Artist makes visit to Miami Art Museum

While Monty’s has remained a long-time staple of the 5 to 8 p.m. UM Friday crowd, another happy hour has emerged on the scene for the few who perhaps desire a more artistic, cultured crowd. Zoom in on the Miami Art Museum’s JAM at MAM, advertised as a “happy hour with an artful twist,” every third Thursday evening.

The scene officially starts at 5, but come later when more people have gotten out of work. Then you will see artsy people abound, complete with conversations discussing local theater, literature, other artists, painting and politics, and all facilitated by techno music and liquor. This past feature: Robert Rauschenberg, a native Floridian whose prestige emerged in NYC and paved the way for subsequent artists Andy Warhol, Matthew Barney and the like.

Rauschenberg’s Scenarios project, images of Florida infused with nostalgia, are exhibited at the MAM from March 4 to July 3 and exemplify his familiarity and use of common images, i.e. construction signs, pigeons, as sources of inspiration. Roni Feinstein, a visiting professor of art history here at the University of Miami, was there to discuss the art and her in depth study of Rauschenberg and his work.

Rauschenberg developed a pigment transfer process himself in 1992 in order to create works that are collage like, but do not have the raised different surfaces of a normal collage process. His works are infiltrated by what Feinstein described as a “random order” (OK I know they’re exact opposites, but stay with me here), as the whole of the meaning of the work resides in the relation of the objects to one another. Example: in Guide, there are repeated images of a TV with flowers. They look like similar images because of their placement directly underneath one another, but in actuality there is an image on the screen of one of the TVs and the other is blank. They are two separate moments in time. Between them is an image of a pair of cinder blocks. Because of their placement, they also look as if they are repeated, but in fact it is a single image of two blocks. It is easy to feel that the artist is playing with you-what you saw at first isn’t necessarily what is actually there. Rauschenberg is bringing to our attention the importance of what we bring to what we see. It is not so much the reality of what is there, but our belief in the reality of what we see.

Rauschenberg has had an incredible life, traveling to Italy, North Africa, France, Greece and Turkey, all with the goal of finding inspiration. He found it, apparently, having reached the climax of his fame in the 1950s and ’60s. In his later years, he returned home-in Scenarios he shows affection for more local scenes: a rooster, a mosaiced car in Key West done in 2003, humble dwellings, a flag draped over a window of a seafood hut in Catydid Express.

The Miami Art Museum is reported to be one of the best museums in the Miami area, drawing famous artists and sought after exhibitions. With programs such as JAM at MAM and openings of exhibitions complete with a band and an appearance of the artist himself, it may also be the most social. It would be a shame to have spent four years here without a visit.

Melanie Klesse may be contacted at