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Arts & Culture



Artists compete for the Florida Prize at Orlando Museum of Art

Viewers are the real winners at this exciting invitational exhibition

Photo: N/A, License: N/A


RR: Not telling. But I found this interesting: Only a few painters! Is the show meant to represent a cross-section of what Florida contemporary artists are doing these days? It suggests we aren’t brushing canvases much and that we have a lot of trash to make art out of.

JBY: Paint and canvas are expensive; trash is everywhere. Not just in Florida.

RR: We do a lot of wacky subtle stuff, too. There was a subtle Rauschenberg reference in Woodgate’s “Beginner’s Maps,” where she obsessively sanded all the cities and country borders off these school maps and left them blurred – Rauschenberg famously erased a drawing that Willem de Kooning gave him.

JBY: Not everyone is sewing together trash and shunning paint, though; we already mentioned Travieso but there are two more painters in the show: Ezra Johnson and Elisabeth Condon. Their paintings are hung next to each other, which makes it impossible not to draw parallels between them, though in fact, their work isn’t similar except in size and a sort of sensory exuberance. Johnson’s muddy fleshtone portraits and interiors and Condon’s superflat streetscapes (with glitter!) kind of grab you, shake you, insist that you revel in their humor.

RR: And I just kept coming back to Vanessa Diaz’s installations.

JBY: Well, you would, Richard; they are very architectural.

RR: No, not really. Well, OK, I found them a little architectural. I just loved the space they created, arching over you like some kind of elegant ruin. Diaz has staged these ruins, what she calls “selected acts of deconstruction and reassemblage.” They work for me as vengeful pieces, breaking up the monotony of the grid ceiling and white-painted drywall.

JBY: Yes, although Woodgate won the prize – $20,000 plus bragging rights, and well-deserved – I have to admit the biggest thrill for me (and I mean literally; I got goosebumps) was wandering through and under Diaz’s installations. Like you, I also thought of an avenging angel while experiencing the spectacular, soaring “Possibility of an Exit” made of fiber, plastic, copper, wood and salt; but her disassembled Victorian sofa, on the other hand, was suffused with melancholy.

RR: She’s working at a scale that OMA can accommodate, staging these spaces you can move into and experience as a frozen-in-time controlled accident. Although they are messy and shaggy, they have a delicate composition. I love them.

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