Alfred Phillips' "Urban Development" depicts weightlifters… (Alfred Phillips/Courtesy )
People who follow South Florida's art scene may be faced with a difficult decision on Saturday: Attend the Second Saturday Art Walk in Wynwood or go to the annual Red Eye show at Fort Lauderdale's ArtServe?
This is the sort of dilemma Byron Swart envisioned when he created Red Eye in 2006. "We were so tired of hearing people say they had to go down to Miami to experience anything cutting-edge or out of the ordinary," he says. "There was a definite need to start bringing something edgier to ArtServe."
His quest for edginess led him to a number of graffiti and tattoo artists in Fort Lauderdale. "We thought it was time for them to have the gallery," Swart recalls. "So we opened Red Eye."
The event's attendance has increased from 600 people for the inaugural event to about 1,500 for last year's show. "In 2008, we added a fashion component, and then we added spoken word," says Swart, ArtServe's former programs manager who now produces Red Eye at the art space through his own company, B Marketing and Events. "It's just grown and grown."
Graffiti, however, remains a core component of Red Eye, which will again include a project called Cans to Canvas. "We heard a lot about young kids getting intro trouble tagging buildings, so we were trying to teach them that rather than tag a building and get into trouble with the law and give their artwork away for free, they can tag a canvas and sell it," Swart explains. "Some of the kids' parents were thrilled about it. They said they'd never actually seen their kids working on a canvas."
Miami graffiti artist Abstrk is also thrilled about this year's Red Eye. The design he submitted in a call to artists earned him the opportunity to paint a Fiat 500, provided by Rick Case Fiat. Basically, he took the style he's applied to walls throughout Wynwood and put it on a car that's been making the rounds at art walks and festivals to promote the show.
"It will be on exhibit at Red Eye, and different graffiti artists will be there painting live on canvases," Abstrk says.
In addition to those artists, which include Ruben Ubiera, Miss Marvel, Remote, Caron Bowman and Mad Neon, the event will include dance, installations, paintings, sculpture, an open mike and a show of avant-garde fashions designed by Florida International University students. There will also be a Red Shorts Film Festival, a drumming performance by Fushu Daiko, food trucks, music from Twilight Notes DJ Adam Foster and performances by local bands the Hate Ash Buried, Boxwood, Astari Night and Speaking Volumes.
The bands will perform in ArtServe's parking lot and on nearby sidewalks. "We encourage this as it lends itself more to 'street' performances," Swart says.
It also allows more space for Red Eye's newest addition: a VIP area that promises Red Eye cocktails, hors d'oeuvres and "exclusive access to participating artists, musicians and special guests." Despite the feeling of exclusivity a $50 ticket creates, the event remains inclusive when it comes to submitted artworks.
According to Swart, the 160 submissions were reviewed by a committee whose main goal was to insure each work was either street art, graffiti or social commentary, and most made the cut. "There were a few butterflies and fluffy bunnies that did not make it in," Swart says.
The exhibition will include "Fandango" from a 30-work series by R. Lewis Hooten, who photographs peeling tree bark and arranges the images on a computer. "Fandango," which depicts the bark spread out in fanlike formations, has a kaleidoscopic feel. "I like the idea of making unusual and beautiful images from refuse that would not elicit a response on its own," he explains.
"Miss Depression" shows an unsmiling woman wearing a banner that reads, "Depression." It's part of Serafima Sokolov's "Dust Bowl" series of oil paintings based on photos from the Great Depression. "Miss Depression" derives from a 1931 photo taken in Kansas, and is presented as a reflection of our current economic state by combining black and white with sunnier colors. "I want to reflect hope of a better future in this series, not just the gloom of existence," Sokolov says. "The stories told in the words and eyes of our ancestors are lessons of survival, not defeat."
The show also includes "Urban Development," Alfred Phillips' painting of weightlifters in the graffiti-filled alley behind his F.A.T. Village studio, and "Pryde," which Lori Pratico painted following Red Eye's 2011 afterparty at the Green Room. At that party, bartender Krysti Pryde complimented Pratico on "Ink," her series of tattooed women that was on exhibit at the nightclub.
"I couldn't help but notice how striking she was, and asked her if she would be interested in modeling for me," Pratico says. "She later became my friend on Facebook, and I saw some snapshots she had taken of herself on her page."
Pratico painted "Pryde" from one of those shots. At Red Eye, she will also exhibit "Polkovitz," a portrait of West Palm Beach artist Cary Polkovitz. "He is the first male in my series, just because he's that cool," she says.
The American Latino Museum
We wanted to share with you one of the first submissions by Caron Bowman a talented artist from Florida. Here is her description of her piece "La Raza".
The inspiration for the piece La Raza started with the article “Complexity of Latino Diversity” tweeted by the American Latino Museum. I decided to create a graffiti style mural about diversity. The artwork celebrates the Native Indigenous, African, and European cultures that have resulted in a unique Latin American tradition.
The Indigenous and African heads have water surrounding them which symbolize the gateway of the spirit world. Indigenous and African people believed that bodies of water were entrances to the supernatural realm. The heads that are hidden in the Mayan water glyphs, are to represent god putting divine breathe in artistic creations. Many Indigenous groups believe that art was the result of God touching the human heart. The female and male images represent the root of the family which is the strength of Latin culture. This unique family that is blended from a myriad of cultures in one extraordinary race of people La Raza.
Caron Bowman is an Afro-Honduran multi-disciplined artist. Her artwork is about intensity of color, and daring patterns unified into one language. There is an almost dream-like quality to the rhythm and unfurling of the forms in her work. Recently, her work has been recognized by The Beck’s corporation and Rush Philanthropic Art Foundation.