Two years ago, after setting foot on the isle of Manhattan after a week of wandering the South Beach shores, I sat down and wrote out a call to action; A Miami Manifesto for all those in the art world incubator (and those on the outside of the fishbowl, looking in) to start paying more attention to one another. On the cusp of a prominent rise of participatory engagement and social practice, for me, 2009 still marked a year of negligence—Recession-swaddled, we either found ourselves putting stones in our pockets and Woolf-ing our way into the tides of financial despair or shouting from the rooftops, “Let them eat cake!”
This was why my sore eyes delighted when setting foot in the bright white box (no metaphor here, it was quite literally blinding) that is Gallery Diet in Miami’s warehouse-addled Wynwood District (think: Bushwick bathed in neon). Gallery Diet partnered with BOMB for a Basel-bound hang-out, hosting friends of the space (and the artist himself) for cocktails, conversation, and free BOMB swag.
This is Owens’s first solo show in Miami, an exciting marker that coincides with his Anthology, that opened at MoMA PS1 in early November. In conversation with PS1 curator Christopher Lew, we mused over the possibilities presented in this overlap—New York audiences who want to expand their understanding of Owens’s oeuvre can simply head back East, hop on a train, and find themselves at the door of Long Island City’s MoMA outpost. The subject of this particular solo? You. At the reception it was a veritable who’s-who guessing game, as each attendant walked through the door. Who was the blushing face matched to the nude contrapposto (dangling participle and all!) framed on the Diet wall? I’ll never tell.
In Photographs with an Audience, Owens shied away from being the focal point of the shot, a nod to the symbiotic relationship between performer and viewer when interacting within an art space (can one exist without the other?). Strolling through the space it was a pleasure to see audiences reacting to the artist’s gaze, frozen in portrait, on view for veneration. Owens—who was a feature focus in BOMB’s Fall 2011 issue (check out a snippet by clicking here) —struck a pose or two of his own for the press, painting a picture of an artist with both joie de vivre and incredible creative prowess to boot.
The pristine box that is Gallery Diet provided a welcome reprieve from the chaos just beyond the entrance. As I stepped outside back into the warm Florida winds, I forgot myself in the bustling crowd—was I in Miami, or had I been transported back to New York’s Lower East Side?
No matter—either way, Owens’s Audience would be with me in my travels.