Words by Nate Rabner | Photo by Monica McGivern
Two walls of windows make Primary Projects’ new Design District gallery feel a little like a storefront, blending into the rows of furniture stores around it. But this is a showroom from another dimension. Monoliths clad in carpet swatches, glass, and flowers sprout from the floor in one corner, a little horse with a twisted wax mane stands in a bowl, and a black hoop hangs from the ceiling like some sort of fantastic portal. It’s such an eclectic mix of media that you might begin to question what is and isn’t part of the show: That table in the back? The potted plants shading the speakers in the corner? The bathroom sign? When you really think about it, is anything not art? Whoa. It’s a cool sort of disorientation, and it seems to fit the theme — or, as Primary partner Typoe Gran says, the “anti-theme.” The Primary trio of Books Bischof, Cristina Gonzalez, and Gran has returned to the Design District, and their opening act is “MGWTF,” which eschews stylistic cohesion and narrative in favor of “gut instincts, positive vibrations, and instant attractions.”
“We’re kind of just moving along with the idea of emotions and, like, instinct, and just… what visual aesthetics turn us on or what kind of attitude turns us on,” Bischof explains. “Or maybe just… the individual — like, are they cool, are they hardworking, are they the kind of energy that I want to surround myself with?”
That talent search led to artists with many backgrounds. The monoliths are from Alejandro Guzmán, a New York-based sculptor they met through a friend in Argentina. Miami’s Magnus Sodamin — “one of our heavy-hitters for a while,” Gran says — filled a seven-foot canvas with a vibrant forest of cannabis leaves. And Beatriz Monteavaro and Gavin Perry, both Miamians (and “just fuckin’ rad people,” Bischof says) help anchor one end of the gallery with a series of sci-fi rock ‘n’ roll paintings and the big black hoop, respectively.
“It kind of seems like these things all talk to each other in a way,” he says. It’s kind of like a “living room I would want to live in.” Maybe Primary really is the Design District’s newest and weirdest furniture showroom. It was in this same neighborhood a decade ago when the partners came together to introduce some artists to an area that didn’t have so many at the time. The Primary Flight public art project had its official start in 2007, inviting 35 artists to create murals around the Design District and Wynwood. “We just wanted to bring art to the people in a different way,” Gonzalez recalls. “We did it during Basel, and we felt like, at the time — I’m not saying it’s the same way now, but at the time, you know — it was hard for… some artists to get exposure.
“During that time, there’s a lot going on, so maybe not everybody’s going to get to shine, so we said, ‘You know what? Why don’t we take it to the streets so that everybody can enjoy it?’”
Primary Flight grew to include 150 artists in 2009, and the partners decided they wanted to get a gallery space and more control over their brand. They set up in the Design District for a few years, popped over to Chicago for a project, spent a few years in downtown Miami, and then headed to Los Angeles this summer for what Gonzalez calls “our take into… an art fair” before settling at North Miami Avenue and NE 39th Street. Gonzalez is happy to be back in the neighborhood. “We obviously love the location,” she says. “Excited to… really bring some amazing art to this area again.”
After a couple of years, they’ll move to another space. Gonzalez isn’t giving any hints as to the location, but she says she hopes it will be a permanent home. In the meantime, the Primary partners will continue to keep things fresh. “We get bored really easily; we like to challenge each other,” Gran says. “We get comfortable, and then we’re like, ‘Fuck this — let’s do it another way!’… Next time, I don’t even know what we’ll do, but we’re probably going to do something weird.”