Once a month, Miami’s Wynwood art district receives a massive influx of visitors for its Second Saturday Art Walk. Normally vacant lots are used for overpriced parking, and the usually quiet streets become gridlocked with expensive cars and bustling crowds of people. Amidst the monthly chaos, a few galleries tucked away in the neighborhood enjoy the increase in visitors, who take in the art on the galleries’ walls. It was in this setting, a special night co-opted by commercial interests, that Fredric Snitzer Gallery opened My Money, a small group show comprising painting, sculpture, and photography.
Organized by painter Eric Palgon, the show contains three truly disparate bodies of work by three distinct artists: installed along with two of Palgon’s large, vividly colored canvases are black-and-white photographs by Peter Holzhauer and a small group of ceramic sculptures by Sarah Lassise. At first glance, the works seem disconnected from each other—Palgon’s oversize paintings dwarf Lassise’s minuscule sculptures, while the crispness of Holzhauer’s images is distinct from the other works. However, what links them is that they are all archetypes of essential art forms that are similarly dated and employ traditional methods of production.
The loud part of an otherwise subdued show, Palgon’s paintings demand the viewer’s attention with their scale, vivid colors, and hastily produced appearance. Using a large brush, Palgon overlaps seemingly brazen gestures until the entire canvas is covered. Certainly, there are references to the history of modernist painting, with traces of dripping paint and a flattening of the picture plane; Palgon’s expressive painting style parses abstraction à la Willem de Kooning and Sam Francis, among others.
However, Palgon’s paintings only mimic the surface aesthetics and construction of abstract expressionist canvases. They seem less conceptual than reductive, stripping the force of the movement down to mere strokes of paint on a canvas. These works read less as participants in contemporary painting discourse and more as works that rely on their art historically charged predecessors. Showing the works in Miami, a city devoid of the half century of a complicated painting legacy that exists in New York, only further empties them.
In a similar vein, Holzhauer’s works seem tied into the conceptual photography produced in the past few decades. Although meticulously framed, much of Holzhauer’s subject matter is mundane, and the resulting images read as snapshots, especially now, in an age where almost everyone is equipped with a smartphone camera. In the three photographs, Gift Shop, Girl, and Ice Stream (all 2013), the subject matter varies between a young girl, an ubiquitous postcard rack at a souvenir shop, and thin fragments of ice floating in water. Together, the scenes form a constellation of the history of photography, referring to portraiture, documentary, and landscape imagery. Holzhauer’s works confirm photography’s traditional goals—to present images stripped of their own context for closer inspection—which he nicely achieves in this body of work.
Standing alone on a small pedestal near a corner of the gallery, Lassise’s tiny, playful sculptures initially appear out of place among the other flat works on the walls. Untitled (2013) consists of four miniature sculptures including two figures, a crude skull, and an appendage-like form, all brightly colored. Made by hand out of clay and wax, this work resonates more with prehistoric votive figures than with contemporary sculpture. At a time in which contemporary sculpture operates in Rosalind Krauss’s Expanded Field, Lassise’s production methods and aesthetics are more connected to the traditions of premodern sculpture. This may not be Lassise’s focus in her own varied practice, but these works’ affirmation of sculpture’s traditional methods cannot be overlooked in this show.
As a whole, the works in My Money seem a bit out of place in today’s art world, a world that embraces the temporal, the site specific, the multiauthorial—essentially, the new and the different. The three bodies of work in the exhibition represent three archetypal art forms: handmade sculpture, black-and -white representational photography, and abstract painting. Of course, with the title of the show being My Money, the economics of selling art also enters the discussion, and the three types of work here are among the most easily commodified on the market. And situated in Miami, a city both honest in its commercial intentions and rife with art for sale, the exhibition examines today’s post-recession art market, one that favors more recognizable forms of art, while happily playing along.
My Money is on view at Fredric Snitzer Gallery through August 17, 2013.