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Art + Design in Miami: Tricks On The Eye

Our look at the illusory works found at Art Basel and the surrounding fairs

Many themes emerged from the various galleries converged in Miami for Art Basel and the surrounding fairs this year, but unsurprisingly the one that stood out the loudest among the crew from Cool Hunting was work that played visual tricks on the viewer. Whether eluding us with clever technology techniques or purely an abstract form of painting, below are the pieces that grabbed our attention through some element of subterfuge.

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Hans Kotter‘s 2011 “Tunnel View” series features LED lights between plexiglass, which are amplified by a metal mirror. The two mind-bending works featured here were on view through Priveekollektie at Art Miami.

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Anish Kapoor dazzled the crowd with his stainless steel “Untitled” 2011 work, on view through Lisson Gallery at Art Basel.


“Lover’s Quarrel” is the work of media artist James Clar. At first glance the piece appears to only say the word “leave” but further inspection reveals the subliminal “don’t” behind it. The playful lighting installation was on view at Blythe Projects at Pulse.

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Two different 2011 works that are less smoke-and-mirrors but equally entrancing are Michael Eastman‘s “M1” (at Barry Friedman at Art Miami) and Karen Gunderson‘s “Divergent Sea” (at Waterhouse & Dodd at Scope).

Eastman used simply a wide-angle lens and pushed the depth of field to create this image, which seems like it would have physical depth but is really just a trick of the eye. Gunderson’s paintings of water also challenge the eye’s understanding of space, but through her detailed brush strokes. Depending on the position of the viewer and the angle of the light refraction, the water seemingly moves like nature intended.


Also on view through Waterhouse & Dodd, Patrick Hughes‘ 2008 work called “Sea City” is arguably the most staggeringly trippy piece we saw. This oil and photographic collage toys with the mind through “reverspective”—a concept he created in which the portion of the picture that appears furthest away is physically the nearest, painted on protruding blocks.

Have a look at our rough cut video above for a full realization of how delightfully confusing his works really are.

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Known for his unusual approach to currency, Mark Wagner‘s 2011 work “Gale Bills” puts real money on wood panels. Twisted to a perfectly odd degree, the latest from Wagner was on view through Pavel Zoubok Gallery at Pulse.

Julian Opie‘s computer animated sculptures were on view at a few galleries, but we first took notice of these optical illusions at Scope, where the various works of people walking took us by surprise as we moved around the corner where they were hung at Gallery Biba.

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Mia Rosenthal exhibited several new pieces that demonstrate her adept talent for sneaking graphic design symbols into her fine art works. The Philadelphia-based artist aptly showed through Gallery Joe, on view at Pulse.

Contributions from Josh Rubin, karen Day and Jonah Samson


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