Artbeat

Capsule reviews of current area art exhibitions.

The creatures in "Anne Chu," at the Museum of Contemporary Art, are simultaneously alien and familiar, fascinating and repellent. Chu, who was born in New York in 1959 to Chinese émigré parents, freely fuses past and present with her work. There are clear-as-a-bell echoes of Chinese funerary figures, medieval European sculptures, and marionettes, and yet Chu's creations are unmistakably contemporary. The exhibition features roughly three dozen sculptures and about 20 watercolors. Curator Bonnie Clearwater has given them great expanses of space -- the entire museum, in fact -- so the works have plenty of breathing room. Two relatively small pieces even have the whole Pavilion Gallery, which is separate from the rest of the museum, to themselves. The strategic use of space is especially striking in the two installations in the Pavilion Gallery. For House with Bamboo Trees and Court Lady (1999), Chu combines an ornate ceramic figure four to five feet tall with a small bronze house on the floor about two feet away. It's a jarring juxtaposition, until you take into consideration that the artist is intentionally toying with our spatial perceptions. There's a similar yin-yang dynamic in play among many of Chu's other pieces in the main MOCA galleries. The Bear (2002) is a surprisingly evocative sculpture that touches on a great many aspects of the complicated relationship between human beings and bears. Chu continues her explorations of duality in other works and other media. (Through July 3 at Museum of Contemporary Art, Joan Lehman Bldg., 770 NE 125th St., North Miami.)

"At This Time, 10 Miami Artists": Donald and Mera Rubell's newly refurbished warehouse and legendary art holdings make the Rubell Family Collection one of America's best privately owned contemporary venues. Its current exhibit suggests Miami artists are internationally respected. Curator Mark Coetzee created a dynamic interaction among the pieces by not hanging each artist's works separately, thereby allowing viewers to move from the awe-inspiring -- José Bedia's raft installation -- to the bizarre -- Cooper's cryptic and angst-ridden Our American Cousin assemblage. Naomi Fisher offers some of her color-saturated and visually enticing Assy Flora series, while Jiae Hwang showcases I'm the Real Princess of the Magical Land, a witty and delicate collection of pencil drawings. Miami and its art scene are relatively young, and with an eye on the future, one easily understands why shows like this are needed: They bring to light historic points of reference for tomorrow's artists and historians. (Through October 30 at the Rubell Family Collection, 95 NW 29th St., Miami. Call 305-573-6090.)

If Artbeat were handing out an award for Unsung Exhibition of the Season, it would surely go to "Painters of Cap Hatien: Haiti's First 200 Years," now at the African-American Research Library and Cultural Center in Fort Lauderdale. This magnificent collection of more than 80 oil and acrylic paintings is nearing the end of its criminally short run, so don't drag your heels. If it has somehow escaped your attention that art is Haiti's greatest export, you're in for a real treat. Even if you're familiar with the output of the artistically fertile island, you'll probably be surprised at the richness of this show, which includes the work of nearly two dozen artists who share a connection to the northern city of Cap Haÿtien (also known as Cap-Haitien) and such neighboring towns as Milot. A couple of artists from the city's highly influential Obin family are included, along with such established artists as Jean-Baptiste Jean, who was just 49 when he died in 2002. But there's also an abundance of lesser-known artists represented, many of them still in their 30s and 40s (one talented newcomer, Henry Nickson, is still in his early 20s). The standout is the prolific Bertelus Myrbel, whose large canvases typically overflow with exuberant activity. The paintings are thematically grouped into eight sections -- history, celebrations, daily life, Haiti's problems, spiritual life, hope for the future, beloved Haiti, and Cap Haÿtien, Sister City -- but the exhibition feels only minimally organized and curated, which is its one glaring fault. Even so, the show is a wonderfully diverse rebuke to those who still wrongfully stereotype Haitian art as limited. Even those of us who thought we had Cap Haÿtien art pegged as primarily scenes of urban street life can see that there's much more to it than that. (Through June 24 at the African-American Research Library and Cultural Center, 2650 Sistrunk Blvd., Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-625-2800.)

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