As I walked through Art Basel Miami Beach, the big fair at the Convention Center, on Wednesday when I arrived, I saw trunks, branches, twigs and roots—a theme that would be repeated over and over at the various other venues. (And a theme that I covered recently here, here and here.)
Trees are a big part of landscape painting, of course, but landscape painting is not typically a big part of the visual agenda at the fairs. So what’s in the zeitgeist that accounts for such a strong arboreal presence? (The eight-pound catalog only hinted at the bosky abundance the fair had in store.) Since most exhibited work is new—made in the past year—I assume it’s a reaction, conscious or not, to an economy that was violently uprooted. Trees can reach up only because they have a root system as expansive as their branches. A metaphor for stability, perhaps?
In terms of symbols, the roots go deeper. The Tree of Life, common in all cultures from earliest times, unites heaven and earth—wholeness—and its fruits sustain life. Kabbalah is depicted as a tree. Wood is the primary material of the universe in Vedic philosophy. And, thanks to the Druids, this time of year Christians and commercialized enterprises throught the Western world are decorating a you-know-what.
Thinking about the tenuousness of the economy: A tree is that thing money doesn't grow on. But while no one was plucking bills from any branches, there were plenty of deals being made.
Here, take a look. A lot of images follow. What do you make of this trend?
Above, ABMB: Giuseppe Pennone, Foglie de Zucche, 1982, bronze, with detail right; at Marian Goodman Gallery, New York
Scope: Eko Nugroho, Studi, Figur, Fantasi, acrylic on canvas, app, 14 x 12 inches; at Ark Galeri, Jakarta
Pulse: Amy Wilson, watercolor (?) on paper; framed app 16 x 14 inches; at Bravin Lee, New York