(A) State of Florida currently on view at Alfstad& Contemporary is an exhibition of artworks inspired by Florida. It’s a mixture of disciplines including photography, painting, assemblage, and video that explores the quirky and commercially driven characteristics of this state.
Jeremy Chandler’s photographs combine Martin Parr’s dry humor with Naomi Harris’s love of Florida’s tackiness. “Hot Dog Vendor” (2008) shows a woman dressed in next-to-nothing in front of a hot-dog cart hitched to a much-too-small, much-too-old Pontiac or Chevy. Another photograph shows a man in a shirt reading “Surfer Dude Surfer” standing and addressing the camera in what appears to be a camper, which appears to be his house. “Tampa Palms Golfer” (2008) is a woman in a pink sweater on what is apparently a chilly day. The portraits are both earnest and funny, and perfectly portray those who are either born here or seek refuge in Florida.
Ryann Slauson paints plexi-glass. “My Trauma” (2014) depicts a Denny’s parking lot in a loose, crude way, and includes text reading “kids eat free” and license plate numbers. “Dan the Man” (2014) portrays Dan Marino wearing his Miami Dolphins jersey but no helmet in a way that looks like a snapshot taken in between plays. He appears as a jock caught candidly, as if a teammate had just given him a shove and a sarcastic taunt. Slauson’s work is delightfully rendered, it pushes the boundaries of abstraction, and by focusing on Florida her paintings offer an alternative to its reputation of fakeness.
Michael Bauman’s “Trident” (2014), an assemblage with a silicone cast of an alligator impaled by three fluorescent lights, is the star of the show. His “Construct” (2015) also uses silicone alligators and fluorescent lights, but this time it’s in a wooden box and a metal gate.
The best title of the show goes to Jen Nugent’s “The Difference between an Asshole and A Good Samaritan” (2012), which is a Louis Vuitton purse stuffed with live flowers. It’s assumed she found the handbag, took it, and now it hangs in a gallery.
In the back room is Vanessa Diaz’s video of her rummaging through a mound of trash. She’s looking for an unknown something. Its duration is several minutes, but it seems she never finds what she’s looking for.
The gallery itself, which is a renovated warehouse with wooden trusses visible in the ceiling and a firehouse-like tiled floor, is the perfect setting for an exhibition investigating Florida’s identity. This is because the gallery is located in the Rosemary District where several new projects are supplanting older industrial warehouses with new condos and architecture in ways that creative types are known to do. Florida is changing, and this gallery and its focus on contemporary artworks is a much-needed upgrade.