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Miami: Come for the beaches, stay for the Art Deco style

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Pulling out of Miami airport’s rental car parkade I’m greeted by a glittering, pastel sky as the sun begins to set.

This is my first visit to Miami and it’s immediately obvious why this subtropical spot is called “Magic City.”

Over the next three days my plan is to see as much of Miami as possible, from its world-famous beaches and exciting culinary scene to some of its most vibrant neighbourhoods, like Little Havana, the Art Deco District and Coconut Grove.

Day 1:

First on the itinerary is South Beach, which is what most people think of when they think of Miami. This neighbourhood boasts two miles of pristine, white sand beaches, top restaurants and shops and is known around the world for its historic Art Deco District.

My sister and I check into Lord Balfour Hotel, on the main drag of Ocean Drive just steps away from the beach. The 1940 hotel, which has undergone a multi-million dollar overhaul, still maintains its aesthetic integrity. Many of its original fixtures remain, like the terrazzo flooring, and a hand-stencilled, gold elevator door with a porthole window — something you’d expect to see in a 1940s Humphrey Bogart film.

We spend our third night in Miami at the iconic Avalon Hotel, further down Ocean Drive, which I remember from the 1983 film Scarface, with Al Pacino playing a Cuban refugee turned Miami crime boss.

It’s easy to spot the Avalon with its streamlined look and neon sign spelling out its name. And if the sign wasn’t enough, this 1941 art deco hotel is distinguishable by the bright yellow, 1955 Oldsmobile Super 88 convertible parked out front — reportedly one of the most photographed cars in the United States.

That evening we get a taste of what it was like in Cuba’s capital in the 1950s by eating at Havana 1957, nearby. The main dining room’s vintage memorabilia evoke a sense of Havana in its heyday, right down to an old-fashioned tray slung around the neck of a “Cigar girl” selling diners an assortment of cigars after they finish their authentic Cuban cuisine. Think roasted chicken, rice, beans and sweet plantains.

Day 2:

We start the day with Sunday Jazz Brunch at Jaya in The Setai, an Asian-inspired, super posh resort with impeccable service. As a jazz quartet performs on a raised platform over the pool we’re offered mimosas before enjoying one of the most varied and plentiful food buffets I’ve ever come across. The decadent desserts are too numerous to mention, but I’d be remiss not to give a nod to the liquid nitrogen ice cream station.

Later, we drive half an hour to Coconut Grove — and to an entirely different Miami — to enjoy a relaxing afternoon at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, a National Historic Landmark. The grandiose villa, located on Biscayne Bay and completed in 1916, was once owned by wealthy American industrialist James Deering. The avid antique collector filled the Mediterranean Revival style mansion full of European treasures and created 10 acres of formal gardens, modelled on the Italian gardens of the 17th and 18th centuries.

For dinner we head to mid-town Miami to Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill, with a globally inspired menu featuring American and Latin classics. I had an incredible, whole roasted branzino, taco appetizers and delicious torrenjas, which is a Latin American version of french toast with dulce de leche and apples.

To get a sense of Miami nightlife we spend the rest of our evening at Little Havana’s Ball & Chain, a restored jazz era nightclub that has been part of Miami’s entertainment scene since 1935. This is a favourite among locals and tourists alike and on the Sunday evening was full to capacity. The Cuban salsa dancing instructor definitely helped kick off the fun.

Day 3:

After so much great food it was time to walk it off. So our day started with a 90-minute Art Deco Walking Tour with the Miami Design Preservation League. Tours happen daily, beginning at the Art Deco Welcome Center, located in the heart of South Beach’s Art Deco District at 10:30 a.m. and cost $35 US for adults. Definitely worthwhile to gain a better understanding of the city’s history and architecture.

“South Beach has the largest amount of art deco buildings assembled in the world,” says preservation league director Mark Gordon.

“Between 6th to 23rd Street, from the ocean to the bay, there are between 800 and 850 buildings under preservation, the majority art deco.”

