"Michael Joo"

NOW ON DISPLAY "Michael Joo" -- Stripped of all art-babble the artist likes to surround his art with, Joo's work, though essentially conceptual, often has an amazing visceral impact. That's "visceral" both in terms of the viewer's reaction to it and in terms of the subject matter -- and sometimes even the actual content of the art. In this first American survey of Joo's output, all created within the past decade, humans and animals are at the heart of much of his most powerful pieces. He's among a new breed of artists who combine nature and science in ways that are sometimes disturbing and almost always provocative. In Caribou Taxidermy(2003), for example, a fully preserved caribou hangs from wires, positioned on its side, with three video cameras and corresponding monitors positioned at different points around the animal, so that you can see yourself examining the creature from various vantage points. You can even stick your head inside the gutted carcass, and I'd have to describe the scent not as that of death but as that of life frozen in time. It's not surprising to learn that Joo is linked with the famous (some would say infamous) young British artist Damien Hirst, known for displaying similarly preserved animals in tanks filled with various chemical solutions. Indeed, Joo's caribou and a couple of other pieces are on loan to the exhibition courtesy of Hirst, who gave Joo a big boost when he included him in the 1994 show "Some Went Mad, Some Ran Away" at the Serpentine Gallery in London. (Through June 6 at the Palm Beach Institute of Contemporary Art, 601 Lake Ave., Lake Worth, 561-582-0006.)

"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 Reinhardtian 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 Rosa, Magna Alba... even Eine Kleine Schwarzmusik. At least we know this is definitely not a conceptual exhibit. (Through May 16 at the Leonard Tachmes Gallery, 817 NE 125th St., North Miami, 305-895-1030.)

 
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