Artbeat

Capsule reviews of current area art exhibitions.

If you've ever wondered what an artist of only modest talent does to express himself, look no further than "Pop-ups, Illustrated Books, and Graphic Designs of Czech Artist and Paper Engineer, Vojtch Kubasta (1914-1992),"which is nearing the end of its run at the Bienes Center for the Literary Arts at the Broward County Main Library. As the show's posted introduction informs us, Kubasta lived and worked in Prague at the height of the cold war, although his lifelong political neutrality allowed him to create freely -- as well as prolifically. His estimated output includes 300 or so books, along with work in a variety of other media. This exhibition features 150 items either created or designed by Kubasta, assembled from public and private collections all over the world. A few real oddities are included: a portrait in porcelain of his dour-looking sister, whose collection is the source of much of the show; a petite pewter cup illustrated with a monkey carrying a jug of wine, one of six he designed for a college classmate's parents' anniversary; a Prague street scene etched in gilded copper on a printing plate. The pop-up books, which are grouped by theme, look charmingly quaint compared with the much more sophisticated pop-ups produced these days. Kubasta also dabbled in finer arts, although to judge from the samples on display here, he was better-suited to design. There are a couple of floral watercolors, a tiny oil of a seamstress (thought to be the artist's mother) sitting in a window, and a watercolor of a country house at night that would be more at home on the front of a greeting card, another Kubasta specialty. Only a watercolor self-portrait, painted when he was a handsome if somber-looking 21-year-old, is of more than passing interest. (Through April 30 at the Bienes Center for the Literary Arts, Sixth Floor, Broward County Main Library, 100 S. Andrews Ave., Fort Lauderdale, 954-357-8692.)

Now on Display

"Joan Miró: Illustrated Books," now at the Art and Culture Center of Hollywood, is a small but well-conceived exhibition focusing exclusively on the "artist's books" of one of the great Spanish surrealists. There are selections from ten such projects, which give equal weight to words and images. The words are from writers as varied as St. Francis of Assisi and William Butler Yeats, although most are from French poets Mir was exposed to while living and working in Paris. Many of the illustrations are quintessential Mir: basic forms with sharp, clean lines, painted in deep blacks and bright colors. If his style is essentially childlike doodling, as some skeptics have declared, it's childlike doodling of a very high order. The simplicity of his forms and his lack of interest in detail and depth of field mask a surprising expressiveness. (Through April 24 at the Art and Culture Center of Hollywood, 1650 Harrison St., Hollywood. Call 954-921-3274.)

To her fans, Michelle Newman's exhibit at the Cornell Museum in Delray Beach's Old School Square is a dream come true. For the rest of us, her collection of hand-decorated textiles and garments is merely an inspired mix of colors and clothes that have been hand-dyed, woven, silk-screened, and painted on. That's a good thing. Newman, a Miami Beach native, has appeared on every DIY-driven channel, including TNN, HGTV, and the Discovery Channel. There's a fine line between a flattering imitator and a copycat, a line that Newman sometimes walks but never actually crosses. In a work labeled Peter S. Melusy, she has taken a piece of cork, silk-screened a photo onto it, cut it in strips, and woven it with yarn to create a work of art. It is unusual, rough, and, because it's so quixotic, definitely worth a look. In the same room are three beautifully complex pieces inspired by Ballet Russes that are red, rich, and luxurious. Newman completes each one in several steps, from screening to batik-style dyeing to painting. Several of the pieces include how-tos. The exhibit, for all its brilliance, ends up being colorful, pretty, and funky. (Through May 21 at Old School Square's Cornell Museum of Art and History, 51 N. Swinton Ave., Delray Beach. Call 561-243-7922.)

 
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