Gordon says South Beach has seen dramatic changes, from the boom years of the 1920s and 1930s, when more than 100 new hotels and apartment buildings were built on Miami Beach, to the 1970s when it fell into decline.

“As a 20-year-old I remember Miami Beach when it was a dump and ravaged with crime,” he says, adding most of its residents at that time were senior citizens.

The fact that much of Miami’s stylish architecture remains is thanks to those seniors who had long term rental leases. Had they not, in all likelihood the mostly three-storey art deco buildings would have been demolished in favour of towering condominiums, says Gordon.

“Miami Beach is constantly reinventing itself. The buildings are still there but the clientele is different. The restaurants and the hotels are way more upscale. The food of Miami Beach can rival any city.”

On this point I definitely concur. On our last day in Miami we dine at two of of the city’s most well known restaurants — both in South Beach. The first was lunch at Gianni’s, located in the former Versace mansion, and the second was dinner at A Fish Called Avalon, located in the Avalon Hotel.

Now called Villa Casuarina, the only way visitors can take a peek inside designer Gianni Versace’s former home is to either book a room in the luxury resort or dine in the restaurant adjacent to Versace’s famous mosaic-lined, 24-karat gold pool.

While the food was great and well presented at Gianni’s it was also the best place to people watch. My ever competitive sister and I spent our lunch playing a game we called “spot the Versace” since so many patrons came dressed in the designer’s clothes. To be fair it was an easy game to play since the Versace-clad usually took selfies by the pool.

At A Fish Called Avalon we ate on their outdoor patio, which again was a great place to people watch as locals and visitors strolled along Ocean Drive.

I happily sipped a Negroni cocktail, served in a small model convertible, and enjoyed fresh seafood, which they are known for, like the Macadamia Crusted Snapper, jumbo sea scallops and spicy bigeye tuna tartare. Everything was outstanding but the big surprise of the evening was the dessert — a delicious key lime pie, which also happens to have won the last APC National Pie Championship, held in 2019. Who knew the sophisticated Miami holds the title for best American pie?

Air Canada has made it easier to get to Florida by offering direct flights between Miami and Vancouver while West Jet does a direct flight between Vancouver and Orlando.

Kim Pemberton was hosted in Miami by Visit Florida, which did not review or approve this story. Follow her on Instagram at kimstravelogue.

 

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Home + Away artwork opens in Vancouver’s Hastings Park

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A new art installation now towers over Vancouver’s Hastings Park fields in celebration of the city’s history of spectators and sports.

Home + Away is a sculpture by Seattle artists Annie Han and Daniel Mihalyo of Lead Pencil Studio, which opened Monday in the southeast end of the historic park.

It’s a 17-metre-tall structure that resembles a narrow set of bleachers — similar to the stands of the Empire Stadium, which stood on the site of the park from 1954 to 1993 and hosted The Beatles, among many others. It recalls a covered ski jump that stood there in the 1950s and the nearby wooden rollercoaster at the PNE.

The city says the public is invited to walk the stairs and sit on the benches.

“In addition to being visually striking, this artwork is intended to be ascended, sat on and experienced. It offers exciting experiences of height and views and provides 16 rows of seating for up to 49 people, making for a unique spectator experience when watching events at Empire Fields,” the city said in a release Monday.

The idea for the park to include public art was outlined in the Hastings Park “Master Plan,” first adopted by the city in 2010. The city says Han and Mihalyo first presented their design in 2015.

“It’s wonderful to see this piece realized within the context of such a well-used public space,” said Han.

Home + Away was inspired directly by the site history of spectatorship, and we hope it will connect Hastings Park users to that history and the majestic views of the environment for many decades to come,” added Mihalyo.

The artwork features a large light-up sign, in the style of a sports scoreboard, that reads “HOME” and “AWAY.”

