Coral Springs Potpourri

A modern cubist, a furniture embellisher, and two chicks named Grace -- lassoed together

Necessity, so it goes, is the mother of invention. In the case of the Coral Springs Museum of Art, the need is to fill about 8,000 square feet of display space on a regular basis. Amazingly, director Barbara K. O'Keefe does it and does it well, continuing to work with limited resources (a minuscule budget, a staff consisting mostly of part-timers and volunteers) and within the confines of city government.

Visit at pretty much any given time and you'll see the results of O'Keefe's inventiveness. Right now, for instance, the museum is host to four solo exhibitions: "Yuroz's Narrative Culture of Cubism," "Felipe R. Luque: Arte Decorativo," "Grace Dubow: Simply Grace!",and "Grace Fishenfeld: Moving Along Through Media and Idea."The big center gallery is also temporarily home to a separate Yuroz work, the massive painting installation United Nations' Human Rights Mural 2004.

Off to one side of that main gallery, the museum's current artist in residence, Barbara W. Watler, is also at work. (Let's just say, for the moment, that a sewing machine and fingerprints are involved.) Adjacent to Watler's makeshift workspace are the beginnings of a new art library, featuring books donated by patrons and custom-made bookshelves. And in the formerly open space on the other side of the center gallery, behind the Yuroz mural, there's now a little seating area furnished with functional art by W.F. Withers, whose fluid designs for a trio of chairs and a table beautifully mesh with the museum's overall look and feel.

From Yuroz' Human Rights Mural: Using multiple points of view simultaneously
From Yuroz' Human Rights Mural: Using multiple points of view simultaneously

As for the exhibitions, while they're all respectable -- O'Keefe rarely curates a clinker -- they also vary in quality. Yuroz, born Yuri Gevorgian in 1956 in the Soviet (at the time) Republic of Armenia, is the headliner here. His "Narrative Culture of Cubism," originally scheduled to end in November but now extended through mid-February, consists of nearly 30 works, most of them fairly large oil paintings on canvas or board, supplemented by a few charcoal drawings.

Yuroz, as the show's title indicates, specializes in cubism, making him something of an oddity in contemporary art. He hasn't, as might be expected, imposed any radical reinterpretation on the once-revolutionary technique of using multiple points of view simultaneously. Rather, he has adapted the classic cubism of Picasso, Georges Braque, and Juan Gris to his own ends.

At first glance, some of Yuroz's paintings could almost be mistaken for the work of such early-20th-century cubist pioneers. The carefully controlled palette, the emphasis on geometric shapes, even the subject matter -- all the basic elements are there. Again and again, Yuroz returns to the same visual ingredients: men holding or playing guitars, women, wineglasses, flowers, fruit.

And the subjects are almost always couples. There's one threesome (two men and a woman) included in the show, and a few paintings feature solo men or women, although the women, in particular, tend to look forlorn or at least bored without male companionship. Then again, all of Yuroz's characters have more or less the same blank look. Almost anything could be read into this lack of affect. In at least one piece, Evening Light, a woman's pose and demeanor suggest that she's a prostitute waiting for a customer -- naked except for a pair of bright-red heels, she sits alone with a glass of wine at a small table, legs crossed, one arm propped on the table with the hand cupping her chin, a cigarette dangling from the other hand, an impossibly world-weary look on her face.

It's tempting to speculate that women, who are almost always nude in Yuroz's pictures, are little more than props for the artist, except that his men aren't much more animated. In the exhibition's handout, Matthew Lutt writes: "In the art of Yuroz, lovers embrace each other with such passionate intimacy that it is hard to tell where one ends and the other begins. They offer roses, exchange fruit, or dance in celebration of their togetherness."

This sounds exciting, but the paintings don't exactly bear it out. The couples indeed seem to melt together, although their closeness seems more a function of the cubist style than any physical intimacy or emotional connection. (Occasionally they even resemble conjoined twins.) Those blue roses and pomegranates Lutt refers to, like the ubiquitous guitars and glasses of wine, are there to lend variety to the compositions. Cubism's tendency to freeze its subjects is probably why its inventors favored the still life and may be why a Yuroz painting such as Still Life with Blue Roses by Window is, paradoxically, more alive than his portraits of people.

A huge exception -- literally -- is the United Nations' Human Rights Mural 2004, which, despite the generic title, is full of vibrant life. It consists of six big canvases of overlapping imagery, crammed with people engaged in all sorts of activities. Individually, the components were the artwork for stamps issued in the United States, France, and Austria; together, they form a dramatic narrative of the worldwide struggle for human rights.

Surrounding the mural and stretching beyond the center of the main gallery are a dozen and a half pieces of furniture by Felipe R. Luque. The native Spaniard, who settled in Boca Raton after living in New York, works with wood, iron, and glass, accented with marble, granite, and quartz, all of which he transforms into tables and consoles of varying dimensions and shapes (and, in one dazzling piece, into a tiny bench that serves as a base for a long, narrow, smoky mirror framed by pieces of wood that look like tree branches).

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