Miamians might not be that familiar with the paintings of Mira Lehr, even though she is a long-time resident of Miami Beach. Her work has been shown more often elsewhere — for instance, in a spring show at her New York gallery, Flomenhaft. Fortunately, the Kelley Roy Gallery is giving her a local hearing, with paintings almost all made this year, and including a funny video on the art process and another on the movement of vertebrae.
Lehr’s work has always been lovely, with abstract yet distinctly flowery imagery and pronounced Japanese influence. But here she literally ignites the canvas. She has incorporated gunpowder and lit-fuse cords to the resin, dye, wood-work and Japanese paper that go into the incredibly textured works. Nature is almost always apparent — some loom like a forest, others look like a garden or even encased, school-age insect boxes. But the paintings can also look quilted, sewn up, patched together. It’s an amazing total effect.
But back to the explosive elements. Lehr lit the fuses laid on the canvases (with a minder with a water bottle to control the fire) and let them burn an image. She also ignited gunpowder applied to the surface. The overall effect results in a grainy quality, which is then contrasted with some incredibly vibrant colors created from dye and then set in resin. In a few of the paintings, the resin pieces fall off the bottom or the side of the frame. Adding to the Asian feel, a few of the frames are lacquered.
The combination and conflict in these pieces work very well. The burned and scarred canvas highlights, in a sense, the frozen resin parts that are pasted on; fire and ice. Yet ever aware of space and composition, Lehr has not let these paintings become noisy or messy — once again, a very Japanese sensibility.
In a separate room, three projectors deliver images of vertebrae — actually a film of a sculpture crafted from a bike chain. In one projection, a performance artist tries to mimic the artificial spine’s movement. Overall, beauty, levity and a contemplative essence combine to make “209 Ignition” a complete and satisfying exhibit, one that oozes a maturity that Miami is finally realizing it needs.
“209 Ignition” by Mira Lehr through Nov. 20 at the Kelley Roy Gallery, 50 N.E. 29th St., Wynwood; kelleyroygallery.com.