 

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Bill Viola, Video Artist Who Established the Medium as an Integral Part of Contemporary Art, Dies at 73

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Bill Viola, whose decades-long engagement with video proved vital in establishing the medium as an integral part of contemporary art, died on July 12 at his home in Long Beach, California. He was at 73 years old. The cause was complications related to Alzheimer’s disease. The news of his passing was confirmed by James Cohan Gallery.

Viola’s works are centered around the idea of human consciousness and such fundamental experiences as birth, death, and spirituality. He delved into mystical traditions from Zen Buddhism to Islamic Sufism, as well as Western devotional art from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance in his videos, which often juxtaposed themes of life and death, light and dark, noise and silence. These explorations were achieved by submerging viewers in both image and sound with cutting-edge technologies for their time.

“I first used the camera and lens as a surrogate eye, to bring things closer, or to magnify them, to experiment with perception, to extend vision and make lengthy observations of simple objects,” Viola said in a 2015 interview. “Once you do that, their essence becomes visible. So I suppose I was always interested in the inner life of the world around me.”

Beginning in the 1970s, Viola created videotapes, architectural video installations, sound environments, electronic music performances, flat panel video pieces, and works for television broadcast—all of which expanded the scope of the medium and established Viola as one of its most notable practitioner.

Video still of a man diving into water that has been reversed. The image is mostly black and teal.

In 2003 the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York; Tate, London; and the Centre Pompidou in Paris jointly acquired Bill Viola’s 2001 three-channel video installation Five Angels for the Millennium.

Photo Kira Perov/©Bill Viola Studio

Bill Viola was born in 1951. He grew up in Queens and Westbury, New York, and attended P.S. 20 in Flushing, before receiving his BFA in experimental studios from Syracuse University in 1973. There, he studied with visual art with the likes of Jack Nelson and electronic music with Franklin Morris.

Following his graduation, between 1973 to 1980, Viola studied and performed with composer David Tudor in the music group Rainforest, which later became known as Composers Inside Electronics. He also worked as technical director at the pioneering video studio Art/tapes/22 in Florence, Italy from 1974 to 1976. During that time he encountered the work of other seminal video artists like Nam June Paik, Bruce Nauman, and Vito Acconci.

Viola was subsequently an artist-in-residence at New York’s WNET Thirteen Television Laboratory between 1976 to 1983, wherein he created a series of works that premiered on television. He traveled to the Solomon Islands, Java, and Indonesia to record traditional performing arts between 1976 and 1977. Later that year, Viola was invited to show work at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia, by cultural arts director Kira Perov, with whom he married and began a lifelong collaboration.

He was appointed an instructor in advanced video at the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, California in 1983. He was the Getty Research Institute scholar-in-residence in Los Angeles in 1998 and was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2000.

In 1985, Viola received with a Guggenheim Fellowship for fine arts, and later that decade, in 1989, he was awarded the MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship. His work was also featured in some of the world’s most notable exhibitions, including Documenta VI in 1977, Documenta XI in 1992, the 1987 and 1993 editions of the Whitney Biennial, and the 2001 Venice Biennale.

In 1995, he represented the United States at the 46th edition of the Venice Biennale. For the pavilion, Viola produced the series of works “Buried Secrets,” including one of his most known works The Greeting, which offers a contemporary interpretation of Pontormo’s oil painting The Visitation (ca.1528–30). The Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin and New York’s Guggenheim Museum commissioned the digital fresco cycle in high-definition video, titled Going Forth By Day, in 2002.

Viola’s work was the subject of a major 25-year survey at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1997, which subsequently toured internationally. His work has been the subject of major museum retrospectives in the years since, including at the Grand Palais in Paris (in 2014), the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence (2017), the Guggenheim Bilbao in Spain (2017), and the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia (2019), as well as an exhibition pairing his work with that of Michelangelo at the Royal Academy of Art in London in 2019.

Viola is survived by his wife Kira Perov, who has been the executive director of his studio since 1978, and their two children.

