Another sculptor, the Zimbabwean James Tandi, fares better with his large busts of African men and women. They're carved the old-fashioned way, with hammer and chisel, from a semiprecious stone called verdite, which consists of exquisite streaks and swirls of greens, browns, golds, and other earthy tones. Tandi is exceptionally adept at giving the eyes of his subjects a haunting, fathomless melancholy.
Just as Bone's paintings are the best of the gallery's two-dimensional pieces, one artist's sculptures overshadow the rest of the three-dimensional works. Loet Vanderveen also takes the animals of Africa as subjects, but he refines and stylizes them. Individualizing details are smoothed away, disappearing into the bronze contours that emphasize line and shape. And almost every piece has a distinctive touch that's inexplicably appealing -- one area that is highly polished to a reflective metallic sheen. On Silverback Gorilla, for instance, it's the face, and on Imperial Elephant and Kudo, the tusks and spiraling antlers, respectively. For the dazzling Bushbacks, Vanderveen positions two graceful animals nose to nose, so that their huge gleaming antlers almost intersect.
Despite the majesty of some of the individual pieces, there's an inherent risk in bringing so much wildlife art together in one space. Ultimately there's not enough variety. Seen side by side, or even across the room from each other, many of the pieces begin to look uncomfortably alike.
Working against the grain are artists like Bone, who infuses his raw material with narrative, giving it a dramatic tension that sets it apart, and Vanderveen, who turns to stylization, emphasizing his subjects' archetypal qualities. The gallery needs to attract more artists like these.
Call of Africa's Native Visions Gallery is located at 807 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, 954-767-8737.