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MOCA Launches ART ON THE 2022 With Miami-Based Artist Onajide Shabaka

The shape becomes a multidirectional conversation of the natural environment's impact in urban space and the relationship of humans within it. 

MOCA Launches ART ON THE 2022 With Miami-Based Artist Onajide Shabaka

Following its inaugural "Art on the Plaza" season in 2021, the Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami has announced the program's continuation in 2022 with Miami-based artist Onajide Shabaka. South Florida Artists were invited via an open call for a commission opportunity for the new season of "Art on the Plaza."

Water is central to Shabaka's new public artwork titled, "Her Touch Smooths Rough Waters." Activating the two plinths in the fountain, a set of objects are in dialogue with one another. On one side, a large-scale sculpture traces the serpentine forms often found in Shabaka's work. These patterns - a combination of straight and curved bands, zigzags, circles and semicircles - originate from pivotal research by the artist in Suriname, a South American Amazon forested country. Shabaka developed an abstraction of natural forms derived from the intricate insect architecture and botanical root systems found there, and within coastal areas of Georgia and subtropical Florida. The shape becomes a multidirectional conversation of the natural environment's impact in urban space and the relationship of humans within it.

Coupled with the large-scale sculpture on the adjacent plinth are two tear-drop shaped vessels, which continue the language of serpentine imagery. For Shabaka, the vessels evoke the ancient purpose of transporting water as both a necessity and as a ritual act. Here the serpentine designs function as a kind of map for the flows of water: not as a straight line, but tracing the undulations of its movement, always finding its way despite obstacles. The large serpentine sculpture functions as a macro-view for this natural phenomenon, suggesting gravitational currents that link major water systems such as the Everglades National Park, which provides the drinking water for South Florida. In its component parts, the work articulates a language from nature, and an essential interconnectedness of the world as a whole.

Shabaka has lived in California and Florida where his art practice is connected through historical/biographical themes related to geography that include African diaspora and Native American cultures. Using ethnobotany and the performative as aesthetic vehicles for making those references and their historical reconstruction, his art practice comes into being through the complex effects of institutions, histories, and human experiences. Shabaka's writing and curatorial practice focuses largely on contemporary art and culture, and subject specific research.

The open call received applications from over 75 professional artists in an effort to promote temporary installations on its public plaza and inspire the community and museum visitors. The museum will host a series of programming to coincide with the art installations throughout the year. Selected artworks include but are not limited to: the building façade or architecture, interventions within or incorporating the fountain, free standing elements, light-based artworks/projections, participatory artworks adhering to social distancing guidelines, or landscape-based artworks or earthworks.

The first commission's installation will be on view from July 2022 through mid-September and the second commission's installation will be on view from late September 2022 through January 2023.

"After a successful debut in 2021, we are thrilled to launch 'Art on the Plaza' again this year. Offering South Florida artists the opportunity to submit through an open call supports MOCA's goals of facilitating cultural engagement and fostering a connection with the community and beyond," said MOCA Executive Director Chana Budgazad Sheldon. "'Art on the Plaza' offers a boost of creative energy accessible to visitors and passersby. We are very pleased to commission and support local artists for these temporary installations."

Amanda Sanfilippo Long, who currently serves as Curator and Artist Manager for the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs, Art in Public Places program, is organizing the program.

"I am honored and excited to partner with MOCA once again to host 'Art on the Plaza,'" said Sanfilippo Long. "This program brings imaginative contemporary art exhibitions and programming to a wide range of audiences, while bringing diverse cultural and thought-provoking subjects to the forefront."

The museum inaugurated "Art on the Plaza," a series of temporary public art installations on MOCA's plaza, to invite artists to activate the space and connect the museum to the community. The 2021 series featured South Florida artists Reginald O'Neal, Morel Doucet and Stephen Arboite, Najja Moon, Nice n' Easy, and Studio AMLgMATD.

Completed in October 2018, the MOCA Plaza renovation was made possible due to a grant from the North Miami Community Redevelopment Agency (NMCRA) to cover construction costs of nearly 33,000-sq.-ft. of brick pavers, new landscaping, new LED lights and necessary equipment. MOCA's "Art on the Plaza" program is made possible with major support from the NMCRA.



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