Words by By Phillip Valys
During the 19th century, James Whistler, Édouard Manet and other modern-art painters were annoyed that their works were being rejected by the official Paris Salon – an often-elitist forum for debuting new European art. So the artists, aided by French emperor Napoleon III, struck back with an underground society of their own, called Salon des Refuses, and pledged to showcase only works snubbed by the Paris Salon.
“The relationship of trying to define who and what Miami artists are in 2012, and the stories that they’re trying to tell, relates so much to how the 19th century artists tried to define themselves through the Salons des Refuses,” says Bischof, of Fort Lauderdale. “These people aren’t rejects. They’re extremely talented artists who make up society in Miami and have been around forever.”
“Salon de Notre Societe,” on display through July, spotlights some 400 paintings, photographs, sculptures and installations on sale from current and former Miami artists. Inside Bischof’s art space, the works are curated into eight salon-style clusters, mountain-range-shaped groupings that cover the walls from floor to ceiling. Bischof says most of the artists are already established in Miami, including Catalina Jaramillo, Tatiana Suarez, Antonia Wright and Christina Pettersson, while others, including Lu Gold, Evan Robarts and Kenton Parker, come to Primary Projects through their street-art background.
Several of the works, Bischof says, are haunting, including Lu Gold’s “Girl in the Water,” a gray scale ink-on-Mylar featuring a small girl drowning; and Magnus Sodamin’s “Magic Gardens,” a psychedelic work of dripping colors and flowers, an effect achieved with spray paint.
Others, meanwhile, are rooted in what Bischof calls “rebellious, street-art swagger,” provocative works such as John Vale’s landscape diorama “Up in Cripple Creek,” featuring birds and waterfalls on one side and, on the other, a hallowed-out cave bombed with graffiti and filled with empty beer bottles, a sombrero and a couple having sex. A half-dozen works come from conceptual street muralist Kenton Parker, including the graffiti-inspired painting “Welcome to L.A.” containing an Uzi surrounded by spray-painted bursts of colors; and former Miamian Evan Robart’s “Memory 1, 2, 3,” an installation of three basketballs encased in stained glass, a commentary on turning a street pastime into a fragile object.
“People are talking a lot of crap about how the artists are leaving Miami now, but at the same time, there are tons of people still here that have tons of value,” Bischof says. “All these works have some super romantic relationship with the lifestyle of Miami, and they, like the artists in the Salon des Refuses, all deserve to be popping in future contemporary art books.”