If fatigue was setting in from Art Basel Miami Beach’s VIP preview on Tuesday, it didn’t show during the opening of NADA Miami on Wednesday, where dealers, collectors, and more crowded into Ice Palace Film Studios to see booths by around 170 galleries. On the whole, those enterprises trend younger than the ones that show at Art Basel, but the offerings this year at NADA were surprisingly more understated than what can currently be seen across the causeway.
Almost every booth featured at least some figurative painting, the art-making mode of the moment, and collectors seemed to be going for it. Beth Rudin DeWoody and Mera and Don Rubell, stalwart supports of emerging artists, were spotted walking the aisles. Though NADA said it would enforce Covid protocols, mask-wearing seemed to be taken as an option, not a requirement, as dealers made sales and reacquainted with colleagues from whom they had been separated by the pandemic. Below, a look at the 10 best offerings on view.
Danielle de Jesus at Calderón
Currently the subject of a two-person exhibition, with Shellyne Rodriguez, at Calderón, Danielle de Jesus presents three powerful paintings that reflect on the ongoing gentrification in Bushwick, where the artist was born and raised. Two of them are painted on top of plastic tablecloths, and their floral are visible in the works, serving as a sort of understructure to the pieces. In one particularly impactful piece, Carmelo, de Jesus commemorates a man named Carmelo who was a longtime neighbor. He had been a super in nearby building in Bushwick but was eventually displaced and lost his housing. De Jesus and her mother were able to find him temporary housing in a basement apartment as they tried to go through the complex and lengthy process of finding him public housing in New York City. They were eventually successful, but he died shortly afterward.
Henri Paul Broyard at Saint George Projects
Closely watched gallerist Kyla McMillan presents a stunning booth for her new itinerant gallery Saint George Projects. In a group of paintings, Los Angeles–based artist Henri Paul Broyard reflects on his family history and the “impermanence of spaces,” according to McMillan. The artist’s family is of Creole background who moved to L.A. during the Great Migration. In the work we see close up still lifes of domestic spaces that often have painterly swoops of white paint at the background that seem to hint at a fading memory.
Nyugen E. Smith at Sean Horton (Presents)
Hot off a solo show at the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas, Texas, Nyugen E. Smith is the subject of a solo presentation at the booth of New York’s Sean Horton (Presents). All of Smith’s latest works are ramshackle hanging sculptures that the artist terms “spirit carriers,” alluding to a quasi-supernatural quality. Taking Yoruba traditions as a reference point, Smith has said he intends to honor people of color who were killed by the police with these works. A portion of their sales will head to the National Institute for Criminal Justice Reform.
Evita Tezeno at Luis de Jesus
Dallas-based artist Evita Tezeno presents several new collage-based paintings that reflect on her experience living through the pandemic. They each present portraits of Black women holding various objects—a miniature house, a bountiful bowl of fruit. “There have been a lot of strong Black women in my life,” Tezeno said of the people she paints. The figures are all depicted with large eyes because, for the artist, “the eyes are the mirror of soul.”
Sarah Zapata at Deli Gallery
Known for her sculptural environments made from boldly colored textiles, Sarah Zapata presents three new works that are much more muted in tone. For these pieces, part of her ongoing “Ruins” series, Zapata is looking to highlight the hard labor that goes into textile work, often thought of as women’s craft. The “Ruins” works also reference the ruins of various peoples Indigenous to Latin America as a way to honor those that are no longer present and to highlight and empower those that still are alive and thriving.
Manal Kara at Hair + Nails
In a fair dominated by figurative painting, the booth of Minneapolis’s Hair + Nails gallery stands out because it includes no objects of the sort. Instead, it’s devoted to sculptural pieces partly made of clay by Manal Kara, a young artist based in Gary, Indiana, who combines photographs, fabric, and prints in intriguing arrays. Making sense of Kara’s work is difficult. One circular piece features images of goats, Eye of Horus symbols, and the words MECHANISM and INTERFACE. Its title, I thought more about what you were asking and like a fly, I landed (2021), does little to explain the piece. Be that as it may, Kara’s acute visual sensibility suceeds in enticing viewers to try and understand her mysterious imagery.
Anthony Olubunmi Akinbola at False Flag
At False Flag’s booth, Anthony Olubunmi Akinbola offers up abstractions composed of durags and nylon that are tied up and attached to aluminum. Because of the way they are knotted, these black fabrics create uneven patterning in the same way a painter might use strokes to lend texture to their canvas. Akinbola, who earlier this year had a solo show at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, is interested in forms of concealment—each work is titled Camouflage, along with a corresponding number. They hide what’s underneath in a manner that recals David Hammons’s beloved mirrors that are partially draped with fabric.
Joel Gaitan at KDR305
In a booth with walls painted bright pink, Miami-based artist Joel Gaitan presents several terracotta sculptures that are “based around Meso-American art history and about preserving that culture and history,” KDR305 founder Katia David Rosenthal said. “Joel wants to channel the energy of his ancestors. The work is about love, romance, mothering, feminism.” Accompanying his sculptures are various food objects, which are meant to mimic a Nicaraguan pulperia, or bodega, and that are a call-back to Gaitan’s exhibition earlier this year at KDR305, which is sited in David Rosenthal’s home in Little Havana.
Jeneen Frei Njootli at Macaulay & Co. Fine Art
Jeneen Frei Njootli, a Vuntut Gwitchin, Czech, and Dutch artist based in Yukon, is one of the stars of the current New Museum Triennial. At NADA, they’re being given a larger showcase courtesy of Macaulay & Co. Fine Art in Vancouver. Unlike many of the high-gloss artworks that can be spotted throughout NADA, Frei Njootli’s work takes the form of more modest materials, like tarps and found objects, that are arranged into assemblages. These sculptures recall makeshift dwellings constructed by the houseless and hint at forms of disposession.
Miguel Angel Payano Jr. at Charles Moffett
Born and raised in the Bronx, Miguel Angel Payano Jr. recently returned to New York after living in Beijing for some 20 years. In a series of sculptural paintings and a free-standing sculpture, Payano juxtaposes various objects—a woman’s high hell, a baby shoe, a pacifier—to create stunning assemblages that reflect on his Afro-Caribbean heritage.