From West to East, from North to South: The modern nomad reflects

Rob Carter_Faith in a Seed 

Madrid, Paris, New York City, Sarasota, Mexico City, Cuernavaca, New York City, San José (Costa Rica), my head gets kind of dizzy thinking of my art traveling in the last four months. I will keep it short and nice. I am writing it from Playa Flamingo, Costa Rica, the ideal place to reflect on these trips, being totally disconnected from the buzz of civilization and contemporary art, only nature and the immensity of the ocean, everything else becomes kind of insignificant.

Madrid during ARCO in the month of February was what I expected: No risk, no fun. The only inspiring show I saw was at Arnés y Roepke Gallery: Rob Carter “Faith in a Seed”, but I am a fan of the artist, so this doesn’t count. And maybe Cristina Iglesias with a retrospective in the MNCRS (Museo Reina Sofía). Madrid was sunny and elegant, this bohemian but yet busy atmosphere which catapults you back to better times of Spain. But the gallery exhibitions were lousy and the fair offer was limited, even the fair night life didn’t inspire at all, austerity – the new fashionable word in Europe, wherever you walked. Hopefully Spain will see better times soon. I spent a week in Paris afterwards to attend the Environmental Film Festival FIFE, which pulled me, in the presence of many directors from all over the planet, into the world of “E-Wasteland”, “Kinshasa Kids”, short videos about African kids and their natural environments, “The Fruit Hunters”, “More than Honey”, “Rivières Perdues” and many more inspiring environmental movies, documentaries and short films about bees, honey, electronic waste in African countries, delicious endemic fruit all over the continents, lost rivers of big cities, making the viewer think about better, healthier and more sustainable behavior towards our nature in order to protect our existence. Sometimes I changed the scene and went to openings at Galérie in situ, Balice & Hertling, Le Palais de Tokyo, with an amazing multi-curated group show “Soleil Froid” where I discovered a young French- Moroccan artist who creates scientific-poetic art works transforming images of nature through chemical processes into stunning contemporary still lives: Hicham Berrada. I visited the Kadist Art Foundation in the heart of the Montmartre, a small private space which at this time showed a Chinese artist, not convincing, but the space is intriguing and in a not typical art neighborhood, which is sympathetic. And of course I enjoyed the walks through a snowy Paris with the Monceau Park, the Tuileries, the Seine, le Quartier Latin, Paris as poetic and elegant as ever.

Some weeks later I traveled to New York City for the first round of art fairs. The disappointment of Armory (as always focusing more onto the huge size of works than content, nothing intellectually challenging, at least for me) , the superficiality and shallow attitude towards art and content in general, followed me throughout the week in the city.

Volta Art Fair showed some interesting pieces like the video work of the Finnish artist Patrik Söderlund and his group IC-98, Arkhipelagos (Navigating the Tides of Time), which was a beautiful metaphor of a situation which we are currently preparing: An alarming picture of the future where survivors of a natural catastrophe try to navigate the terrifying ocean without any geographical references. Another work in the same context was “WATERSHED” by Anita Glesta, talking about the risk of rising sea levels for coastal areas. Or the Room no. 1 (Things are not what they seem) by Aleksandar Duravcevic, the recreation of the library in a Montenegro palace during the Yugoslavian civil war, each piece burned individually, reflecting trauma and beauty of war situations.

I was happy to continue my trip to Sarasota in Florida where I was invited to give a talk to the students of the Ringling College of Art + Design and to curate their first exhibition at the newly opened space “Two Columns”. It was a relief to see that students in a remote US town are focusing onto content, elaborating the quality and concept of their work, deeply interested in learning instead of faking, acting and pretending to be someone. The Ringling Museum of Art, this emblematic architectonical alien in a subtropical environment, juxtaposes European classic paintings with contemporary art, a weird mixture but so surprising to see a precise sound work of Zimoun, the Swiss artist which I just discovered last year. It was refreshing to meet people like Matthew McLendon, one of the museum’ s curators, who is so much more interested in establishing an interesting program for the visitor than trying to be a fashion curator who want their names all over instead of having a purpose. He is currently preparing a big exhibition about waste for 2014. Another wonderful discovery. Or Ann Allbritton, one of the professors of the College who started her studies when she was in her fifties, after having established a lively family construction, did her PhD in her late fifties and is a very active, inspiring and intercultural professor of art history and an art critic at an age when other people retire without contributing to society anymore. A role model for every woman. And I had the pleasure to work with the artist and teacher Michael Wyshock who is 100% dedicated to his mission at the College and his art, which consists of painting and video (I clearly prefer the latter).

During all my trips, the next article about Mexico, New York and Costa Rica will follow soon, I can gladly officially state that the province really rocks! Leave the big urban conglomerations of narcissistic behavior and vanity art fairs behind (apologies for my generalization, I like to provoke) and you will get to the grain of creativity! This next contribution will be more positive, promised!


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