Hibel and Yawn

"Compassion Around the World: The Art of Edna Hibel"

And Hibel's sophisticated technical skills would lend themselves far better to abstraction than to representational painting. She works using a variety of media, often in the same piece. Songsi, for example, is a canvas to which she has applied pastels, gold leaf, and giclee (tiny droplets of ink sprayed onto a surface).

The gold leaf and giclee turn up repeatedly, and they're a large part of what makes those abstract borders and backgrounds so lush and appealing. Hibel sometimes applies them to lithographs as well as canvases. Little Flower, a small portrait of another Asian-looking little girl, uses gold leaf and oils to accent a lithograph created with ground stones that have been etched and drawn on by the artist. (Hibel uses Bavarian limestone for her stone lithographs.)

Of course I doubt there's much chance that Hibel is about to abandon the style she has spent more than 65 years accumulating and refining -- the style that has given her that highly buffed reputation. And who can blame her, really? At 82 years old, she's a successful artist with a huge following. I just lament the Hibel that might have been.

Don't be distracted by the title character in Songsi; the real art's the background
Melissa Jones
Don't be distracted by the title character in Songsi; the real art's the background

Details

On display through January 9.
Cornell Museum of Art & History, Old School Square, 51 N. Swinton Ave., Delray Beach, 561-243-7922.

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As an antidote to the maddening unevenness of the Hibel show, you might wander upstairs at the Cornell and take in the one-room exhibition that has been extended at least twice: "40 Years of the Barbie Doll." Just about everything you could possibly want to know about Barbie and company can be found there, including historical information and a Barbie family tree, complete with Barbie's pets.

There are Barbie Dream Houses here, and Barbie cars, clothes, and accessories. And there are Barbies aplenty: the original 1959 Barbie, Malibu Barbie and Ken (1971), Anne Klein and Christian Dior Barbies (1997), Harley Davidson Barbie (1997), Paleontologist Barbie (1997), Olympic Barbie (1996), and Madame du Barbie (1997), with the doll decked out in a Bob Mackie outfit inspired by the 18th-century French royal court.

In the center of the room, there's a huge Christmas tree decorated with Barbies of various sizes, and nearby there's a whole case of cheerleader Barbies arrayed on an AstroTurf football field, including one from the University of Florida. In the Barbies of the World case, you'll find 44 international Barbies, among them Czechoslovakian Barbie, Peruvian Barbie, and Ghanaian Barbie.

Is it art? Of course not. But this show has been assembled with such loving attention to its overall garishness that it's as irresistible as a cheesy grade-B movie.

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