Artbeat

Capsule reviews of current area art exhibitions.

Way off the beaten path in Oakland Park is the Exhibit Space at Chromatek Imaging,a tiny room to the side of the photo lab's service counter. This pleasantly surprising little gallery currently boasts the dramatic photography of artists Suzanne Scherer and Pavel Ouporov, a husband-and-wife collaboration that has received acclaim in the art world for their extraordinary mixed-media works. The artists use a combination of modern and ancient techniques ranging from Polaroid 4-by-5-format photography to hand-mixed egg tempera paints and intricate gold leafing reminiscent of the early Renaissance. Scherer and Ouporov's collective projects are the culmination of intellectual concepts that revolve around historical, fantastical, and personal observations and ideas. They do not create anything without substantial significance and meaning, which allows the work to breathe and gives the viewer an authentic experience. The couple recently began showing the photography that provides the figurative basis for their highly symbolic Byzantium influenced paintings. In their exhibition, "Paradise," Scherer and Ouporov provide a stunning arrangement of photographs that capture the complicated beauty of the root structure of a tree and the romance of a languid female nude sleeping under the expansive canopy of a banyan. "Paradise"'s images of dramatically lit nudes and mysterious landscapes have an ethereal quality that is further enhanced in the few that are gilded in 22-karat gold, making them striking black-and-gold compositions. The gilding used by Scherer and Ouporov emulates the luxurious texture found in the bark of the trees, the softness of the shadows, and the smoothness of the skin. (Through September 30 at Chromatek Imaging, 3400 Powerline Rd., Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-566-1082.)

Now on Display

California native William DeBilzan's mixed-media, abstract expressionist pieces have gained popularity throughout the United States since the early 1990s. His visibility increased dramatically in the 1990s when popular prime-time television shows like Frasier and Just Shoot Me featured his paintings. New River Fine Art is currently displaying its recent acquisitions of DeBilzan's original, colorful works. His paintings of elongated, rectangular figures and brilliant hues are embellished by the appropriation of stenciled text and various found objects, such as corrugated cardboard and mesh. DeBilzan creates his own frames of rough, antique wood, adding a rustic quality to the paintings. Some of the frames still have a hinge or joint from their previous use, further enhancing the folksy appeal of the work. His canvases, saturated with colors that evoke New Orleans or the Caribbean, offer a bold backdrop to lines of highly representational houses, trees, or people. Once Againoffers the viewer a vibrant shade of green painted on canvas layered with mesh and corrugated cardboard that serves as a background to two lovers holding hands with their heads tilted in affection toward each other. The clean whites of their shirts juxtaposed with the primary colors of his pants and her skirt create a sharp contrast to the muted tones of stenciled, spray-painted letters and the numbers of the floor they stand on. DeBilzan's subject matter never seems to reference anything other than the warm comfort and bright joys of daily life. That simplicity is the appeal of William DeBilzan's body of work. (Through November 5 at New River Fine Art, 914 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-524-2100.)

"New Art 2005" at the Museum of Art culls an array of recent and older creations by nine winners of the South Florida Cultural Consortium Fellowship. Not only does the fellowship benefit the artists in terms of exposure and money ($15,000 to each artist, to be exact) but it also lets museum visitors see an unusually focused sampling of contemporary work. The artists explore a range media -- painting, photography, sculptural installation, video, computer art -- but the exhibit is surprisingly consistent. The pieces eloquently marry materials and ideas, eliciting beauty and insight. For one of her installations, Miami's Karen A. Rifas has strung brown leaves on white threads that, arranged like shafts of light, emanate from the walls, floor, and ceiling. As the organic shapes cast shadows against the surrounding walls, the piece simultaneously conveys stillness and energy. It's titled I'm Dancing as Fast as I Can. Hollywood's Thomas Nolan constructs a city of towers and skyscrapers out of hundreds of unused staples and screws, mounted on top of the base of a swivel chair. Called Newerness, its tiny objects evoke a miniature cityscape, a fantastic juxtaposition of simplicity and complexity. Not for the queasy, filmmaker Lisandro Pérez-Rey is represented by several short videos, one of which shows a scientist dissecting an animal. But by capturing ordinary routines and interactions and splicing them with their subject's thoughts on life and love, Pérez-Rey also offers touching vignettes. Call them portraits for the 21st Century. (Through November 6 at Museum of Art, 1 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-525-5500.)

Because Broward County's architectural gems are spread around -- unlike Miami's famous Art Deco neighborhoods, where they tend to show up in clusters -- visitors rarely get a sense of the scope of Broward's mid-century modern designs. "Going, Going, Gone? Mid-Century Modern Architecture in South Florida," now at the Museum of Art, seeks to rectify this situation, albeit in the two-dimensional medium of photography. Broward's best are at least the equal of those in Miami. On one wall of the museum, 27 photographs by Robin Hill offer dramatic glimpses of buildings, hotels, and inns that appear both retro and New Age. Shot from close and unusual angles, the energy-packed images are gripping. The icing on the cake is a 16-foot "Gold Coast" sign salvaged from the roof of the 1949 beachfront hotel of the same name. Its turquoise metal lettering with gold trim matches the hyper-bright colors in Hill's pictures. Also in the exhibit are Hill's 16 photographs of Miami-Dade County landmarks including the Fontainebleau Hotel and Giller Building. The structures' carefree colors and swirling arches recall a time of childlike exuberance. Fort Lauderdale's Hyatt Regency Pier 66, with its glass-enclosed lounge topped with a crown of lit columns, seems ideal for a visit from The Jetsons. The Jolly Roger and Yankee Clipper look more like blown-up toys than buildings, remnants of an era whose motto was "Because We Can" instead of "The Bottom Line." Then visitors can leave the museum and go see almost all of the structures for themselves. (Through November 6 at the Museum of Art, Museum of Art, One E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-525-5500)

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