Primary is pleased to announce that Magnus Sodamin will begin his month long residency this March / 2017 at AIRIE (Artists in Residence in Everglades, Inc.)
South Florida is home to the only subtropical wilderness area in the country, and AIRIE is the only program bringing artists to the Everglades. AIRIE’s purpose is to inform, connect, and support artists, writers and musicians who wish to be ambassadors for the Everglades by providing month-long residencies in the Park.
AIRIE was born in 2001 when the $8 billion Everglades restoration bill had been passed by the U. S. Congress. Painter and former arts administrator Donna Marxer thought it would be a good idea for artists and writers to become a part of this new interest in one of the most compelling and environmentally endangered parts of our nation.
With the full cooperation of Everglades National Park, she started a program by which qualified professionals in arts and letters could reside in the Park for a month and create unimpeded in the wilderness setting.
Support Some & Learn More about AIRIE here.
AUTUMN CASEY will have three new works in the form of beach towels available at the PRIMITIVE LANGUAGES table in the Zine section of the LA ART BOOK FAIR. The works are pulled from her latest body of work “Balancing Infinity, While Hanging Upside Down. Watching Lovers Fall from Grace Underneath the Ground.” Each piece comes complete with your very own box of Star Crunch. Delicious in every way.
Hell of a year! Wishing all our friends and family the Happiest of Holidays. If you are in Miami this Thursday, December 22, we would love to invite you by for our first annual Office XMAS Party hosted in part by our good friends at Jai-Alai Books. Holiday Cheers, Beers, Egg Nogs & Mini Dogs wearing cute sweaters under 100 degree weather. Looking forward to celebrating with you. Cheers!
Words by Monica Uszerowicz
The experience of entering a three-dimensional tarot deck is akin to viewing Autumn Casey’s solo exhibition at Primary Projects, both in its meditative quality and the title alone, Balancing Infinity, While Hanging Upside Down. Watching Lovers Fall from Grace, Underneath the Ground. There’s a piece that refers to the show’s name, too: a Ferris wheel cart strung upside down with stuffed gloves and Mickey Mouse hands dangling, their arms once blithely in the air. Below are two bears in a state of tantric ecstasy: a plush blue Care Bear’s face is straddled by a pink bear-shaped candle, that’s quite literally melted into its partner. One might infer from them the tarot’s Major Arcana, the Lovers. The Ferris wheel cart is the Hanged Man: the ultimate symbol of transformation, even rebirth.
The show’s name comes from a poem Casey wrote after a three-card reading, which became a daily ritual. She’d pulled the Lovers, reversed, along with the Two of Pentacles and the Hanged Man. “I asked the cards, ‘How do I describe you?’” she explains to The Creators Project. “I felt like I was the Hanged Man—and when I was able to create again, it was like an explosion. Sometimes people think spiritual growth happens in very serious moments, so this is about that reconciliation—and just like the tarot cards, there’s an underlying subtle darkness. There is positive and negative. It is always about balance.”
The language of the tarot is first about the initiations of life—the way we move through it, transforming—and then about balance: the alchemical space between two ideologies. Casey’s art practice is like that, too, her sculptures often massive but hanging precariously, her video work tenderly exploring history and memory. Balancing Infinityfeatures a series of sculptures and 78 collages—functioning, effectively, as a tarot deck of their own—all inspired by the Rider-Waite deck.
The collages, constructed over the last three and a half years, contain, as Casey describes, “everything from old art history books […] to illustrated Shakespeare plays.” Like the unfolding of a reading, the first set of collages seemed to make themselves. “I would pull images and then infer which card it was, seeing which archetypes drove the collage,” she says. Casey’s Hermit card features a woman lighting her way through darkness, a man spinning a gradient of bright stripes, and a sleeping figure; her Three of Swords—depicted in the Rider-Waite as a heart pierced by three blades—has a bemused Charlie Brown, Snoopy atop his head. Sometimes, the pain inferred by the Three of Swords is confusing.
“The same idea fell over into the sculptures; I let them build themselves,” Casey explains. While the collages line two walls, the sculptures are spread out, creating an indoor garden of strange, delicately assembled symbols and found objects—pieces of Casey’s childhood, toys and treasures and furniture. The Fool sculpture is a frolicking wire man, clothed in a shirt sewn by Casey’s grandmother for Alice in Wonderland’s white rabbit. Judgment, Light as a Feather, a reference to the card and the Egyptian goddess Maat’s weighing of the heart, is a foam cross sprouting tiny yellow flowers, little toy growths.
