Just Like the Rest of Us

"Hispanic heritage" is hard to find at ArtServe and Gallery Six By Michael Mills

As in the "Raíces Encontradas" show, most of the artists reference their heritage only glancingly. And again, the art varies widely in quality. Two Argentine artists who apparently collaborate under the moniker Big Design contribute a huge, ghastly acrylic called Turbulent Sky that's a heavy-handed image of the World Trade Center towers enveloped in smoke. Some flat-out awful paintings seem set in some garish environment that's equal parts disco and New Age, and a pair of large still lifes of fruit render their subject matter amazingly unappetizing. But then there's also the satisfying work of Lilly Elasmar, a Colombian whose delicate touch gives her big pastels of bell peppers an immediacy that's a bracing antidote to those washed-out strawberries and pears.

Guatemalan artist Armando Chacón is one of the few who forge notable links to their pasts. Two of his three oils are earthy translations of his family name and his wife's name into Mayan hieroglyphs. Patricia Maggie of Peru alludes to her homeland with The Andes, a serene oil painting of a woman sitting on a pier and staring across a lake at mountains in the distance. I'm not quite sure what to make of a trio of big, mixed-media works by Colombian Hugo Bautista-Sandoval, who seems to be heir to Salvador Dalí by way of Magic Realism. All three pieces feature empty white "robes" collaged onto the canvas, along with dense, jarring imagery that looks like something torn from someone's dreams. However ambiguous their content, these pieces at least strive to piece together a narrative.

Works by Hugo Bautista-Sandoval and at ArtServe
Colby Katz
Works by Hugo Bautista-Sandoval and at ArtServe
Works by Francisco Shevat at ArtServe
Works by Francisco Shevat at ArtServe
Through October 8 at ArtServe, 1350 E. Sunrise Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, 954-462-9191; through October 16 at Gallery Six, Broward County Main Library, Sixth Floor, 100 S. Andrews Ave., Fort Lauderdale, 954-357-7444.

What makes these two shows so unsatisfying, ultimately, is that their adherence to the idea of Hispanic heritage is at best tenuous. Take away that misleading theme and you're left with a lot of art that's as varied as that in the average group exhibition. As I complained about that Gay Pride Month show at the library last year, "Celebration of Hispanic Heritage" and "Raíces Encontradas" seem to want it all: to have the artists' work judged on its own merits, aside from any ethnic identification, even as the work is included because of such a link. That hardly does justice either to the individual artists or to whatever group identity they may claim.

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