Arts Miami

Quick Jaunt for Dinner or Ideal Weekend Getaway

Anthony Japour (AJ) is an independent curator, private art dealer and owner of AJ Japour Gallery. The gallery deals in contemporary art with a focus on the Chinese Contemporary Art Movement and its relationship to the pillars of Western Contemporary Art. Since 2003, AJ has produced numerous art exhibitions and installations in Miami and South Florida. In addition, the Gallery’s secondary mission is to support organizations dedicated to the health, education, and welfare of children. AJ has served on the Fine Arts Board and the Cultural Arts Council of the City of Miami Beach.

Just before the cold of the fall season blew into the Northeast, I received an invitation by New York City art dealer Island Weiss to visit Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts at the home of artist, Christopher Simmons, who Mr. Weiss represents in New York City.

I recently read an article in New Yorker magazine [June 7, 2010 Leo the Lion by Peter Schjeldahl] about the biography of art dealer, Leo Castelli. Castelli is considered, by some, as the godfather of the New York art world circa latter half of the 20th Century. I attempted to find the book, Leo & His Circle The Life of Leo Castelli by Annie Cohen-Solal in Miami, but to no avail. I did, however, find the book in Boston just prior to my Ferry ride from Woods Hole to the Vineyard. As we approached Vineyard Haven Harbor, I texted Weiss

Tony disembarking Martha's Vineyard Ferry reading Leo & His Circle - The Life of Leo Castelli by Annie Cohen-Solal.

AJ-> IW: On ship to MV reading the life of Leo Castellio
IW-> AJ: That’s who I was w/last night. Annie Cohen Solal

What a coincidence. I knew then that this would be an exceptional adventure filled with great artistic experiences.

One such experience happened on a car tour of Martha’s Vineyard. We came upon an artist painting on one of the docks. Her work was wonderful and I decided to investigate. Her name was Annie Scott McGhee and she entertained us with her wonderful stories of the art world. McGhee is a realist, still life, architectural, landscape and marine painter and prefers to work en plein air, a French expression meaning “in the open air”. The French impressionists popularized this technique – working in natural light was very important to the artistic oeuvre of the Impressionist period.

Of McGhee’s works, the most interesting and complex are her Fenway Park series. Fenway Park, home of the Red Sox, is one of Boston’s most enduring landmarks. While the artist claims inspiration by Robert Rauchenberg [who won the 1964 Venice Biennale Grand Prize due to the maneuvers of Castelli], consciously or not, one sees the inspiration of Andy Warhol in the Fenway series with the co-branding of Fenway Park with the logos of “Ford Motor Company”, “John Hancock” and “Budweiser”.

Left: Anne McGhee, Fenway Park Ford Sign, oil on canvas, 24 x 18 IN Right: Fenway Park RK with programs, oil on canvas, 30 x 15 IN

McGhee’s client base includes Maurice Tempelsman, the Belgian-American businessman and diamond merchant known to many of us as the longtime companion of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, both of whom were frequent visitors to Martha’s Vineyard. According to the artist, Tempelsman has nine of her paintings.

Later in the weekend, we visited the Pep Art Gallery and met artist Carrie Mae Smith, a relatively recent graduate of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia and winner of the 2005 Pennsylvania Governors Award. The daughter of a butcher and a working chef herself, to make a living Smith creates sublime still life oil paintings of food and cutlery.

Mae’s color palate is soft and creamy as if all of her paintings were made of cake frosting. And, the prices of her small works ($800-1200) are well priced for an emerging artist. I was so impressed with the quality and rendering of her works, that I invited Smith to participate in my 2010 exhibition to be held during Art Basel-Miami Beach entitled, Family Matters.

Having lived in Boston where I was both a medical doctor and researcher at Harvard Medical School, and having spent many summers vacationing in Nantucket, I was a bit of a fish out of water in Martha’s Vineyard. Whereas Nantucket is considered Republican, Martha’s Vineyard is considered Democrat. But that was a generation ago, before John Kerry and Teresa Heinz bought their summer residence in Nantucket. So for me, there was some comfort in being at the home of someone I knew, artist Christopher Simmons.

Above: Carrie Mae Smith, Four Forks, Oil on panel. 10 x 14 IN Below: Carrie Mae Smith, Two Spoons, Oil on panel, 4 x 7 IN

In his Romaunt series, Simmons employed his favorite 35mm Canon AE-1 single lens reflex film camera to shoot a series of photos in Antarctica on a trip he took with his father, a major collector himself. Using a unique film no longer manufactured by Kodak known as “Technical Pan film”, the artist was able to capture fine details and high contract imagery perfect for the terrain of Antarctica. Further, Simmons printed his images on thick Hahnemuhle paper from a centuries-old German paper house; the watercolor paper has a special surface that produces deep contrasts between the starkness of the black and the lighter shades of grey and white when the ink is applied. The works have both romantic yet haunting qualities about them, possibly the origin of title of his series.

On my departure from Martha’s Vineyard back to Boston and my flight to Miami, I met a writer by the name of Abby who upon hearing about my second career in the fine art world said, “You’ve got to read a great book that just came out about Leo Castelli.” I pulled out my copy of “Leo & His Circle” and we both laughed.

The adventure had come full circle, a symbolic conclusion to an arts-filled journey.

Above: Christopher Simmons, Romantic Reflections 2, Romaunt Antarctica Series, 2004-2009, black & white photograph printed on hand-made Hahemuhle paper, 30 x 40 IN, edition of three. Below: Christopher Simmons, Iceberg (Antarctica Romaunt Antarctica Series, 2004-2009, black & white photograph printed on hand-made Hahemuhle paper, 30 x 40 IN, edition of three.
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