People & Art: Out of the Ordinary
Harvey Oxenberg seeks out the offbeat
By Aaron Glickman
Photography by Manny Hernandez
Through the guidance of his cousin, an art school graduate who went on to work in museums and galleries, Harvey Oxenberg began collecting art two decades ago when he purchased a photograph by an emerging photographer named Bruce Weber. The piece captured the interaction between Brazilian lovers. From that starting point, Oxenberg amassed a sizable collection only to sell most of it off 12 years ago. He was no longer attracted to those artists and began to refresh the collection.
In his front yard, one is met with an ovular, stone sculpture of a human face. Sculpture is a recurring theme throughout the home and he identifies the medium as his favorite.
“I’m drawn to sculpture because of the three-dimensional effect,” he said. “You look at a painting, or a piece of art on the wall, and it is single dimensional. It can be beautiful, but a sculpture can be looked at from the left, from the right, from the back, from the front. It has a more interesting perspective.”
Several of Oxenberg’s sculptures are wonderfully captivating and certainly out of the ordinary. Hanging on the front wall of his home so that it can be seen from both the first and second floors is a piece by Rainer Lagemann, a Miami-based artist who creates metal sculptures of the human body from small steel squares that he welds together. The result, as displayed in Oxenberg’s collection, is an abstract, transparent interpretation of the human form in motion.
The human form is witnessed throughout the collection, and Oxenberg identifies the recurring theme as a point of emphasis. The theme is witnessed again in sculpture with a life-size, stone piece of a Chinaman holding his fist straight into the air. The work is by Wang Guangyi, a Chinese artist known as a leader of the 'Political Pop Movement'. The piece has a Cold War era feeling and Oxenberg joked that it is his resident communist.
Human form is witnessed again with numerous sculptures and images of faces, each with a slant toward the offbeat.
A notable painting of Oxenberg’s that captures the human form in the abstract is by R. B. Kitaj and hangs just past the front door next to a small Botero. The piece is emblematic of Kitaj’s style. The British Pop artist (deceased) was known for his figurative paintings featuring areas of bright color and economic use of line and overlapping planes which makes his works resemble collages.
This modern take on classic work is another recurring theme in Oxenberg’s collection. Still Life, After Cezanne by Vik Muniz is a large scale photograph that was achieved by punching out little circles from magazine covers and assembling them in a manner that replicated a Cezanne still life and then capturing the image. Another piece by Muniz that hangs in Oxenberg’s stairwell is entitled Jacqueline, After Picasso and is a modern interpretation of Picasso’s muse and second wife, Jacqueline Roque.
In keeping with the modern take on classic themes is an artist displayed in Oxenberg’s bedroom, Manolo Valdés, a well-collected painter from Spain who is known for incorporating and appropriating traditional motifs and compositions of art history.
From a hobby that led to his profession, contemporary art surrounds a large portion of Oxenberg’s life. His collection is fun and concentrates on pieces that require second and third looks due to the unique nature of their themes or compositions. The stories he tells exemplify his passion for his chosen pieces. By and large, he collects artists that he knows; and with his Miami roots – a graduate of Miami Norland Senior High – Oxenberg is yet another example of a Miami collector who has evolved artistically in conjunction with his hometown.
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