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A little more than a year ago, artist William Bock and his wife, Christy, were settling into their new gallery in the Fountains Shoppes of Distinction in Plantation, as well as awaiting the birth of a child. After five years of struggling to survive in the fledgling arts district of downtown Hollywood, where they ran a small gallery on Harrison Street, the Bocks had decided it was time for a change.
Now the couple is celebrating a successful first year at the Bock Gallery's new location and the first birthday of their daughter, Eleanor, with a "1st Annual Anniversary Birthday Bash Art Exhibit." The small show includes some of Bock's recent paintings, along with works by two other South Florida artists: ceramics by Lori Kane of Cooper City and sculptures by the Port St. Lucie-based Steve Lifton.
As he leads me through the narrow, cluttered gallery into his even more cluttered little studio in the back, the affable Bock sheepishly acknowledges that having a baby has influenced his art. A few small canvases at various stages of completion bear him out: They're simple "portraits" of old-fashioned children's toys, painted in soft pastel colors.
Custom framing is still part of the Bocks' operation, and Bock himself continues to dabble in a variety of media. He does faux finishes, restores old paintings, and makes limited-edition prints of some of his own paintings. But he's currently most excited about several pieces that are being considered for use in the new Diplomat Beach Resort and Country Club in Hollywood. He has designed large trompe l'oeil murals, for example, to be used in model rooms for the complex, which will include an 800-room hotel and 500 condos.
Bock is also submitting a series of ten canvases of tropical flora and fauna to the Diplomat, in hopes that some will be chosen for reproduction and display in the hotel rooms. In the center of each oil-and-acrylic Shell & Seagrapes 1 and Shell & Seagrapes 2 is an ornate seashell surrounded by dense layers of seagrape leaves. Auger Shell & Marble and Conch Shell & Marble are starker compositions in which an oversize, detailed shell floats on a field of yellowish gold bordered by a thin strip of gold leaf and a much thicker border of faux marble painted in warm earth tones.
By far the most impressive of the series is Golden Coastline, which again includes the faux-marble border and the same earthy colors. But Bock has divided a simple beachscape with a palm tree and voluminous clouds into a grid of 48 square panels that fragment and distort the image. He has pushed the piece even closer to abstraction with dramatic splotches of gold and silver leaf that capture some of the elusive grandeur of South Florida's summer sky.
Elsewhere in the gallery are a few ceramics by Lori Kane. The artist uses the Japanese technique of raku, in which the clay is fired quickly and removed from the kiln while it's still very hot, then placed in a reduction chamber filled with a combustible material such as newspaper. The result is a dark, rich, iridescent glaze that's gorgeous, although it doesn't seem to vary much from piece to piece.
The anniversary show is rounded out by some wonderfully whimsical pieces dubbed "cyberage electronic sculptures" and "abstract kinetic wall sculpture" by their maker, Steve Lifton. Four of the original six pieces remain, the other two having been snapped up by collectors. Bock says the untitled works, which he's displayed near the gallery's front windows, attract a lot of men you wouldn't expect to see in an art gallery, and it's easy to see why. Lifton, who studied at both MIT and the Parsons School of Design, creates his pieces by recycling components salvaged from computers, VCRs, radios, and other electronic items. He starts with a picture frame, typically picked up secondhand, then adds a circuit board that he proceeds to cram with all sorts of gadgetry: dials and cogs, colored lights, counters and meters.
Looking at one of Lifton's pieces is like opening up a VCR and finding a miniature amusement park inside. He builds a small transformer into the piece, then wires the parts so that the dials and cogs spin and whir, the lights pulse, the counters and meters turn and click.
As irresistible as Lifton's work is, however, some of the best art on display at the Bock Gallery was created by an artist who's technically not part of the anniversary show. When I visited last year, Bock had discovered the Japanese artist Susumu Endo, who uses digital technology to manipulate the images in his offset lithographs. Several of Endo's pieces are still available, and they're as fresh and exciting as when I first saw them.
Bock has made another, equally impressive Japanese discovery: a young artist named Yoshikatsu Tamekane. His medium is described as "woodblock/collagraph," an intaglio printing technique in which pieces of cardboard and other textured materials are applied to the block, which is then inked and pressed onto another surface -- in Tamekane's case, hand-made paper. The artist works with water-based inks that look like they've been painted onto the paper rather than printed with a block, and he often supplements the inks with gold- and silver-leaf accents. The minimalist landscape of Theatre, for instance, includes a set of delicate, glittery diagonal lines that wash across the center of the image.