Art Basel: Brian Butler The Fine Art of High Kitsch

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Brian Butler may have been born and bred in Beantown, but his career was built right here in Miami, where his increasingly fine art approach to tiki culture, putt-putt golf and throwback roadside attractions can best be described as High Kitsch. Those in the know (or of the ‘wood) will have basked in the glow of Butler’s beatific Ice Cream People or ascended the green and picked up a putter to play his teepee-topped one hole at the ever on-it Product/81’s gallery space for 2012’s Get Lost. If by chance you didn’t glimpse that singular soloing, well, there’s no way you haven’t caught the seaside swampiness Butler’s blessed over, on, in and around Gramps, where his Captain-capped gator has become the de facto mascot.

brian1986_brisk_mural_miami_webAs good as all that groovy got to you though, Butler’s latest creations will get you gone, baby, gone. Steeped in pre-Christian rituals such as hula and luau, and the kinda beyond belief systems best accessed via fortune telling booths and palm readers, Butler’s now tapping into the very soul of kitsch’s being, and in so doing reveals the depths that lie beneath the superficial.

brian_butlerFor Art Week 2013, Butler’s gone kaleidoscopically monochromatic in the lobby of the Ansonia Hotel (home of both SweetWater and Odd Fellows), where The Think Hotel Group has given free reign to a slew of stellar visualists (and where Butler’s own studio has been transformed into a Mexican-themed bar on behalf of Absolut Peppar, who’re bringing in Broken Shaker ace Virginia King), and served as a sorta curator for the adjacent Plymouth Hotel, where he’s recruited “a handful of homies” christened The Wayside (and where Think will be popping off with everything from a tattoo parlor to a barber shop).

And that’s not all either, for Butler and his buddy Mike Del Marmol “made the look for Miami’s inaugural psych and noise fest” Look Alive, which Friday nights at Churchill’s (with headliner Wolf Eyes) and Saturday nights at Gramps (with Adam Gersten’s must-gets Indian Jewelry and Pontiak). To be asked to provide the look for such a racket is in itself a proverbial feather-in-the-cap; to be able to pull it off with such aplomb all the while working the wily wonder over on South Beach is a virtual headdress.

TO GO: Runs through December 7th. Ansonia Hotel 318 21st Street, Miami Beach, 33139.

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