The Aqua art fair returned to Miami for it’s seventh year, continuing to focus on young dealers and galleries exhibiting emerging to mid-career artists. In years past the fair has been located in both a Wynwood warehouse and the South Beach motel, both simultaneously and separately, but there is no doubt that the South Beach location gives this fair a unique vibe and more laid back setting inviting collectors to explore it’s forty-five rooms.

Returning San Francisco galleries once again had the most overall stand out rooms. Gregory Lind Gallery featured refined found material collages by Chris Corales that nicely complimented the non-representational collages of Leigh Wells. Also exhibited were delicately carved architectural reliefs in resin by Sarah Bostwick, giving the booth an all around much more minimal feel then in years past. Eli Ridgeway Gallery once again exhibited some wonderfully playful geometric abstracts by Chris Duncan, ironically juxtaposed nature collages by Brion Nuda Rauch, and interesting geometric compositions of hand painted insects by Aubrey Learner. Jill Sylvia’s works of intricately hand cut ledger paper have proven to be a staple of Eleanor Harwood Gallery over the past four years. This year in particular they took the shape of sculptural building models and were featured alongside the notable oil on canvas works of Jesse Thomas and James Chronister.

By far one of the more remarkable pieces of the fair was Brian Dettmer’s hand carved paper works. The negative space between layers of illustration were delicately removed to a point where the images that remained began to build upon themselves forming what appeared to be a waterfall like system cascading down a mountain of about twelve transformed encyclopedias. Simply beautiful. Also just as eye-catching and painstakingly executed were the porcelain works of Laurent Craste. Ornate vases bend in half as if trying to spy what lies beneath the table on which they sit. Others are impaled with axes and baseball bats, as if a scene from Beauty and the Beast went horribly awry.

Another definite stand out of the fair was Oak Park/Chicago based gallery What It Is Projects. This was the first showing for the gallery at Aqua and their fresh perspective and forward thinking was a welcome addition indeed. Boldly colorful and textural mixed media works from artists Sabina Ott, Andrew Rigsby and Lisa Haller Baggesen were highlights of the booth as well as Tom Burtonwood’s gouache abstracts.

Other mentionables include the absolutely stunning black and white portraits of other worldy creatures by Travis Louie, photo-realistically executed with acrylic washes; hand cut collage from vintage scientific books by Alexis Mackenzie; mythological feminine paintings by Katy Horan; and optically textured graphite drawings by Jay Nelson.

All-in-all Aqua has continued to exhibit a variety of quality art in fun and distinct surroundings. It was a wonderful break from the booths of its competitors that anyone could find enjoyment in attending. This combined with its close proximity to Art Basel proper will ensure its place as a destination fair for years to come.

- Written by Lauren Lanzisero with photos by Michael Cuffe for Warholian

In addition to being a guest writer for Warholian, Lauren also owns and operates Gallery Hijinks (http://www.GalleryHijinks.com) … one of our favorite galleries to visit in San Francisco!

For more on the Aqua Art Fair held every year in Miami, visit: http://artbaselguide.com/2011/11/aqua-hotel-south-beach/

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