Images of Miami, snap by snap

Arts / Article

Images of Miami from Tao Rey’s eye and phone.

It’s been a while since we’ve seen work from Tao Rey, part of the group that emerged in the late 1990s and early 2000s who made a big mark on Miami’s art scene, being termed the “hot house” young artists at the time. But like all creative minds, that doesn’t mean he has been inactive.

In the last few years Rey has turned his eye to simple Instagram snapshots, clicking away at the street life of the ever-so-lively and revealing world of Miami. At Bas Fisher Invitational (a Knight Arts Challenge grantee), 160 of these same-sized, 12×12 square prints have been tacked up in the three rows across the surface of three walls (it’s a smart, clean looking installation as a whole). Each one in “Word Weary” tells its own story.

"Word Weary"

“Word Weary.”

Some images are immediately familiar – palm trees, birds, a family portrait. Others are more abstract, or hard to place, and images that seem manipulated but can’t be – they are Instagrams. While sometimes picturing an almost post-card perfect landscape, the photos also suggest a city in constant transformation, through construction, through the movement of people, through the displacement of the literal territory. Out beaches are eroding, our landmarks disappearing, our identity being constantly reinvented.

The images can be amazingly quiet, at other times dramatic. Rey has an amazing eye for capturing moods and moments. Which is why this is not a collection of random photos shot by a random person with a smartphone. As Naomi Fisher, one of the founders of Bas Fisher and an artist photographer herself, says while explaining the reason of the exhibit, these are small pieces of art. While everybody and their brother and sister can now shoot photos with their phones – and do, and put them up on Facebook and Instagram – not everyone really knows how to frame a shot, how to picture literally a segment of time, a portrait of an individual, that tells an entire story on its own. That’s what Rey does.

The photos are not organized into subject matter: portraits of people, for instance, are not grouped together next to snaps of building facades. They are all mixed, as though you are walking or riding the streets. There are images of the sky and clouds and birds melding with waves crashing on the shore. Snapshots of vibrant foliage and wall murals are placed next to those of empty beer bottles, chickens in a reflection of glass, and some quirky scenes that scream Miami (you’ll know those when you see them).

This is a special exhibit that shouldn’t be missed.

Rey will lead a WEIRD MIAMI bus tour exposing his view of Miami on Oct. 13, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; tickets $35.

“Word Weary” by Tao Rey runs through Oct. 26 at Bas Fisher Invitational (BFI), 100 N.E. 11th St., Miami;