On a recent visit to the space, Casey gestured to one sculpture, all flower-adorned blue yarn flowing from the curved legs of a table. “Do you want to take a guess as to which this one is?” she asked. “The Empress?” I replied. I was wrong: it was the Queen of Cups. In the Rider-Waite, she stares at her chalice, soft water pooling round her feet. Later, Casey gave her a more humanoid shape, though she’s still lush and sky-colored.
To be clear, Casey’s sculptural references to the tarot are not so specific nor immediately obvious, and her collaged cards have a life of their own. Tarot is often about the strength of the self, and so too is Balancing Infinity. To evoke the cards is really to evoke the archetypes of daily existence, the kind we experience in our own emotional landscapes—when we play the fool or or feel reborn—and, at least in the realm of an art space, we can understand these moments as we’d like. Balancing Infinity, then, is about our own interpretative power. It can mean (almost) whatever you want it to.
Words by Ciara Lavelle
At the opening of Save Your Selves, the group’s intricately stacked pile of personal detritus, found objects, lights, and video displays keeps blowing a fuse. As the lights dim, artist David Anasagasti, better known as Ahol Sniffs Glue, hurries outside to the fuse box and returns with a stepladder. Grinning humbly, he shuffles along the wall of Locust Projects while squeezing past viewers — the work reaches 15 feet tall and consumes nearly the entire room — and opens the ladder so his collaborators, artists Jason Handelsman and Jacob Katel, AKA the President and Swampdog, respectively, can reset the screens on top.
Even with the lights out, there’s plenty to keep gallery guests entertained. They lean forward to peer at empty Kool cigarette boxes and years-old ticket stubs. They point excitedly at familiar relics such as a toddler-size Dolphins jersey and a coaster from Mac’s Club Deuce. They marvel at the ATM, laid on its side to display one of Ahol’s characteristic eyeball designs; at a bottle of Evian filled to the brim with cigarette butts; at Bill Cosby’s 1966 album Wonderfulness on vinyl. They become transfixed watching raw footage of the “butthole tattoo girl,” a video that went viral after Swampdog shot it for New Times Broward-Palm Beachin 2012. They step back to take in the entire mountain of immaculately stacked rubble in its grimy glory. Then they dive in again.
Found-object art is nothing new in the art world. Design Miami lists the trend among its top themes this year, with galleries from Chile, London, and New York showing works incorporating reclaimed items. Last month, artist Bhakti Baxter launched “First Light,” which turned ocean detritus into quirky character sculptures. But during Art Basel, a time when local galleries and museums usually present the work of artists from outside the city, Miami-made found-object art does more than turn trash into treasure. It forces viewers from across the globe to confront a real piece of the city, not just the pretty face it puts on for one week each December.
Around the corner at Primary Projects, artist Autumn Casey achieves the same goal by vastly different means. Her exhibit, “Balancing Infinity, While Hanging Upside Down. Watching Lovers Fall From Grace, Underneath the Ground,” combines a collection of 78 collages, each based on a different card in the tarot deck, with pieces of sculpture crafted from personal mementos and found objects. The collages, thoughtfully crafted by the nomadic artist over three years, use pages from sources including art history books, illustrated Shakespeare plays, children’s dictionaries, personal drawings, photos, and other scraps the artist discovered “out in the world.”
If Save Your Selves reflects the gritty work of its three creators, “Balancing Infinity” reflects Casey’s thoughtful, spiritual worldview. The materials used here — a rickety wooden carnival ride seat dating back decades, for instance, or an heirloom sewing machine that once belonged to Casey’s mother, now cut in half — don’t merely conjure memories. To Casey, the objects have a destiny, and it’s up to her to help them realize it.
“I incorporate personal objects into my work because it feels like the natural thing to do,” Casey explains. “I start to view everything’s potentiality as a material or starting point. It’s like everything is always marinating until it’s clear to me that the objects are ready to speak.”
