There’s something special about truly alternative art spaces, and sadly Miami has lost most of them over the years. Which is why the converted garage behind Carol Jazzar’s house in North Miami feels fresh and fun, when the independent curator puts up one of her shows. Over the last year, on usually warm Miami evenings, the visitor to the garage has been treated to the colorful tape collages of Kuhl & Leyton, the Cuban-kitch photographs of Gismo, the black-and-white studies of Matthias Saillard. These and other emerging artists caught the eye of the French-Lebanese Jazzar, who decided to kick-out her car and put in some alt art in late 2005. As Art Basel Miami Beach has brought a much more commercial and competitive edge to the local scene, fewer and fewer venues are taking the chance on “unproven” artists – yet that leaves a yawning gap in the development process. Armed with energy and a passion for art, Jazzar would like to plug part of that hole. Life as an independent curator is neither easy nor generally profitable, so that passion is a pre-requisite to the career Jazzar has chosen, though not her first. In fact she arrived on this side of the Atlantic 15 years ago working as a clothes designer – in particular crafting couture out of chain metal. But she spent her time admiring the collection in the house next door, and little by little fell in love with art. After a stint in a gallery, she started curating independent shows at various venues in Miami Beach. Her first: a show of French painter Yves Martin at Opium. She then put together a show of African-American art for a second show at another Beach hotspot, Pearl, and then another on erotic art, and then on phantasmagoria. But when these shows concluded, the curator and artists went separate ways. Jazzar says she was feeling the need to work with specific artists over time, to help nurture new talent, and in a sense help nurture the emerging art scene as well. “I was tired of working with random artists,” she recalls in her bright, open living room, filled with the art she now cultivates. “I wanted to work with artists I really believed in.” After doing another show this time in the Design District, “I met Brad Kuhl, coming from DASH.” She was immediately drawn to his talent, and knew this was the right time to see if she could start working more permanently with artists. She presented his first solo show in the Buena Vista Building, and has been working with him ever since. Kuhl, she says, represents what she is attracted to – an emerging artist who deals with topical issues. “I usually want to show works that are dealing with contemporary issues, such as violence [like Kuhl], beauty – like Lou Anne Colodny -, or obesity – like Gismo -,” she explains. “Subjects that everyone has in mind right now. So the piece of art is a testimony… to what we are doing here, what we are becoming as human beings, as a society.” That Jazzar cares deeply about the artist and the development of the artistic community is clear, but so is the fact that she will work very hard for both. She was a rarity in participating in both Art Basel and Art Miami. In the former, Jazzar showed up her artists in a hotel room at the Chicago-based Bridge Art Fair, making its debut in the Catalina Hotel, in a show entitled “YMA (Young Miami Artists)”. Then she took many of them, only a few weeks later, to the Miami Beach Convention Center, where she also curated the outdoor sculpture show in the Botanical Gardens. And Jazzar is off to a strong start for 2007. First off, on Feb 16th, a show from the eclectic well-known local duo, Guerra de la Paz. “Flower Children” is an installation that addresses contemporary topics, says Jazzar, such as the “environment and demography,” the type of art Jazzar is interested in promoting. Next will come another duo of Kuhl & Leyton (opening March 23rd), with large-scale collages made again from multi-colored tape, again focusing on the violence around us. At one glance the images can look like an inner-city gang at war; at another – with the victim wearing that eerie orange color now infamously associated with the uniform of America’s designated “enemy combatant” – like a broader world at war. And on April 25th, she will highlight the subtle pilot-pen drawings of Saillard, where the nude portraits, reminiscent of a take on Rodin, just barely peek out through the swirling black lines. “By showing art in my garage, in my property, I feel even more committed to my work,” says Jazzar about her home-gallery.” The work becomes an extension of who I am, of my lifestyle. In opening my home, I therefore open myself to people – strangers – and that is for me an act of faith in what I am doing.” Miami could use more garages with such faith.
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