Arts Miami with Tony Japour
Grasping 9/11 through the prism of art
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.
Art has the power not only to educate but also to heal. This power was on display in several exhibits throughout Miami leading up to 9/11, which has evolved in to a “Memorial Day” of sorts.
Miami Art Museum, Cafeina-Wynwood and the Frost Museum/Florida International University devoted exhibition space to honor the occasion, and much credit is deserved for continuing the healing process and to ensure that “we never forget”.
Joel Meyerwitz was the only photographer granted access to the entry of the Ground Zero after the September 11th, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center. And for nine months thereafter, Meyerowitz photographed the remains and the people who worked at the site.
The Miami Art Museum (MAM) exhibited 24 of these photographs in the Focus Gallery, a quiet and small space that allows for close study and contemplation. I had the opportunity to attend a special exhibition preview and reception in honor of the Miami-Dade County Fire fighters who were called to duty in New York City.
Subsequently at the Frost Museum opening, I learned from Miami-Dade Fire Department retired lieutenant, Raul Chavez, that FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) has 28 Urban Search and Rescue Task Forces around the United States to respond to urban disasters. Miami’s two Task Forces took part in the New York City recovery effort. Several fire fighters who spoke at the special reception at MAM were visibly in tears as they recounted their memories.
Ecuadorian by birth, Leonardo Hidalgo has made the United States his home since 1990 and is widely recognized for his eye-popping vibrant colors melding photography, computer graphics, pastels, paint and fabric with touches of what look like glitter on board.
Upon entering Gallery Cafeina, I immediately recognized the work having seen an installation of his paintings at the Italian home furnishings store MADinitaly in the Design District this past summer. For his 911 exhibition, the artist created 12 large-scale paintings exploring the meaning of good and evil, freedom and oppression, liberty, the force of divine justice and superheroes.
In these paintings, the artist attempts to honor the memory of the lives lost in the attacks of 911 including the firefighters, police rescue units and the soldiers who have sacrificed their lives to defend liberty.
Arianna Caroli, a working artist from Italy, with a resident green card in Manhattan in 2001, was deeply moved by the way people of different nationalities and religions were asserting their unity in the days, weeks, and months after 911 in a unique way—by exhibiting the American Flag. And so, armed with her Olympus camera, Arianna hit the streets of New York City photographing the American Flag in little shops, taxicabs, cafes, on clothing, even in the subway; “from the smallest shop in Chinatown to the majestic buildings on Park Avenue.”
In this way, according to the artist, she was paying tribute and expressing her gratitude to a country that had recognized and given her the opportunity with the green card to live and work in the United States as a fine artist.
The work, which has continued over the decade in Miami and Chicago, is rendered in more than 1500 selected photographs from more than 5000 and was displayed in digital format in the first ever university-wide exhibition on plasma screens throughout Florida International University’s main campus and its Biscayne Bay campus.
In another first, the Frost Museum, whose architectural design was specifically intended to exhibit images across its exterior façade, projected Caroli’s American Flags as its first exterior exhibition, a fitting tribute for a public institution which has one of the most diverse student bodies in America.