Huffer’s collection speaks too, mainly through juxtaposition. Look closely and you’ll notice how religious votive candles and fortune cookie papers form a superstitious tableau. Or check out the nuanced way a pile of gold-wrapped condoms sits behind that Cosby album. Handelsman calls the connections between the items “constellations of alignment.”
“These are things we’ve been gathering all our lives. We all have our own curatorial type of eyes to things that get our attention, things that have made it through many different moves and many different situations,” Handelsman explains. “It’s been an ongoing collection of stuff, but it just so happens to be the right time for the concept, for us to tell our own story, and make sure it’s told correctly.”
Though both Save Your Selves and “Balancing Infinity” incorporate gems from Miami’s dumpsters and street corners, they present vastly different reflections of the city where they’ll be shown. Huffer’s pyramid is frenetic and visceral; there’s real blood on the thing. Casey’s work is more cerebral and sparser, letting the essence of each piece shine individually. It’s part of a “constant regeneration process,” she says, in which items with great personal meaning to her cross over to a sort of art-world afterlife when they’re sold.
“I let something go, but then in a way it becomes immortalized,” she says, “and then given the chance for more people to relate to it.”
Unsurprisingly, Casey isn’t much for material things. She keeps her collection of personal tokens and found detritus in storage, waiting for the right time and project for each one to reveal itself. For “Balancing Infinity,” she collected materials from the streets of Buena Vista and Little Haiti, bridging the otherwise vast expanse between the residents of those areas and the typical Design District shopper.
“The physical location of the gallery is right in a line of lots of high-end, luxury retail stores. I make my way to the gallery from the other side of the neighborhood. I’ve found a lot of materials that have been incorporated into the sculptures… and they reflect the community immediately surrounding the area,” she says. “Like a bridge where the two neighborhoods meet. And again like finding a balance between the two.”
The irony of showing cast-off items from Miami streets in one of the city’s most expensive retail centers isn’t lost on Casey either.
“I hope that my exhibition will be a breath of fresh air for Basel-goers,” she says, “and that the use of humbler materials might help one reflect more on their own humility.”
Words by Joanne Davila
Autumn Casey is a sculpture and performance artist who this week debuts her second solo exhibition at Primary in the Design District. The deeply personal exhibit showcases a set of sculptural installation works, and seventy-eight 2-D collaged tarot cards inspired by the Rider-Waite-Smith tarot deck. The deck was given to her at age 18, at a Christmas party. During a particularly tumultuous and untethered period of her life, she learned how to read the cards and began to give herself readings everyday. Gradually, experience led to Casey’s own creation of a full deck of tarot cards – a culmination of three years of work. The resulting pieces are all assembled with found objects or items given to the artist by friends or family.
“I have an arsenal of objects around and people often give me things,” says Casey. At a visit to the show Casey points to items around the gallery – a resin statue of a horse, pieces of marble, two worn Care bears – all bestowed upon her. “I love things that look lived, that have a sense of history.”
Casey’s use of collage and assemblage is a theme that has been present throughout her previous work – she often deploys existing materials in unexpected, idiosyncratic ways. In this case, the tarot deck served as vehicle for both self-reflection and her art practice.
“Sculpture is what comes most natural to me, and at the time I had no space for sculpture, so I started to make these collages,” says Casey.
Drawn to the simplicity of the illustrations, the resulting collages are a blend of her inner narrative from that period of time and her understanding of the cards. “Certain cards infer certain meditations. There is the idea that they depict archetypes of how people are. So it’s like looking into a mirror.”
Casey’s deck is collaged from art history books, magazines, home décor journals, pages of illustrated Shakespeare, found images and some hand drawings. The first pieces came together without any organization and as time wore on, she began to accumulate a library of sorts, cataloging items she saw for use in future collages.
The Rider-Waite-Smith deck was originally published by the Rider Company in 1910. Its images were drawn by illustrator Pamela Colman Smith from the instructions of academic and mystic A. E. Waite. It is widely considered one of the most popular tarot decks used in the English-speaking world and well known for it’s simple imagery and abundant symbolism.
Casey’s interpretation of the symbolism connects history with the future and makes it her own. There are past pop culture references – Whitney Houston and Marilyn Monroe – appearances from familiar historical paintings and imagery that feels in sync with the current feminist movement. But though the cards carry concrete imagery, they shift in meaning depending on their relationship to other images, and to the viewer. “Tarot teaches you a way of how to understand the world,” Casey says.
