Words by Shana Beth Mason
You didn’t have to sift through the Art Basel Miami Beach headlines to find out about the unusual spectacle taking place at Primary Projects; situated within the Miami Design District, visitors stared through a window at the centerpiece of the gallery’s December group show Here Lies Georges Wildenstein.
The main attraction: a 104-hour performance by Brooklyn-based artist Miru Kim alongside two fully grown female pigs. I Like Pigs And Pigs Like Me (which curiously echoes Beuys’ iconic 1974 performance at the René Block Gallery), Kim was confined to a section of the gallery walled off on two sides with the third being the front window. A security guard was on hand to ward off unauthorized detractors or photographers, as Kim attempted to maintain a certain balance of control (over external distractions) in order to relinquish control (to the quotidian behavior and activities of the pigs). Hypnotic, endearing and at times fraught with tension (should the pigs feel bumpy or aggressive towards her, there was no alternative but to take the jabs of the snout), Kim rendered her audience stunned, confused, bemused, indifferent and amazed. Moreover, her emphasis on the presence of the body and the politics of seclusion and occlusion was immediately tangible; isolation from the madness of the world outside is still reduced to spectacle, an intended cause-and-effect sequence.
Works executed in paint and pencil were the obvious strengths. Michael Vasquez’s feathery-stroke portrait of a gang displaying their cryptic hand gestures capably subdued the oft-alienating aggression and violence of gang culture to an image so elegant, any anger or abrasiveness in the hearts of its subjects was thickly veiled. Lawrence Gipe’s haunting image of a stone cross lit from below hearkened back to the Fascist propaganda of World War II (both as the Nazis portrayed such monuments as the Brandenburg Gate and the Spaniards for its Basilica at Santa Cruz, which Gipe references directly in this case), but stands on its own as a work vacillating between graphite drawing and a heavy, blackened painting. Recollections of Rembrandt and Gottlieb were clearly unavoidable. Christina Pettersson’s massive drawings were two gruesome self-portraits; one, waking up in a sealed, buried coffin and the other, standing naked surrounded by slaughtered geese (her bloody drool intimating she is the killer). Uncompromising detail impregnated by vast negative space radiates a slightly narcissistic lilt.
Mini-installations included Edouard Nardon’s metaphor for Don Juan, piercing the hearts of four windshields taken from Mercedes Benzes with a thin fluorescent tube. A separate project room revealed an anti-capitalist message through a mirror (opposite, a pre-requisite image of Ayn Rand) from Marc Bijl; sprawled angrily with black spray paint, the message carefully straddles warning and prophecy. George Sánchez-Calderón’s quirky golden soda can Crack Pipe initiated shockwaves in Shelter Serra’s gilded Birkin Bag and Jel Martinez’s Fire Hydrant. The works, cumulatively, did not really engage an active dialogue between themselves. The overarching theme of greed, power, intrigue and history (threaded through the legend of the Wildenstein dynasty), however, was potent and purposeful.