Suprematism is a form of visual art you don't readily expect to see in Miami, but it's everywhere: the foundations of Deco art and architecture appear as colorful plays on the rigid symmetries of Rodchenko, Lissitzky, Gropius and Móholy-Nágy. The return to those fundamental shapes and adherence to regulated form has, up until now, only appeared in architectural dialogues within the developing city. Chicago-based Min Song, in her solo outing with the newly minted Michael Jon Gallery, has produced a concentrate of Deco color, line and dynamic. Yet, her intentions are hardly propagandic or the product of political dogma. Instead, two works in a tiny space reveal the essences of this strict practice within a blatant, conspicuously consumptive cultural paradigm.
In a tiny white cube within sight of the De la Cruz Collection, Michael Radziewicz (also a Chicago transplant) creates a tightly-controlled setup, allowing no deviations from the work presented. Keeping with, what he describes as, conceptual practices from arenas outside Miami, Song's presentation is a model example of such an aim. The objects, themselves, are merely keys to the doors of an intellectual consideration of luxurious culture and it's specific manifestations within collective memories of Miami as a site of object-based obsession. Once entering the space, on the left is a silk square (roughly seven feet tall, three feet in width) with a Deco pattern rendered in black, hot pink and electric blue tones. In the center, a handmade wooden table props up a plexiglass candelabra (also in Deco pattern colored in bright orange, a hint of lime green and black), sitting atop a mirrored surface. Pillar candlesticks burn steadily within the structure, augmenting the searing Florida summer heat already resident in the room.
Song's project appears to leave little room for compromise outside the immediate associations with Deco color and shape, but something unusual happens when enough time is spent in the room. The first instinct for anyone who remembers their grandparents' homes in the 1980's in South Florida would chuckle at the sight of these familiar-looking pieces. Whether the memory occurs in form or general aesthetic, the memory resident within these elements resonate in visual culture through period advertisements and mainstream cinema (the extended conversation of trendy decor in Scorcese's GoodFellas is a solid example). But more relevant to Song's work is a broader concept of the object-as-key: true to the principles of conceptual practice, they are only triggers for rigorous considerations of varying visual histories.
Within the space, the unusual effect is the heat. However minor it may seem, the physical interaction with the work becomes warped when pulsing waves of summer weather bear down on the viewer. Most likely this was an accidental occurrence, but the very presence of the heat and the two works in a tiny white room make for an experience augmenting the exhibition's ironclad adherence to a school so far removed from anything discernible in Miami, or even Florida for that matter.
Shana Beth Mason is a critic based in Brooklyn. Contributions include Art in America, ArtVoices Magazine, FlashArt International, InstallationMag (Los Angeles), Kunstforum.as (Oslo), The Brooklyn Rail, The Miami Rail, San Francisco Arts Quarterly (SFAQ), and thisistomorrow.info (London).
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