For her the practice taught her about working to attain a balance in life. For now, “My approach is to be as natural and honest as possible.”
When she finished her collaged deck, she pulled three cards: Two of Pentacles, the Hanged Man, and Lovers Reversed. Reflecting upon these three, she wrote a few lines:
While Hanging Upside Down
Watching Lovers Fall from Grace
Underneath the Ground.
The artist, who has had her moment at Art Basel before – in 2012 a piece titled Cicada involved her screaming at the top of her lungs during Basel events – will also perform with her all-girl band, Snakehole at Churchill’s on December 1st. Their new album comes out next year on Wharf Cat Records.
Her work has been shown and collected by the the Perez Art Museum Miami and the Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami, where she won the 2010 Optic Nerve XII. She currently lives and works in Philadelphia and Miami, where she is represented by PRIMARY.
Words by By Anetta Nowosielska
Using cards normally associated with mystery and mysticism, Miami artist Autumn Casey reveals her rawest and most personal emotions. Elysian Fields could easily be Autumn Casey’s artistic opus. The visual narrative, now included in the permanent collection of the Pérez Art Museum Miami, offers an emotional peek at the connection between the artist’s Alzheimer’s-ridden grandmother and the music of her youth. The video movingly portrays how the former showgirl is magically transported out of the disease’s darkness into brief moments of clarity and bliss. “Frank Sinatra calms her down,” explains Casey. “I couldn’t be happier that my nana is immortalized in this piece for others to contemplate about life.”
Reflecting on life is a common theme for the Miami-raised conceptual artist, whose oeuvre includes collage, sculpture and video. Casey’s ability to tap into larger consciousness has already won her some impressive accolades. She was awarded the top prize at Optic Nerve XII, the Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami’s annual short video contest, for a film titled “Getting Rid of All My Shoes”, in which Casey seemingly sheds layers of herself by removing the frivolity of superfluous objects.
Similarly, her tarot card collection, which is a major component of a new solo exhibition at Primary Projects titled “Balancing Infinity, While Hanging Upside Down. Watching Lovers Fall From Grace, Underneath the Ground”, masterfully plays with our collective zeitgeist. The assemblage spans three years of deeply personal work that translates private mundane moments into shared revelations.
“Each piece means something to me,” says Casey, “and even though I have gone back to tweak some pieces that needed extra work, these are very true to what was happening in my life and are now connecting me to something entirely different.”
These are the kinds of emotive experiences Primary Projects co-founder Books Bischof is betting on. “It’s rare to represent an artist who can evoke so much emotion in people,” he explains. “We exhibited Autumn’s work a couple of years ago, and that debut solo show, AGALMA, was a celebration of nostalgia built out of relics from her childhood, which included, among other things, items from her nana’s kitchen.” This time around, the artist will use the aforementioned tarot cards, sculptures and videos to focus on the power of reflection to overcome crushing life experiences. As Casey herself puts it: “I’m using objects I’ve lived with for years that I’ve converted into artifacts that tell a bigger story.” Art doesn’t get more introspective and personal than that.
“The opportunity to once again bring cutting-edge contemporary art to this neighborhood was priceless,” says Books Bischof, co-founder of Primary Projects, referring to the collective’s new digs at the core of Miami’s Design District in the former Baltus House space. He and his business partners, Cristina Gonzalez (who calls herself the group’s “backbone”) and local artist Typoe Gran, have been hard at work curating their 4,200-square-foot stand-alone building with works from artist Autumn Casey that befit their renegade reputation for an exhibition just in time for Basel (Nov. 25 to Jan. 21).
Innovation is nothing new for this trio, which made its name by bringing mural culture, street art and graffiti into Wynwood and the Design District (originally as Primary Flight) and today manages a group of carefully selected artists, develops public arts programs and is often called on to create programming for various venues (such as the current Artist-in-House series at Soho Beach House). “What we do is push the boundaries of what we think artist management is while always looking at new avenues to create dialogue not just with art collectors, but also the communities we live in,” says Gran. As for the future—aside from promising “killer public art commissions” and an “expansion”—Bischof is tantalizingly mum: “I’m sorry to be secretive, but it’s a surprise. A super serious, kick-ass surprise.” One Miami’s art lovers will surely be waiting for.