People, collectors, onlookers, art advisers and even some artists never get to see the behind-the-scenes activities that happen at the Miami Beach Convention Center the day before the VIP Preview of Art Basel Miami Beach opens to a few select guests the first Wednesday morning of each December. I was really lucky this year when Luis Gispert allowed me to come and see him installing his booth at the Rhona Hoffman Gallery as part of the Art Kabinett sector before the fair opened to anyone. A "Kabinett" is basically a special section or a booth within a booth where an artist like Gispert has an opportunity to show a selection of his pieces in a certain curatorial way. For this edition of Art Basel Miami Beach, Luis decided to showcase brand new pieces that explore his deep fascination of American subcultures, Latin modernism and music and the Black Power Movement of the 1960s.
I was quite taken by the beautiful sculpture that he placed on the floor of the booth. Made completely of bronze and modeled after a pair of interlocked black hands that Luis once saw in the Subway, "Get Under the Reason" was, in my opinion, the masterpiece of his Kabinett. The amount of detail was quite impressive, particularly of the nails, fingers and rings that looked almost real. The versatility of the sculpture -- created for indoors or outdoors -- included special indentures that allowed for plants to grow and move around the fingers and hands should the lucky collector who scored the sculpture choose to do so. Also in Luis's installation, a series of photographs in a triangle format showed images that he captured in his studio where he built a wood set that resembled a sauna. In that space, he painted his own version of one of modernist Cuban painter Carmen Herrera's canvases (Carmen worked almost in obscurity for many years before she was actually discovered and her pieces became hugely successful and sought-after). A black musician with a typical string Cuban instrument called a "cuatro" completes the scene. The work is cheekily titled "Carmensita, What Have You Done."
In a more familiar style, a large C-Print called "Glider" shows the interior of a military plane shot from the perspective of the pilot, with a breathtaking landscape of arid terrain and blue skies. Somehow, this series and the rest of the pieces that complete Gispert's "Kabinett" come together in a seamless, curatorial way, despite each piece being so different from the next. Luis, who has had an extraordinary career (which includes a BFA from the Art Institute of Chicago and an MFA from Yale, plus installations at the Whitney Biennial and exhibitions in major museums such as the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami and the Royal Academy in London), is both humble and real. By the time we are done taking pictures and talking about the booth, I'm already immersed in Gispert's subcultures and truly grateful for having spent all these time seeing him in action while installing his booth. If before this I liked his work, now I'm a true fan.