From Satellite to SPRING/BREAK : DIRT Talks w/ Rives Wiley about Art Fairs


Occupying the Parisian Hotel in South Beach, during the 2016 Miami Art Week, Satellite Art Show provided a raw ground for artists collectives and curators to experiment in building a multi-sensory experience for fair goers. Once a cozy Art Deco inn, each room of the luminous South Beach-centered Parisian Hotel was  transformed  from ceilings to bathrooms, inundated with a creative force on reimagining the ordinary in extraordinary ways. 
Visitors savored a quirky taste of post-psychedelic, post-internet art throughout curated rooms catered to a younger crowd with an esprit ouvert. Within the three floors of artists from all corners of the country, Hamiltonian Gallery eloquently brought together an eclectic show, featuring Alejandro Pintado, Joshua Haycraft & Rives Wiley. Pintado's laser 3D geometrics injected into the hermetic collections of 19th century thinkers simulated a scene from a futuristic film featuring Darwin's siblings. While Haycraft's talismanic Alchemy Appliances similarly imagined an alternative reality that implied a scientific apocalypse that yields to a transgenic deformation of the universe. But, perhaps the most interesting installation within this booth was artist Rives Wiley's  DIY Laser Eye Surgery. In a handmade homage to You-Tube tutorials, Wiley's site-specific installation was a life-sized diorama that offered viewers a meta tutorial to learn a fresh way of seeing.  

I spoke briefly with Rives  about this work twice, once following her time in Miami at the Satellite Art Show, and once recently - before exhibiting in NY’s SPRING/BREAK Art Show. Similar to Satellite, SPRING/BREAK is New York’s curator-driven art fair hosted this year in the old Conde Naste building on 4 Times Square, opens up a forgotten or derelict space for artists to create new concepts, new exhibitions, new ideas, and in a way create a new way of living with art.  

Rives Wiley', DIY Laser Eye Surgery - installation, 2016, Oil paint, hair weave, wood, resin, video. 100x96x40 inches.

Rives Wiley', DIY Laser Eye Surgery - installation, 2016, Oil paint, hair weave, wood, resin, video. 100x96x40 inches.

Ikram Lakhdhar:  You are the only Hamiltonian fellow who was selected to show in Miami. How does this type of exposure in a different context/location influence your practice? 

Rives Wiley: Yes, I was the only current fellow selected to exhibit in Miami this year.  However, two other artists exhibited as well: one past fellow, Joshua Haycraft, and one established artist, Alejandro Pintado. I am honored to have been chosen this year, but truthfully, every fellow in the program is highly talented and would have done very well in Miami Art Week.  

My gallery director, Amanda Jiron-Murphy, explained that her application to each fair was different because they all have specific "brands." She also told me that when a gallery participates in an art fair they want to strike a balance between artistic vision and marketability. After all, these art fairs are notoriously expensive, and they want to make back some of the money they put in. The booth Hamiltonian put together addressed all those things, while still fitting into the "brand" that is the Satellite Art Show. 

I only began to seriously exhibit my work this past fall, so being exposed in this way is very new to me. In fact, I frequently used to hide my work. In DC, the market for art is slim, so artists focus on commercializing their work to appeal to the masses or intellectualizing it to favor the press.  At Miami Basel week, intellectual, interesting, and groundbreaking work was actually commodified. It was like Hollywood.  I never want profitability to influence my work, but it was nice see that there is a real market for the crazy stuff.  If anything, it will give me the confidence to take more risks in the future. 

Rives Wiley,  DIY Laser Eye Surgery, video courtesy of the artist's vimeo

IL:   DIY Laser Eye Surgery made its debut at Satellite Art Show, but it will have another appearance at your Hamiltonian show on May 20th. How did viewers react to the installation in Miami? 

RW:  The whole installation was an endeavor because it had to be completely rebuilt to fit to the measurements of the hotel room, and there were quite a few obstacles along the way.  It took 4 people to set it up in the time we had. 
I was pleased with the viewers’ reactions. Not only did they engage with illusion of the space, but many actually stayed to watch the entire video, which is rare. 

IL:  What are the perks and challenges of showing at Satellite compared to another fair, say Untitled or NADA? 

RW: Well, Satellite refers to itself as the "Anti- Fair."  It is in a run-down hotel, it is not clean, and they serve PBR tall boys instead of glasses of Champagne.  But because of the atmosphere, it is more relaxed and experimental.  At Satellite, you are almost walking through a fun house because each hotel room is transformed into a new experience.  Also, due to the architecture, people travel in groups, and almost always converse with the gallerists and artists. Satellite was a perfect place to make friends and connections in the art world.   
I hope to show in fairs like Untitled or NADA someday because they are more established.  For an artist or gallery to exhibit there, it can take years to build up their reputation high enough to be accepted. It is a good long-term goal for the Hamiltonian and myself because its name attracts a larger crowd. However, Satellite is still a fantastic and very original fair. 

IL:  Anything else you'd like to add? 

RW: Actually, I have some tips for artists showing in or just visiting Miami Art Week: 

1. Never Ever stay in Hostel. You will not sleep and people will steal your sneakers. 

2. UBER POOL is the best way to network.  I actually found myself in an uber with a curator of the Guggenheim!!! She told me at the end and I didn't catch her name... but still... 

3. Don't expect to get through the entire Art Basel. It's too big. Go to Satellite instead. There were many unforgettable moments, but this picture of me with Dangerous Rose, an artist and very talented pole dancer at Satellite, encapsulates the whole experience... 

IL:  In response to your participation announcement in Spring/ Break Show-  Can you tell me just a little bit about how you got to be involved with Failed Evolution show and what's your anticipation of the show?

RW: Yes! I am super psyched to be included in the SPRING/BREAK Art Show! The curator-driven Art Fair takes place during Armory Arts Week, typically held in underused historic spaces within New York City. My booth is entitled "Failed Evolution."  I have yet to see the show installed, but the curators, Blair Murphy and Alissa Polan, describe “Failed Evolution” as a show about the ways in which the digital age has created a "fractured self." The exhibition will explore "new ways of being, seeing, and interacting that emerge from the proliferation of self-presentation." The other artists, Morgan Blair, Cooper Holoweski, Alissa Polan, and Laura Hyunjhee Kim express this concept through collage, painting, and video. My contribution to the show consists of three video pieces.

Image courtesy of the the artist's instagram page

Image courtesy of the the artist's instagram page

IL: Having shown at both fairs, I am curious to know how you think they differ overall. 

RW: The fairs both take place in rundown or vacant spaces, but are innovative in different ways. Satellite has a very raw tone. The space and the aesthetic has more grit, which makes room for some bold artistic decisions. SPRING/BREAK is more polished, but offers an original alternative to your typical art fair. This year's exhibition is in Times Square and is called "Black Mirror." The show transports you through many realities. The heavy emphasis on the virtual in the artwork is reflected beautifully within the Times Square screens that flood the windows.

Check out Wiley's work as part of the FAILED EVOLUTION Booth, curated by Blair Murphy and Alissa Polan, on view at SPRING/BREAK Art Fair - Booth 2362 (March 1-6) - 4 Times Square and online at!