity by radically altering their appearance through hair and make-up.
At Christopher Moller Gallery, young Capetown artist Tony Gum remade herself in the image of Frida Kahlo, but clad in her own family heirlooms. “It’s supposed to speak to how women are multi-faceted,” the artist told artnet News.
The predominance of such work is no accident. “I think it’s really important to support and work with women,” director Helen Toomer told artnet News. “I just think that should be the norm.”
In some ways, it may seem like PULSE, now in its 12th year, has been eclipsed by younger satellite fairs such as UNTITLED or NADA, but in reality, Toomer’s leadership has changed the equation.
“The fair has been criticized in the past for being too eclectic,” she admitted. “That’s the whole point—art is so subjective!”
One of the fair’s more unusual works is Anne Spalter’s Miami Marbles, helium-filled balloons covered in canvas that the artist has decorated with digitally-manipulated images shot during Miami Art Week 2015.
It’s PULSE’s first stab at a specially-commissioned project, and it makes for a striking entryway to the fair. Download a special app, and the images will magically move when viewed through your phone. Even without the added layer, Toomer pointed out, “They don’t look real! They look superimposed!”
PULSE has also made space for video art, in the PLAY sector, which is more approachable than ever with its super comfy, darkened screening room full of Casper mattress. The ten short films were culled from some 800 submission received in response to the fair’s first open call.
Curator Jasmine Wahi, who selected the featured works with Rebecca Jampol, told artnet News that PLAY’s overarching theme is “socio-politically oriented work within the context of social constructs such as race, body identity queerness or gender, and beauty.” (The two run Newark’s Gateway Project, which has its own booth at fair with its Project for Empty Space gallery.)
Wahi highlighted Andy Fernandez’s film Sandra, which intercuts a 1960s police training video with the eerily footage of the arrest of Sandra Bland, who killed herself in prison after being jailed following a routine traffic violation. “A lot of times at art fairs you end up preaching to the converted,” she admitted, “but I hope it’s a wake up call to understand the systemic nature of inequity in our society.”
There were also moments of levity on view at the fair. A returning PULSE favorite was Ye Hongxing at Art Lexing, who debuted her largest work to date, a massive mandala created using glittery children’s stickers. The gallery told us that she worked ten hours a day for six months to complete the colorful work, which is priced at $60,000.
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