Art Beat

 "Love & Slavery in Miami" -- Willie Keddell is an artist who tills the fields of perception. The urban furrows of marginality are his seedbed of imagination. His work's soulful aesthetic is abundant with concrete decay, the graffiti of untrod spaces, and the plaintive lament of the dispossessed. With assistance from a crew of "at risk" teenage apprentices from the Troy Community Academy, Keddell has brought an artist's sensibility to the tangled history of two Miami landmarks -- the William English plantation/slave house Fort Dallas and the Wagner homestead, now located in Lummus Park by the Miami River. "Love & Slavery in Miami" is a project exhibiting historical documentation and photography of the landmarks' pasts, as well as a performance piece based on the lives of the Wagner family. (Ongoing. Tours 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Thursday; Saturdays by appointment. Lummus Park, 404 NW Second St., Miami, 305-638-7008.)

"New Paintings" -- Using photography, magazines, and other source materials, painters have long employed overhead projectors to trace imagery onto canvas or paper for hyper-real impact. And although the images selected for this exhibition of Pedro Ruiz's work lack a unifying theme, their saving grace may be his attention to the application of paint and the brushwork, both of which he executes with skill. In the project room, Sarah Beddington's Goldspin, three looped videos transferred to DVD, isolate traces of common daily life in what appear to be restaurant and hotel settings. She treats the viewer to a meditative experience one might describe as yoga for the eyes. Curator Carolina Wonder's decision to drown out the sound in one of these videos works to heighten this effect. (Through May 8. Casas Riegner Gallery, 25 NE 39th St., Miami, 305-573-8242.)

"Paintscapes" -- Black-and-white paintings are not easy to handle, conceptually speaking. The quandary is that after Ad Reinhardt's manifesto, 12 Technical Rules, monochromaticism must entertain a concept; that is to say: "No trace of a brush stroke... no form... no design, no space, no spatiality, no proportion and no size, no movement, no object, no subject... no representation or sign." Norman Liebman's "Paintscapes," a show of black-and-white paintings, violates the Reinhardtean credo in at least five points. He goes really heavy with matter buildup, the works resembling black-and-white topographic maps of glossy oil primer on canvas. Liebman also evokes a hodgepodge of themes: Valhalla... Tabula Rasa, Magna Alba... even Eine Kleine Schwarzmusik. At least we know this is definitely not a conceptual exhibit. (Through May 16. Leonard Tachmes Gallery, 817 NE 125th St., North Miami, 305-895-1030.)

"Ravage" -- Jon Davis' photo-montage light boxes reflect traditional elements of dada, but where the disparate meshed with wit and humor in the hands of a Man Ray, here they veer toward the meat-fisted. Working from photos found in a discarded box, Davis enlarges snapshots from an anonymous family's history, appearing to date from early last century, then overlaps them with transparencies of 1950s Irwin Klaw nudes, attaining a result more prurient than decadent. In Portrait of Those Beautiful Ladies, Davis cuts out the crotch of Grandma's dress and replaces it with a beaver shot, going on to give her relatives and friends a makeover as well. Looking at this body of work, which is flawlessly crafted, one almost comes away with a sense of good old Granny warning that although sex may sell in some cases, it might also come across in others as conceptually flaccid. (Through April 24. Damien B. Contemporary Art Center, 282 NW 36th St., Miami, 305-573-4949.)

"White Curtain: Inside Movement" -- Located in Wynwood and opened last October, Art Vitam impresses as one of those spaces that have mushroomed up from the compost of Art Basel, replete with a gallery attendant as enthusiastic as a perfume-counter sales clerk. Its current offering combines the work of two French artists, BRisquénRisquédicte Blanc-Fontenille and FrRisquédRisquéric Lemoine, for a mixed-media clinic on movement. The effect is dizzying. Blanc-Fontenille's installation, spilling over with copious paintings and plaster sculptures celebrating human movement, is anchored by two undulating white-fabric sheets painted over with dancing figures and brought to motion by floor fans. In stark contrast, Lemoine's silk paper and slate mobiles, hanging like bug cocoons from twigs jutting from gallery walls, appear lifeless in static air. (Through April 24. Art Vitam, 3452 N. Miami Ave., Miami, 305-571-8342.)

"A View from the Bahamas: Watercolors by Stephen Scott Young" -- Young American artist Stephen Scott Young was born in Macon, Georgia, in 1958 and grew up in St. Augustine, Florida. His subject matter? Life in the Bahamas. Go figure. These are not your parents' watercolors, however -- no pale florals or still lifes, no pastoral landscapes (although Young's bio says he has worked with such material in the past). Young's technique is to overlay as many as 35 washes of pigment in a given work, and the effect often verges on photorealism, not something we usually associate with watercolor. Most of Young's Bahamas paintings are portraits of solitary figures, usually black girls or women, looking directly, often sullenly, at the artist (and hence at us). Despite his skill, Young can't disguise the sameness of so many of these pieces. (Through May 10 at the Museum of Art, One E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, 954-525-5500.)

 
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