“One thing that’s very exciting about video that has turned me on since I first saw this glowing image way back in 1970 is that it can be so much,” Viola said in a 1995 with Charlie Rose on the occasion of this US Pavilion at the Biennale. “Furthermore, what’s really exciting is I don’t think it’s been since really the Renaissance where artists have been able to use a medium that one could say is the dominant communication form in society.”

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Couple’s winning art projects adorn overpass

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Annabelle Harvey and Corbin Elliot are partners: in life, love, and art. Thanks to their creative pursuits, now they are also joined in the recognition of their work along the Lakeshore overpass.

The City of North Bay, in collaboration with the Public Art Advisory Committee (PAAC), recently held an event to acknowledge the successful applicants for the Lakeshore Drive overpass banner project. This initiative features 14 artworks created by local artists, highlighting the ongoing commitment to bringing public art to the community and celebrating local talent. The banners were installed early last week.

On behalf of PAAC, Katie Bevan noted that 71 submissions were received for the banner art project. “Selecting just 14 artworks from such outstanding submissions was no small feat. It truly highlights the incredible creativity within our community — and it’s only growing.”

Bevan acknowledged all who submitted their work and congratulated the 14 winners:

  • Caitlin Daniel
  • Corbin Elliot
  • Adam Fielder
  • Ian Gauthier
  • Ruby Grant
  • Annabelle Harvey
  • Penny Heather
  • Robert Johannsen
  • Robyn Jones
  • Gerry McComb
  • Victoria Primeau
  • Tessa Shank
  • Rana Thomas
  • Claudia Torres

“This is the first time I’ve participated in something city-wide, and I’ve been really interested in getting more involved in the art community,” said Harvey, a teacher by vocation when not helping to beautify North Bay. “I’ve worked a lot with the WKP Kennedy Gallery and I’ve been putting in submissions for some of their group shows. So, this is a cool opportunity to try something new. This is the first time I have done digital work. Usually, I like painting and collage. So I was interested just to try something new.”

In September 2023, public art gained more prominence in North Bay as 12 pieces by eight local artists selected by the Public Art Advisory Committee were placed on aluminum panels mounted onto the public buildings in both Champlain and Sunset parks.

Harvey’s partner Elliot is an emerging artist and a Fine Arts graduate from Nipissing University who says his passion for bringing his vision to life has only grown, thanks, in part, to these public art initiatives.

“There is so much opportunity to have a lot of different public art in different spaces,” he says. “So, when I saw that there was a variety of different artists and voices being accepted, of course, I wanted to have my vision out there in the city, to make my mark and be a part of that kind of trajectory of building the art scene within the city.”

The couple share a studio space, often working on separate projects at the same time while collaborating with encouragement and ideas.

“We are working on different mediums, a lot of the time,” Elliot said. “We have our own corners set up in the studio and I’ll usually be on my easel and Annabelle will be doing something…”

Harvey picked up his thought, “I’m usually at my desk doing pottery, jewellery, collage — I do a lot of different things.”

2024-07-12-lakeshore-overpass-banner-art-elliot-harvey-2-campaigne
Couple Annabelle Harvey and Corbin Elliot each earned a spot among the 14 winning banner art projects. Stu Campaigne/BayToday

For Harvey, working so closely together is her “favourite part, especially watching his creative process.”

Elliot added, “I think I’m more non-verbal as I’m creating. I often hear you saying, ‘Oh, I think I like this.'”

Both have active Instagram pages featuring their artwork, Harvey’s can be found here, and Elliot’s here.

Elliot has a show at the WKP Kennedy Gallery, entitled “Upon a Star,” opening Sept. 13. “I’ll have my own solo exhibition. I typically work in painting. I have a big body of work with paintings,” he said.

The City of North Bay and PAAC encourage everyone to take a moment to appreciate these works of art when passing by the overpass.

Harvey and Elliot are thrilled about the banner art project.

“It’s like seeing your vision come to life. We’ve had lots of friends, even before we saw them today say excitedly, ‘I saw your work on the overpass,’ it’s just a proud moment to have so many eyes on our work.”

 

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