January 8, 2013.
In December, I got the email during a long and chaotic day at Art Basel Miami Beach. The gallery space at the venerable Books and Books in Coral Gables would be mine for the month of January. I felt a few moments of glory and then reality set in, HOLY SHIT! What would I do in that space? Oh man! It's a big space, the walls measure 16 feet long by 8.5 feet tall and there are TWO of them!
At first thought I would exhibit the color proofs from IIMB! But, I already did that. In addition there is a photographic exhibition of the project at Frangipani in Wynwood and that took a lot of planning and production. So, what could I do? I reached out to the designer of the book, Charlie Calderin. He is the lead designer at DOINK. We were chatting and bouncing around ideas. "Hey, why don't you make an exhibit using your work prints from the project?" That was the bolt of lightning I needed. Right then and there I knew exactly what I wanted to create. It was to be a large scale version of the AK FOTO JOURNALS.
Now for the planning stage. Luckily at the end of ABMB I was gifted a lot of paint by artists and they asked, "what would you do with all that paint?" I said, "oh man, don't worry it will be put to good use!" Of course the wheels inside my head are spinning overtime now. I was gonna be under some pressure to get the installation up and ready because on Friday January 3rd is the Coral Gables art walk and I needed to be ready by then. On Monday I scouted the location and prepped the powers that be about what my vision was for the space. They looked at me and said "oh sure," not knowing exactly what I had in mind.
On Tuesday I recruited a friend of mine CHY TEA and we got to work. The first thing that was needed was to install the paper background. Everything would be on the paper. That way when the project would come down it could be moved with some ease. After the paper was up then the background for the headline would be painted and dripped. Chy Tea is a drip master. At that point I called it a day. I was exhausted and the paint needed to dry so that all the work could go on top of it etc.
Early Wednesday morning I headed to Books and Books, it was New Year's Day so it was pretty quiet. I got to work on my own. The next task was to paint the headline, I'M IN MIAMI BITCH! by AK FOTO. Once that was complete now the photographs could start to get placed. They would fit in between the IIMB! Litho and Silk Screen. I sequenced the images similarly to the book but included some images that didn't make it in. So there was some newness to the install. It was a free form experience. The wall was so big and I wanted to give the images some space so that I could hand embellish them with captions, jokes, anecdotes and some drawings etc.
By lunch time a few artist friends started showing up. They were down to collaborate and have a space on the wall to do a bit of improvisation. First up was AMOS. He is known for his Lady Duck among other things such as his color palette and unique point of view. At the same time was Jam 104. Things were getting busy. I was still installing images and JAM and AMOS were at it then STYLE showed up. Now STYLE has been at it for more then 25 years. He is ol' school when it comes to Miami Graffiti. It was a great day. The imagery was flowing, the art work was coming along and all the passers-by were awestruck by what was going on. I kept at it till almost 11pm that night. Finally calling it quits because I knew I had to be back at it early the next day and wanted to have some energy left.
Now it was getting down to the wire, it was Thursday and I only had the day to finish up. KEDS from the DAM crew showed up. He too has been at it since the late 80's. He dropped a KEDS with a B-Boy as the E. It was fresh. Then the a young writer NAPS also got in on the spot. I asked him if he could do a woman. I wanted the wall to have some balance and each artist was so different, it was great to see their vision. To round it all out was CHY TEA with his alter ego's Mi Trooper and Buck T.
It was non-stop, I had added a lot of my own artwork to the wall giving the photographs a cohesiveness and added color and commentary. I was drawing inspiration from the artists. I felt like the wall had really come together. Spending those long days at Books and Books was a great chance to work with friends and give people a chance to see how the outside can be brought to the inside. The non-stop flow of people, young, old, foreign and domestic were just thrilled to see such a dynamic visual look of Miami by Miami.
D-Day has finally arrived. All week long everyone has been marveling at how cool and unique the installation is and now it's time to sit back and enjoy the work and the company of my friends and on-lookers. Of course NONE of this would have been possible without everyone at Books and Books, let me start naming them now of course Mitchell Kaplan, Cristina, Steve, Irving, Marcus, Alexa, Khrispy, Noah, Joanna, Aaron, Cathy, Chris, Raquel and if I forgot anyone I'm really sorry as the week was a WHIRL-WIND! One I won't soon forget and was just AWESOME!
I'M IN MIAMI BITCH!
p.s. Make sure to get your copy of the book!