By Chris Joseph
By Michael E. Miller
By Kyle Swenson
By David Villano
By Kyle Swenson
By John Thomason
By Michele Eve
The juxtapositions are sometimes jarring: Two Andy Warhols are propped on the floor a few feet from a vintage Norman Rockwell. A quartet of pieces by actor turned painter Anthony Quinn give way to a Red Skelton self-portrait, followed by a pair of Ertés.
A cluster of Picassos shares space with works by fellow Spaniards Salvador Dalí and Joan Miró. Henry Moore creeps into the mix, along with Alexander Calder and Marc Chagall. H. Claude Pissarro, grandson of Impressionist patriarch Camille, is represented here, as well as the quirky American Red Grooms and the art charlatan Mark Kostabi. Even sports artist Leroy Neiman's work puts in an appearance.
Welcome to the Minds Eye gallery on Las Olas Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale, where you'll find as many big names as you would at one of Alice B. Toklas and Gertrude Stein's famous dinner parties in early 20th-century Paris.
The presence of works by so many celebrated artists in such close proximity is partly a function of space in this long, narrow gallery. But there's also something bracingly unpretentious about the seemingly haphazard placement of the art here. Is hanging a Norman Rockwell near a pair of Warhols intentional or fortuitous? It doesn't really matter. The resulting surreal egalitarianism gives the gallery its slightly giddy atmosphere.
Now for the reality check: Most of the pieces on display at Minds Eye aren't original paintings or drawings. They're prints -- signed, numbered, limited-edition prints -- but prints nevertheless. Some purists might dismiss such works on the grounds that they're a generation removed from the originals, mere knockoffs that may or may not have been produced under the direct supervision of the artists. For buyers and browsers, however, prints provide access to art that might usually be beyond their reach.
The prints at Minds Eye run the gamut of reproduction techniques. Lithographs and serigraphs, etchings and woodcuts, engravings and aquatints are among the mix. For many of the pieces, the printmaking method used isn't specified; again, it's a quibble for purists. A few sculptures, ceramics, pieces of glassware, and other odds and ends round things out.
Not surprisingly, the prolific Dalí figures heavily in the gallery's selection of prints. Samples from his "Divine Comedy" series appear here, as well as his takes on such traditional subject matter as Don Quixote, Antony and Cleopatra, and Icarus. Adam & Eve is an especially rich interpretation of the Biblical couple, with a vaguely defined hand of God reaching into the image from above while a dark figure (Satan?) lurks to the left. The title characters seem to be sheltered by some sort of blue canopy, and the heavens spill flecks of gold.
Minds Eye also offers Dalí works in other media. A 1956 ceramic urn embellished with a horse sits in the gallery's front window, and the mythological winged horse Pegasus adorns a beautifully simple 1970 porcelain plate. A small sculpture in which Dalí transforms the Venus de Milo -- a subject he toyed with a number of times in various media -- into a piece of furniture with a set of drawers jutting out of her body sits in a tiny alcove.
Several Picassos allude to the artist's stylistic diversity. The simple lines and geometric forms of Jacqueline display the influence of African tribal art, and a sexually explicit piece represents the large series of erotic prints he produced in a flurry of creative energy in 1968.
Pieces by Miró, Chagall, and Henry Moore are also fairly representative of the artists' output. The playful blocks of bright color familiar from Miró's paintings dance through his prints as well, and Chagall's L'Arbre Fleuri(1977), with a tree seemingly growing out of a man's body, has the same dreamy folktale feel found in many of the Russian's paintings. Moore's Three Reclining Figures transfers the elegant, stylized shapes of the artist's sculptures from three dimensions into two, fixing them on a sort of lattice of pale blue lines.
You can't really fault the gallery for including some of the enfants terribles of contemporary art. Anyone who still takes Mark Kostabi's assembly-line art seriously might be seduced by the untitled 1993 piece here, which features a handful of the artist's trademark featureless, robotic-looking creatures. There's also a typically derivative piece, My Future Rainbow, by current art-world darling Alexandra Nichita, a precocious Romanian-born artist now in her midteens who more or less continually recycles Picasso. (She was the subject of a one-woman show earlier this year at the Coral Springs Museum of Art.)
One of the best things about Minds Eye is the way it throws some refreshing twists into its impressive inventory of high-end prints. That Norman Rockwell piece overshadowed by Warhol's psychedelic Turtle (1985), for instance, turns out to be a real surprise: a portrait of the young Abraham Lincoln that's both a typical Rockwell exercise in mythologizing (young Abe holds an open book in one hand, an ax in the other) and also a strikingly vibrant rendering of masculinity -- the future President as rustic hunk.
Those four Anthony Quinn prints, although competently executed, seem a little self-indulgent (three are self-portraits, one as Zorba the Greek), but the actor's pink alabaster sculpture Love is a graceful study in contours. And a 1975 drawing of sumo wrestlers by Tony Curtis is a model of simplicity, using a few crisp, clean lines to maximum effect.
Just inside the gallery's entrance are a pair of dazzling canvases by Patricia Nix, a contemporary American artist known for her preoccupation with floral compositions. Sunflower Fields is a delirious hodgepodge of floral imagery, while Santa Rosa focuses on a single large white rose. Dramatic smears and dribbles of fiery color dominate both works, providing the intensity of oil painting, although the two are identified as hand-embellished giclées; maybe it's the use of this medium on canvas rather than paper that creates the illusion of oil.
I was also smitten by two large, laser-cut aluminum sculptures by Gene Lutz. The wall-mounted pieces are abstractions featuring layers of big curved shapes and obelisks, and Lutz has treated the metal so that sections of highly polished surface contrast with adjacent dull, grainy-textured sections. The pieces are charged with an energy that seems to make them shimmer in the light.
One mixed-media sculpture is impossible to overlook, partly because it's nearly six feet tall. Kalifornia Kafe (1992), by an artist identified only as Prescott, consists of a 3-D metal cutout of an old-fashioned greasy spoon, surrounded by metal cutouts of surfers, a motorcyclist, hot rodders, and palm trees, all in bright sunny colors, with tubes of neon illuminating the piece from behind.
A final treasure is a sculpture as well, although it's in a medium we hardly associate with sculpture: leather. The Taiwanese artist Chan Liu-Miao has taken a single piece of light-brown leather and fashioned an exquisitely detailed man's head from it. The head and neck flow into an elaborately creased garment, which then spills into an unidentifiable shape anchoring the man.
I have no idea where Minds Eye discovered Chan, but this solitary piece is commanding enough to make me hungry for more of the artist's work in leather, maybe even a one-man show. His work here is a perfect example of what this small but valuable gallery does best: the unexpected.