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This Miami Beach art show bounces with beats, ‘baddies’ and belly button piercings

Highly detailed sculptures by Scotland-based artist PJ Harper on display at Oolite Arts in Miami Beach.
World Red Eye Courtesy of Oolite Arts
/
Miami Herald
Highly detailed sculptures by Scotland-based artist PJ Harper on display at Oolite Arts in Miami Beach.

Storm Ascher was preparing to curate her first art exhibition in Miami, but needed a theme. She was washing her hair in the shower and listening to bachata when it hit her.

Her curls bounced back as she brushed them. She bounced up and down while dancing to the music. Bubbles bounce. Light bounces. Sound bounces. People bounce from place to place.

“I bounced over here myself,” she said. “I’m always bouncing around here.”

“Bounce,” an exhibition at Oolite Arts’ Miami Beach location, is Ascher’s curatorial debut in Miami since moving from New York in 2021. The multimedia show, featuring local and out-of-state artists, opened in October and is on view for free until Jan. 21. On Dec. 9, during Miami Art Week, Oolite is hosting a brunch event for visitors to see the show and visit artists’ studios.

A newcomer to Miami’s arts scene, Ascher is a California-raised artist, writer and curator and the founder of Superposition Gallery, a nomadic gallery that pops up in spaces across the country and internationally. Former Oolite CEO Dennis Scholl approached her a year and a half ago to curate the nonprofit’s show for Miami Art Week.

A woman smiles in a crowd of people.
World Red Eye Courtesy of Oolite Arts
/
Miami Herald
Curator Storm Ascher speaks at the opening night of “Bounce,” an art exhibition at Oolite Arts.

“I started thinking about what my first show should be in Miami without trying to insert my own ideas on what Miami is, what it should be or what artists should be making,” she said. “This was what I felt Miami would enjoy seeing.”

Ascher gave each artist in the show a simple prompt: Bounce. Some of words and phrases associated with “bounce” appear on the gallery space walls and catalog pages: Off the wall. Beaming. Spinning. Percussion. Up & Down. Slippery. Coiling.

“Bounce is a vibe,” she said.

The result was an eclectic yet cohesive show that explores movement and playfulness. Though each artist came up with something unique, some reoccurring themes pop up. Shiny objects, metals and jewelry make several appearances, like in one painting of a sweet yellow rose. There’s a bellybutton ring pierced through it.

“Studio Visit” by New York-based artist Kelly Shami on display at Oolite Arts in Miami Beach.
World Red Eye Courtesy of Oolite Arts
/
Miami Herald
“Studio Visit” by New York-based artist Kelly Shami on display at Oolite Arts in Miami Beach.

Kelly Shami, a New York-based painter of Syrian and Lebanese descent, is known for her eccentric still life works that combine two meaningful sources of inspiration: flowers and piercings. When Shami hears “bounce,” she said she thinks of what New Yorkers tend to say when they’re ready to leave: “I’m gonna bounce.”

“It’s kind of like the notion of going on to the next thing,” she said. “That’s why I like these two paintings for the show.”

Both paintings capture a fleeting moment, albeit one is more chaotic than the other. In “Studio Visit,” a yellow rose is surrounded by swirling paintstrokes and wears evil eye jewelry to represent the kind of protection an artist wants during studio visits. In “Fighting Words,” her other painting in the show, globs of spit, falling orchids, a pair of lips and random pieces of jewelry jump from a black background. The work was inspired by Marilyn Minter’s sloppy yet beautiful photography style.

“They have a lot of movement and strokes that feels like movement,” Shami said. “Your eye travels around the canvas.”

Light bounces from jewelry in other works, like Miami-based Alejandra Moros’ painting “Sin Falta,” which is a ultra-close up still life of her hoop earrings crossed together.

Across the room, a self-portait by Emiliana Henriquez seems to glow a warm, deep red. The artist, who is self taught, created a hazy, calm atmosphere, almost as if the moment was captured by a slightly out-of-focus camera lens. Light bounces from her gold hoops and the high point of her hip as she crouches over her cowboy boots.

“Grams Rest in Paradise Chain,” a multimedia work by New Jersey artist John Rivas, pays homage to his grandmother. Her portrait dangles from a gold chain necklace.

“When I think about ‘Bounce’ for the theme of the show, I think about celebration,” Rivas said in the show’s catalog. “The act of coming together and sharing space, time, energy and emotions.”

“Bounce” can also evoke images of water, waves and beautiful people riding on dolphins.

One of the smaller gallery rooms in the show is dedicated to PJ Harper’s highly detailed, entirely handmade sculptures of ridiculously beautiful women who seem to resemble the famous “Instagram baddie” (basically, hot women) aesthetic.

Harper uses polymer clay, fabric, real sand, sea shells and resin to achieve a realistic look of wet clothes sticking to skin and water dripping down waist-length braids. Funny enough, Ascher said, the Scotland-based artist had never been to Miami and yet his work fits right in.

“This idea of these beautiful women in Miami just felt like it fit perfectly,” she said.

For Roscoè B. Thické III, “bounce” is all about good times.

“Miami is a bounce city,” Thické said. “When I think of bounce, I think of Miami. I think of music. I think of sound. I think of my auntie’s parties in the living room.”

A “good ol’ fashioned house party” is the inspiration behind Thické’s artwork in the show, called “SUBS, MIDS & HIGHS.” The two-part sculpture resembles a speaker to reference the way the mesh bounces to the beat of loud music.

Artist Roscoè B. Thické III with his work “SUBS, MIDS & HIGHS.”
World Red Eye Courtesy of Oolite Arts
/
Miami Herald
Artist Roscoè B. Thické III with his work “SUBS, MIDS & HIGHS.”

A rectangle of bright blue speaker mesh hangs on the wall. Directly below it is the speaker box Thické designed himself to display old family photos of his aunt and grandmother. In one photo, his aunt smiles brightly while holding a Bacardi-labeled box.

Thické commended Ascher on the show’s curation.

“It’s one of the most beautiful shows. It’s tough to curate a show to bring the right artists and the right work into a simple space,” he said. “Every corner of the gallery, there’s something pleasing to the eye and when you get closer, it has deeper meaning.”

The lighthearted show is Ascher’s way of saying “thank you” to Miami for welcoming her, she said.

“Art can also just make you feel good,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be so serious all the time.”

‘BOUNCE’

Where: Oolite Arts, second floor gallery; 924 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach
When: On view until Jan. 21.
Hours: Open 7 days a week, 12 - 5 p.m.
Info: Free and open to the public. https://oolitearts.org/exhibition/bounce/

This story was produced with financial support from The Pérez Family Foundation, in partnership with Journalism Funding Partners, as part of an independent journalism fellowship program.

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