Now on Display

 "Birdspace: A Post-Audubon Artists Aviary" -- A richly satisfying exhibition assembled by the Contemporary Arts Center in New Orleans that surveys 50 artists' takes on birds. Most of the artists are Americans born in the 1950s and 1960s; a few of them maintain direct aesthetic ties to the great John James Audubon, whose multivolume The Birds of America is one of the touchstones of bird-based art. Some combine Audubon's attention to detail with his cool detachment; others put a sociopolitical spin on Audubon-style imagery; and still others use birds as an impetus for the creation of highly original, often moving works in a variety of media, from paintings, drawings, and sculptures to installations. Among the artists represented are Ross Bleckner, Enrique Martnez Celaya, and Kiki Smith. One of the strongest, strangest shows of the year so far. (Through August 15 at the Norton Museum of Art, 1451 S. Olive Ave., West Palm Beach, 561-832-5196.)

"Othoniel: Crystal Palace" -- Despite a name shimmering with possibilities, this exhibition of 30 or so glass-based pieces by the celebrated young French artist Jean-Michel Othoniel is a mixed bag. It's essentially a museum-size installation that takes up almost all of North Miami's Museum of Contemporary Art, and it has been put together with such attention to detail that it's easy to be tricked into believing the emperor is fully clothed. But most of Othoniel's work looks better from afar than it does up close, and there's a garishness to it that prompted a fellow artist to liken it to Christmas décor with artistic pretensions. Ultimately, the show is notable more for the ingenuity of its installation than for its content. (Through August 31 at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Joan Lehman Bldg., 770 NE 125th St., North Miami, 305-893-6211.)

"Highwaymen" -- The famed group of 26 African-American artists' subject matter consists solely of old-Florida landscapes -- mainly swamplands and beaches -- with seldom a human figure to be found in the nearly 200-piece exhibit. While formally trained painters normally draw up rough sketches before committing to paint, these guys often painted entirely from memory, with a little imagination thrown in to fill in the cognitive gaps. However, you'd be hard-pressed to tell that the scenes are largely fictional. Painter Roy McLendon's attention to detail and deep understanding of Florida's natural scenery make you think you're right there looking at it -- or at least that McLendon was. The remainder of the exhibit -- which includes works by Sam Newton, Ellis Buckner, Johnny Daniels, James Gibson, and others -- is more of the same. Some are more precisely painted than others, with hints of impressionism in the brush strokes and occasional Baroque highlights shimmering in the trees. Taken as a whole, the exhibit is a nostalgic glimpse at our Land of Flowers that can never be recaptured. (Through July 31 at Art Link International, 809 Lucerne Ave., Lake Worth. Call 561-493-1162.)

 
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