The Traveling Schacknow Show

Art lesson: Owning a museum requires paying attention to details

Schacknow's one real find here is the photographer Elena Comens, whose black-and-white prints take up "Gallery 1" and "Gallery 2." A brief biographical note informs us that Comens has studied with Mary Ellen Mark, whose influence is obvious in Comens' stripped-down, documentary approach to her subjects. The two dozen or so photographs in the first gallery are images of day-to-day life in Guatemala -- market scenes, candid portraits, scenes of domestic activity -- the strength of which is their simplicity.

The 20 Comens photos in the next gallery are from Russia, and they're even more powerful in their stark directness. A solitary, melancholy-looking man strides toward us on a cobblestone street in Beneath the Bridge, St. Petersburg. Five stern-faced guards go about their duties in Lenin's Tomb, Moscow. Rows of lights punctuate a dark depot in the grainy Moscow Metro I.

Taken together, such images provide an atmospheric commentary on an unstable society in flux. They're political by implication, as in Free Enterprise, which gives us four men selling their wares on a street, with banners depicting Lenin waving in the background.

Come and knock on Max's door: Gallery 3 features John Ritter, John Huston, and lots of animals
Larry Singer
Come and knock on Max's door: Gallery 3 features John Ritter, John Huston, and lots of animals


On display through October 1. 954-583-5551.
Schacknow Museum of Fine Arts, 7080 NW Fourth St., Plantation

Comens' work deserves that main gallery all to itself. Then again, Schacknow's impulse to wow us with quantity suggests that he may have no idea how much better she is than most of the other artists in this show. He's too concerned with the big picture to worry much about the small details.

The big picture, of course, is the museum itself, and Schacknow's determination to establish a venue for art in western Broward is certainly commendable. But often it's the small details that can lift an ordinary exhibition to the extraordinary. If Schacknow can afford to launch his own museum, for example, surely he should be able to spring for a professionally printed brochure for a show of which he's so proud, instead of the typo-riddled, photocopied piece that accompanies "The Magnificent Eleven."

And how credible is a similarly photocopied brochure soliciting membership in the museum when it can't even get the names of some of the best-known artists in history right? Of the six membership categories named for those artists, only two -- Picasso and Renoir -- are spelled correctly. Would you want to shell out $75 for a "Reubens" membership (does it include a sandwich?), $500 for a "Rembrant," or $1000 for a "MichaelAngelo"? The Schacknow Museum of Fine Arts is a fine idea, but unless Max Schacknow starts paying attention to the details or hires someone to do it for him, he'll never have a first-class museum.

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