Wynwood galleries highlight portraits

Posted May 1, 2013


Two eyes, a nose, and a mouth, this is what constitutes the thing that attracts us humans more than anything else an image; a human face.

Artists have recognized this for ages through the reactions of viewers assessing a work of art. Faces attract attention because we can relate, which is why portraiture is a genre has appealed in the same manner that Facebook appeals to viewers today.

This is precisely the reason why artists specializing in portraiture today have to find ways of standing out. Photography, the Internet, and the sharing of images have numbed society from the simple individuality of portraits.

Portraits are a major artistic genre because they engage the viewers because with apathy. There is an emotive factor in addition to mere existence of human features on a two-dimensional surface.

The challenge today is extracting that emotion from viewers used to seeing portraits daily, bombarded with advertisements and social media. Surprising portraits are most successfully achieved with innovation, be it with the subjects, through the use of the medium, or the way that the portrait is presented.

The art district in downtown Miami has become an overwhelmingly artistic place, making it difficult to make something as overdone as portraits stand out. Buildings are now covered by art with surreal graffiti painted by artists from all over the world. Galleries now dominate the streets along with very prosperous bars and delicious restaurants like the Wynwood Kitchen and Bar.

Of the many types of art found in Wynwood’s galleries, portraits have the most difficulty in keeping the viewers engaged. They seem to be dimmed amongst all the edge and modernity of the work in Wynwood.

Nick Gentry, Alex Turco and Jonathan Dvoretz are three artists found in Wynwood galleries that stood out and even surpassed the competition of other attention-stealing abstract works in the galleries.

A study made in 2001 by Jeffrey and Lisa Smith at Metropolitan Museum of Art discovered that the average time spent on a piece in a gallery or a museum is 17 seconds. Art worth seeing must captivate enough to stop a passerby for more than that average time.

Nick Gentry stood out above all portrait work and, according to some, above all work currently displayed at Wynwood. The innovation in his series XChange is striking and beautiful at the same time. The first recognition of the brain when looking at his work is a beautifully painted colorful portrait of beauties in a somewhat stiff pose.

If his skill with a paintbrush doesn’t surprise enough, then let the eyes adjust to the details that slowly begin to surface. The canvas is divided into squares, which, slowly, become detailed and familiar. The familiarity is distant because it was an everyday object that is no longer; floppy disks.

Once the audience understands what is going on in the two dimensions of Gentry’s work, a third dimension naturally follows: the meaning, the depth of the work. Technology is the automatic answer. But, what about it? Is it referring to uselessness of past technology through the use of floppy disks as a canvas? Or is it affirming to the future of humankind and technology by using stiff robotic portraits with electric eyes?

In Gentry’s biography, he says “His art is influenced by the development of consumerism, technology, identity and cyberculture in society, with a distinctive focus on obsolete media.” This gives even more to contemplate about these images, especially the topics of identity and cyberculture.

Nothing is more personal than a portrait to show a physical identity. Personal image today is highly important and superficial in the consumer culture. Ironically, our virtual persona is not as cared for and is even self-hindered because of the absence of privacy and self-respect when it comes to a virtual identity.

Not all artists capture a societal problem through art, some are more commercial, but can continue to stop the traffic of a gallery.

Alex Turco calls himself an art designer. He is the son of an artist that had prints and paints for toys and learned aesthetics by simply playing in his childhood. As he ran into different art forms Turco continued applying his past knowledge to his new aesthetic work.

Today, Turco is a photographer and graphic designer but also decorates venues and locations. His clients need art decoration and portraits became a commercial personalized way for his clients to have self-portraits in a style that complements their interiors; who better for that than an art designer.

Turco’s style is unique. He paints the figure and facial features impeccably, which is great, but not unique. His magic comes in the form of his textured background and base that give the paintings a modern edge. They are messy, but elegantly rendered. Think of James Pollock’s splatter paintings and Patrick Demarchelier’s Vogue portraits in one single canvas… it is mesmerizing imagining that alone. The flagship store of Turco’s brand is in the heart of the Miami Design District.

Jonathan Dvoretz is also an artist of many traits. He is exhibited in the Contemporary Art galley and stands out. If Googled, his name is identified with a lot of commercial and editorial photography. Although his prints in Wynwood are very aesthetic and have the influence of his ease in commercial photography, there is an extra flare that forces the attention to the prints’ details. His work in Wynwood consists of prints of idealized beauties photographed in feminine poses.

This genre of the sensual attractive nude woman as subject matter is not necessarily unique, but does capture initial attention of the viewers. What matters more, however, is keeping the viewers hooked for more than three seconds. Dvoretz’ hook is the print editing and projections on the women.

The effects of the projection on the human figure are surreal, with what seems to be a bustling city on a brunette or the Hindu om sign with verses in Sanskrit on a blonde. Each woman’s body is the canvas to their projected identity. Dvoretz creates a dark and unique way to introduce beautiful women to the world not only by looking at their external persona, but by also showing their internal persona as well.

These three portrait artists are must-sees. The wonderful thing about the Wynwood Art District is that these are only three of the alternative portrait artists there. The street graffiti itself is a gallery of portraits on the walls. Wynwood is open during the day, but a more social opportunity to see these artists is at ArtWalk.

Every second Saturday of the month, the art scene explodes in Miami. Galleries open their doors as the sun is setting and invite the world to take a night to get culture full of international art. The galleries are open along with nearby bars and restaurants from 6-10 p.m.

The evolution of the art district is only beginning, and is spreading like wildfire from street to street. Only time will tell the transformation of downtown Miami, but artists such as Nick Gentry, Alex Turco and Jonathan Dvoretz will continue to invade Miami galleries to prove portraiture as an art that can evolve with from traditional portraits, to an artwork with soul and edge.

  • Alex Turco: Alex Turco, 3818 NE 2nd Ave. – Miami Design District – Miami, Fla. 33137, Nicolas Cattaruzza, nicolas@alexturco.com
  • Jonathan Dvoretz: Contemporary Art Gallery, 2407 NW 2nd Ave. Wynwood Arts District Miami, Fla., 33127, Info@gallery212miami.com, 516-532-3040
  • Nick Gentry: Robert Fontaine Gallery, 2349 NW 2nd Ave., Miami, Fla. 33127, Noon to 5 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays (also by appointment), 305-397-8530, Gallery@robertfontainegallery.com
  • Wynwoodartwalk.com, Second Saturday of every month from 6-10 p.m.