If you visit Artists' Haven, a tiny gallery that opened in a Fort Lauderdale strip mall in December, go directly to the sculptures of Miles Laventhal, whose work handily outshines what surrounds it. And to judge from the handful of pieces on display when Artbeat stopped by, Laventhal isn't afraid of experimentation. For a couple of wall-mounted pieces, for instance, he combines acrylics on paper with resins and pieces of aged steel, to dramatic effect. The two-part Courtship Flight consists of cloud-like forms painted with a palette ranging from dark browns to pale blues, while Tectonic View uses a larger panel of metal and more angular shapes to suggest a portion of the Earth's crust. Laventhal isn't as impressive with works featuring thin pieces of brushed stainless steel perched atop black light boxes, but he strikes gold with a simple, freestanding sculpture called Fred and Ginger, which summons up the great dancers with nothing more than some mimosa branches wrapped in linen. The gallery's other standout is Beaujedar Tudzarov, who's represented by a few abstract sculptures in copper and some computer-generated giclées that use wine bottles and glasses and chess sets to mess with the viewer's sense of scale. The rest of Artists' Haven is cluttered with borderline work. Co-owner Donna Zoley creates small, meticulous oils modeled after paintings by other artists such as van Gogh, Georgia O'Keeffe, and Highwayman A.E. Backus, but to what end? (Tellingly, her best piece is an original image.) Fellow owner Barbara Seigel fares a bit better with her oil landscapes, and a couple of acrylics by Barbara Copanos have a feel for light abstraction. Steer clear of the acrylic paintings and clay sculptures of Heidi Kramer, however, whose cloyingly cutesy images of cats and dogs might send you fleeing from the gallery before you have a chance to explore its subtler works. (Artists' Haven, 2757 E. Oakland Park Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, 954-630-2655.)
Although only three dozen or so pieces make up "Louise Nevelson: Selections from the Farnsworth Art Museum," this relatively lean exhibition is an excellent overview of the great Russian-born American sculptor's career. There are a few examples of the boxy (in a good way) wood assemblages that made Nevelson famous in her later years -- she died in 1988, at age 89 -- but there's a fascinating selection of works charting the evolution of her unmistakable style, including surprising oils from the 1920s and '30s and transitional sculptures in bronze, terra cotta, and stone from the '40s and '50s. The show could use more from her final decades, but as historical documentation, it's a smashing success. (Through February 13 at the Art and Culture Center of Hollywood, 1650 Harrison St., Hollywood, 954-921-3274.)
"Seeing the Light: A Retrospective, the Photography of Clyde Butcher."
Louise Nevelson: Selections from the Farnsworth Art Museum.
Diana, A Celebration is even more lacking in actual art than 2003's Vatican show. We get battered childhood toys, a few dozen of Diana's steppin'-out gowns, photographs of the Spencer family estate, a looped tape of Elton John singing "A Candle in the Wind," a very valuable-looking tiara (the impression of value reinforced by the presence of two edgy guards hovering next to it), and the Wedding Dress. Ah, the Dress. It's big, all right. There are 25 yards of silk taffeta in it, 100 yards of tulle crinoline, and 150 yards of veil netting, and it's mounted on a faceless mannequin in a 30-foot-long glass case; every inch of its 25-foot train is on full display. But somehow it doesn't live up to the hype. Those blousy sleeves, the beaded bodice, the lacy collar, the little bows, the embroidered hemline -- they all add up to one clunker of a gown. This was before Diana discovered herself as a public figure, of course, and you're left with the impression that the royal matriarchs, Queen E. and the Queen Mum, had her tightly in their clutches. The dress must have been suffocating to wear. Pictures of Diana in it somehow bring back a long-forgotten impulse to rescue her -- to leap into that vast froth of fabric and drag her coughing and gasping back to shore -- and the show prompts a similar impulse. Can we drag the real Diana out of there? (Extended through February 6 at the Museum of Art, 1 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, 954-525-5500.)