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Before NFTs, there was Atari. These Miami art shows that dig beneath the obvious

Miami Herald logo Miami Herald 8/9/2021 Jane Wooldridge, Miami Herald

Digital collectibles are all the rage these days, with marquee names including fantasy sports site Draft Kings, blue chip art dealers Aquavella and controversial British artist Damien Hirst all getting into the action.

For Venezuelan-born, Miami-based Yucef Merhi, digital art has been a decades-long pursuit exploring the intersections of language, technology, politics and history. His works — crafted from hacked data, reconfigured ATARI game sets and building-sized LED screens — have earned him a prestigious technology-art fellowship at M.I.T., where he will investigate methods for reducing electronic waste.

Locally, “Yucef Merhi: Open,” comprising 15 works, opens Sept. 2 at Allapattah’s Bonnier Gallery.

“Yucef Merhi has an impressive record as a border-crosser, a path-breaker, and hacker-extraordinaire,” said William Uricchio, the Founder and Principal Investigator of MIT Open Documentary Lab, via a statement. “Merhi’s commitment to the environmental — as context, site of interrogation, and canvas (as his building-scale works demonstrate) — casts his work in a light that is defining the frontiers of the new documentary.

“Yucef Merhi: Open,” opens Sept. 2 at Bonnier Gallery, 3408 N.W. 7th Ave. in Miami.

IN THE HOTELS

▪ Art lovers reluctant to make it off the beach can indulge in Museum of Graffiti Beachside, featuring installations arranged by Wynwood’s Museum of Grafitti. The latest opens Aug. 19 at The Confidante Miami Beach and features the distinctive work of current artist-in-residence Ahol Sniffs Glue (aka David Anasagasti). His signature sleepy eyes will be watching you — or not — throughout the hotel’s lobby and first floor at 4041 Collins Avenue, until Nov. 15.

▪ Work by 10 semi-local artists adorns walls at WhyHotel, a pop-up hotel — we kid you not — offering extended stays inside a Midtown apartment building at 2920 NE Second Ave. Curators Alpha’a arranged work by Miami-based Mark Creegan and Dustin Harewood, and Brazilians Cristina Ripper and Patricia Carparell.

BAHAMAS BOUND?

If you’re heading to Nassau, check out the TERN Gallery’s “The Other Side Of The Pentaprism: Six Photographers In Conversation,” featuring works by Caribbean and diaspora artists Tamika Galanis, Melissa Alcena, Jodi Minnis, Tiffany Smith, Leanne Russell and Lynn Parotti that question conventional narratives. From Aug. 26 to Oct. 30.

TERN Gallery, Mahogany Hill, Western RoadNassau, The Bahamas; terngallery.com.

KUDOS

... to the Coral Gables Museum, winner of the American Institute of Architects of Florida’s 2021 People’s Choice Competition for adaptive reuse. The last building designed by noted architect Phineas Paist, the space was completed by his architectural partner Harold Steward. From the 1930s to 1974 it housed the Gables’ fire and police departments. The Aragon Avenue building held a variety of public and private roles until opening as a museum in 2008.

A RARE DISCUSSION

The intersection of disability and sexuality is rarely discussed at the dinner table, and perhaps even less frequently a public topic. The Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum FIU brings it front and center with a solo exhibition by Michigan-born, Miami-based photographer Robert Andy Coombs that documents his personal experiences.

The work “can, at first, feel provocative and edgy,” said Frost Museum director, Jordana Pomeroy, in a statement. “Upon closer inspection, Coombs’ work paints a picture about different narratives of love, which he tells boldly and tenderly. This exemplifies great photography — art that pushes, pulls, and inspires deep thought and dialogue, which is why we chose to feature him at the Frost Art Museum.”

“Robert Andy Coombs: Notions of Care,” opens Aug. 14 and runs through Nov. 7 at the Frost-FIU Art Museum, 10975 SW 17th Street, Miami; frost.fiu.edu.

OPEN CALL

▪ The Bass in Miami Beach is accepting applications for the second round of its “New Monuments” program in Collins Park, part of the ongoing public debate over the heroes we honor — and why. The program is open to artists living or working in Miami-Dade; the deadline is Aug. 27. Information at thebass.org.

▪ Oolite Arts will award $2,500 each to ten filmmakers to create 30-to-60 second public service announcements about reducing waste. Applications are due Aug. 16. The contest is in collaboration with the City of Miami Beach.

Meanwhile, you can check out the PSAs created in Oolite’s previous contest, Save the Bay, and vote for your favorite through Aug. 11 at oolitearts.org.

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