The Anti-Art Basel Miami

With moody photographs by David Lynch and sweet-smelling Ring Pop art, the It Ain’t Fair exhibition brought downtown New York to Miami. VIEW OUR GALLERY.

It Ain’t Fair is one of several antidotes to the glitz, money, and fanfare taking Miami by storm this weekend. The group exhibition, which opened Wednesday and closes Sunday at Miami’s OHWOW gallery (short for Our House West of Wynwood), is a hodgepodge of hip up-and-comers and established downtown darlings working in all media. The 30 or so artists are mostly young and largely international. Names like Terence Koh, Nate Lowman (boyfriend of Mary-Kate Olsen), and Aaron Young should ring a bell to those following this particular scene, but the show isn’t without its surprises.

OHWOW is all about access and community. At Wednesday night’s opening, hordes of Miami hipsters gathered in an empty lot adjacent to the gallery’s striking and sizable black-and-white-striped space. Asymmetrical haircuts and faux flannel shirts offered a stark contrast to the coiffed ‘dos and Louboutin pumps bobbing and weaving through similarly styled crowds eight or so miles east on South Beach.

The gallery screened Cyprien Gaillard’s Cities of Gold and Mirrors (2009) on the side of the building facing the party lot (the piece will be on view inside for the remainder of the show). Set in Cancun, Cities offers a subtle jab at the decadence and nonstop revelry that will consume the city over the next few days. Gaillard, one of the buzzier artists to come out of the New Museum’s Younger Than Jesus show in New York this year, filmed buff spring breakers and fortress-like hotels as they accumulate on what was once the site of a sacred Mayan civilization. The artist collaborated with French musician Koudlam on a trippy yet fist-pumping soundtrack. And at around 10:30 p.m., Koudlam himself took to the roof to perform it live. He laid his abstract vocals atop a prerecorded tribal-synth soundtrack; the crowd ate it up.

Surprisingly, Gaillard’s piece is the only video included in the show. The first gallery contains largely representational work—Tim Barber’s intimate pictures of women sleeping and a friend frolicking freely in the woods, Adam Marine’s delicate floral collages, Eric White’s playful series of record-sleeve paintings, and KAWS’s tightly cropped portrait of a red, gap-toothed cartoon were among them. These pieces act as sort of a primer for the stronger, more ambitious work to come. With its amorphous shapes, bright colors, and frenetic overlay of black spray paint, Rita Ackermann’s large-scale abstraction Tictactoe is one of the most compelling works in the show (and one of the priciest— It Ain’t Fair may be less commercial than other Miami Basel week happenings, but each work is still for sale, albeit at more “entry-level” pricing). Nearby, Julia Chang has installed a series of text pieces (words like “LOVE,” “HUGS,” and “KISSES”) made out of Ring Pops, the best part of which may be that familiar, saccharine smell that wafts through this area of the gallery.

Click Image to View Our Gallery of It Ain’t Fair 2009

What follows is more of a show within a show titled Dark Night of the Soul. The mini exhibition (which was first shown in Los Angeles this summer) features a series of expectedly moody photographs by filmmaker David Lynch (think apparition-like portraits, over-the-hill biker dudes, a belligerent drunk hosed down by police, a prim blonde manning a fiery coal barbeque). They’re apparently set to an original Danger Mouse/Sparklehouse soundtrack, yet Koudlam’s melodic vocals outside are the predominant tunes this evening.

Art Beast: The Best of Art, Photography, and DesignThe patrons, the artwork, and the egalitarian vibe all differ from what you’ll see over at the other fairs, but I can’t help but wonder if the folks over at OHWOW could have gone a bit more underground with their roster. Last year’s inaugural It Ain’t Fair was organized by Deitch Projects directors Kathy Grayson and Nicola Vassell. This year’s installment was curated inhouse by OHWOW co-founders/co-directors Aaron Bondaroff (known around here as “A-ron the Downtown Don”) and Al Moran. There’s some overlap—Koh, Lowman, and Aurel Schmidt all showed here last year. And I’m pretty sure that “street artists” like KAWS (who has collaborated with Kanye West on cover art) and Barry McGee (who has shown at museums around the country) aren’t quite emblematic of that outlaw/avant-garde persuasion. Nonetheless, it’s a breath of murky, downtown fresh air.

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Rachel Wolff is a New York-based writer and editor who has covered art for New York, ARTnews, and Manhattan.