Highlights and Head-scratchers at the Rubell Museum Miami

With the Art Basel trip being a whirlwind of activity, I – alas – did not make it to the newly opened campus of the Rubell Museum in Miami’s Allapattah neighborhood during my early December 2019 visit.

With my trip to show artwork during Miami’s Art Week (Dec 2019) being a whirlwind of activity, I – alas – did not make it to the newly opened campus of the Rubell Museum in Miami’s Allapattah neighborhood.

Lucky for me, after finishing up showing at Aqua Art Miami, a few weeks in Boston where Beacon Gallery hosted a successful inaugural Art Dash (61 pieces sold), as well as an opening reception for Ibrahim Ali-Salaam and Sima Schloss’ new show, Body Language, I returned back to Miami to ring in 2020.

A priority for the trip was the Rubell Museum – and it definitely didn’t disappoint. Filled with art by names that I both delighted to discover and others that were well-known, the entire experience was everything I love from contemporary art: social commentary and politics, fun, beauty, excellent execution, and sometimes just plain weird.

A single story, with an industrial-chic vibe, a warning sign greets visitors that the works aren’t suitable for all – which left me immediately curious about what I was about to see (especially since I had spied a nude mannequin as well as Cultural Gothic) as I walked in. In terms of its collection, I can say that the Rubell was unique amongst all museums I’ve visited around the world.

The works on display in this initial curation gives a sense of some of the varied interests of the Rubell family, from boundary pushing art to simple line-drawings to elaborate sculptures. The artists hail from around the world, and just when I bemoaned to myself a lack of Asian art and artists I was confronted with a room filled with pieces from one of their many art-buying trips to China. Never again shall I doubt the Rubells and their taste.

Foreground: Ai Wei Wei’s two legged table

But, I digress… The first pieces I saw that left an impression on me were Raymond Pettibon’s three below – where I marveled in the “rawness” and talent that the Rubells are willing to invest in. Pettibon’s work is fun and graphic, featuring ink as well as the illustrative style and text typical of Pettibon. His mysterious lines bring depth to his work, such as the piece showing what looks like a pitcher, with the lines “BEFORE SENDING IT, I ADDED A FEW”

Or, the three lines above the wave:




Raymond Pettibon (No title, Man is Free)

Yet, for all the attention the pieces on the walls tried to claim, it was the work below that captured my eye most of all. Its creepy humans combined with the goat left me perplexed – it was not until I walked around the work entirely that I saw the artist was suggesting the father-figure was enabling a sexual act upon the animal by the child.

Paul McCarthy, Cultural Gothic

Paul McCarthy’s Cultural Gothic is best described by its wall text.

Cultural Gothic presents an alternative paradigm for fatherhood, which has traditionally championed masculine activities, such as sports or hunting. The sexual nature of the interaction depicted in this piece taints the familial ideal. Though the concepts of parental support and encouragement are apparent in the piece and seem positive, the direct involvement of the father with his young son adds another disturbing element to the piece. That, along with the interference of bestiality, pushes the boundaries – we reject it, yet it appeals to our morbid curiosities at the same time.

The Rubell Museum

Indeed, this piece repelled me and yet I yearned to understand what would inspire an artist to make such a horrific work. I don’t have any good answers, but sometimes art isn’t about getting an answer so much as being provoked to ask questions of oneself.

The following room demonstrated the scale at which the Rubells can collect, with a 608 inch long woodcut by Kerry James Marshall (Untitled).

The piece reads like a story, from left to right, or like an actual life-size apartment. There are pieces of the outside, a room with action, and a hallway. Attention to detail is impressive, as is the fact that this is a woodcut.

Here are some other works that stopped me in my tracks.

Charle Ray’s Oh! Charley, Charley (1992) left me speechless. More from confusion than anything else. (I believe that’s the point… but still)
Cady Noland’s This Piece Has No Title Yet, 1989
Robert Longo, Man Trapped in Ice
(detail) Robert Longo, Man Trapped in Ice
A photograph showing how artwork was installed in the Rubell’s home, including Robert Longo’s Man Trapped in Ice series – loved seeing how these works were used as home decor rather than shown in a museum space.
Richard Prince, New England Nurse
Cindy Sherman – one of my favorites
Yayoi Kasuma – Infinity Mirrored Room – Let’s Survive Together, 2017
Rarely have I ever been so startled by a piece of artwork. Death of Marat by He Xiangyu (based on Ai WeiWei) was so lifelike my heart jumped into my throat. The placement around the corner from the rest of the artwork was genius – adding to the surprise.
Robert Gober’s Untitled is a recreation of a sink he lived with at one time in his life. A fascinating item to dedicate time to recreating.
Josh Kline’s Cost of Living (Aleyda) 2014 (one of two)
Dana Schultz’s richly colored work “Lovers” (2003) jumps off the wall with color life and sharp angles.

Works by Amoako Boafo, 2019’s artist in residence at the Rubell were uniquely beautiful in their portraiture.

The whirling textured nature of the skin, combined with the bright colors and smooth curves gives a calm intensity to the portraitist.

Gorgeous pieces, but I can’t find the titles in my references nor online. [Please forgive me Mr. Boafo]

I love the way in which he paints the solid background and then the contrasting colors of the clothing. The diversity of the paint application enriches the pieces overall and adds to their compelling nature.

Finally, my favorite piece of the entire show, Kehinde Wiley’s Sleep. Check out my previous post, completely dedicated to this one work.

Overall, the Rubell Museum (where I believe I spied Mr. Rubell himself) was an amazing experience. I can’t wait to see what other treasures they unearth to share with the public over the years in their new space.

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