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Blowin’ up like tha Challenger! L&A’s Sven Barth explores Rocket Projects

Miami’s Design District is getting pretty damn big. Galleries are popping up everywhere, which means more and more chances for people like you and me to get drunk for free (yeah, you know that’s why you go to openings if you ever do). If you have yet to discover the breadth of free liquor in your surroundings, I urge you to take another look, it’s everywhere!

No but seriously, in addition to getting sauced, you can really discover a bunch of new art downtown. Several galleries have expanded beyond (and below) 36th street to the blocks with restaurants specializing in lechon asado rather than to those with ultra-mod joints charging 20 bucks for miniature wasabi cakes nestled in a bed of arugula (see Grass). This brings us to the Wynwod area and the focus of this article: a spunked-up new art space called Rocket Projects.

There’s something about walking into a gallery that feels more like a friend’s house that is strangely comforting (granted you’d have to have a friend that has more art than furniture). I don’t think I’ve ever needed comforting while on gallery hopabouts, but if I did, I’d know where to go, and hopefully who to call to slap me. Nick Cindric, who runs the gallery with his partner Nina Arias, views Rocket Projects as a kind of “launch pad” for the younger artists of Miami and other areas, hoping to use it as a point on some kind of national network of aspiring (and hopefully talented) artists. This attitude seems to be enveloping many of the surrounding galleries, so hopefully the takeover, scheduled for the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve 2009, won’t meet the same fate as Skynet.

Even though no specific takeover is planned and the shape-shifting robots at Rocket Projects do not exist, there’s enough around to make you forget all about my make-believe scenarios and buy into someone else’s. In addition to 8 annual shows (including an upcoming expo by a former pro BMXer/Skateboarder), the space wants to get involved in special projects (that other galleries don’t necessarily participate in) such as in December’s Scope Miami 2003, an alternative art fair dedicated to showcasing emerging talent in the area’s most creative hotels.

Their current BOD (Broadway on Duane) exhibit by Doug Meyer is by far the second most inventive thing I’ve seen done with Barbie dolls, and for those amongst you that realized Silly Putty was pretty much the same color as that great Barbie plastic, it will be too. Anyway, Meyer asks us all, “Why does the past seem so much more glamorous than the present?” and meticulously arranges these Barbie dolls in a an imaginary nightclub, but it’s actually mostly meaty-hunk Kens and they’re kneeling in front of other Kens dressed like Village People police officers which, would mean… Omigod! I can’t keep writing. Obviously that’s not true, I can write all day, but these Kens are out of control. Is that what glamour was all about?

The show is displayed in a small mysterious room encircled with light boxes of photo images. Disco mixed together with tracks from Towering Inferno play in the background and, in the center, a tower with various apertures reveals glowing beams of nightlife action (acted out by the Barbie dolls of course). You could almost smell the champagne and amyl nitrate in the air. Representing an era where hot gay sex was at the top (or bottom!) of every New Yorker’s agenda, BOD, a made-up burnt-down ’80s nightclub, was the hotspot for all types of superstar personalities – from Andy Warhol to Liza Minelli. But since the place never existed (insert clever joke here)…This is fun to look at though, plus all sorts of authentic paraphernalia, like “BOD GOD” pins and invitations, are encased among the elaborate diorama and photos, making the phoniness even more authentic (does that make any sense?).

Honestly, the club and all this stuff is about AIDS destroying a whole lot of fun shit that used to go down in the Big Apple, so that makes it hard to dis. The other point of this installation is to give viewers a peak into a fictitious club night that assembled real celebrities and socialites of that era and then to muse on the consequences of the lethal fire that destroyed the place and thus the community of people that it encompassed. Aesthetically, it must be said, this work is lovely.

The main room features what look like large sheets of plastic hanging around. Actually, they are suspended polyethylene structures, complete with a moaning soundtrack from the artist Dimitry Said Chamy. A computer terminal features more pieces, best described as interactive screensavers, smaller versions of the hangings, all using the same shape which Chamy calls the “box kite.” The collection’s called In Defiance of Gravity and Other Matters and, from my talk with Chamy, its creation seems to have been a therapeutic process helping him through his partner’s death.

The perched fabrics, as they fall down from the ceiling, are supposed to represent the dynamics of the “weight” of everyday life and, as they sluggishly hang in the dark in the space, they can exude some sort of sense of torpor that one feels after losing a significant other. Then again, that sensation only lasts temporarily since…I mean, these are only sheets of plastic, you know? Wow, I could have ended this on a sad note, but I’m going to instead ponder on what the hell the title of the collection means, especially when the cables holding up the hangings aren’t defying anything but invisibility-which doesn’t exist anyway.

Given the limited spectrum of art outlets for the young new voices, it doesn’t hurt to have yet another gallery added to Wynwood’s embryonic community. Also, what’s better is when a space opens and successfully shirks the blatant posturing of the more “adult” art world. Rocket Projects seems to be doing so with a welcome-all attitude, some outr

September 16, 2003

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The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly in print on Tuesdays during the regular academic year.