Artbeat

Capsule reviews of current area art exhibitions.

Imagine the best vintage clothing store on the planet, filled with the top gets on any thrift store connoisseur's list -- Pucci, Chanel and Blass. At the Museum of Lifestyle and Fashion History in Delray Beach, you can't buy or touch any of the many outfits currently on display from the permanent collection. While vintage clotheshorses might experience a painful envy, the museum's mix of cool clothes from the late 19th century to the mod '60s is a great attraction. Accompanying the clothes are several time lines and essays that fit fashion into its historical context. Who knew (or knew they wanted to know), that the right to wear the color red sparked a 16th century peasant revolt in Germany? Or that Nancy Reagan's fondness for the color coined a new shade -- Reagan Red? (Eeeew. Yuck.) Or that World War II sparked a move towards casual clothes for men, and the ultra-feminine "New Look" for women as a reaction to war-time severity? There is an almost too-obvious tribute to the fashions of Jackie Kennedy Onassis, though it would be nearly impossible to have even the most cursory reviews of American fashion without her. In the '50s section, there's an unfortunate choice of kitsch over clothes, with a full-skirted, June Cleaver-esque dress displayed alongside a kitchen set. A small exhibit in the corner does the most to bring the show's point down like a hammer -- a display of what tragedy does to fashion. In two small glass cases are purses inspired by 9-11, one by Charleston, South Carolina, artist Mary Norton titled "After the Tragedy," and one bedazzled in the ubiquitous red, white and blue that emerged right after the attacks. It's good stuff, and did we mention the Pucci shift dresses? (Through the summer at the Museum of Lifestyle and Fashion History, 322 NE 2nd Avenue, Delray Beach. Call 561-243-2662)

Magdalena Abakanowicz's 95 Figures stand in diagonal rows, like bronze sentinels on the second floor of the Museum of Art in Fort Lauderdale. The human-sized sculptures provoke a heavy sense of foreboding. Some take a step, others are static; they're all headless and armless. The work is easy to appreciate for its largeness, the precision of the figures' placement and its ability to draw a visceral reaction. The urge to climb in and stand among the figures, to be amidst the crowd and absorb the mob's purpose, is almost irresistible. At the same time, the work provides no pleasure or enjoyment. There are five other pieces displayed with the figures. One at the end of the hall leading to the exhibit, The Second Never Seen Figure on Beam with Wheels, is looming and unique, a perfect counterpoint to the crowd. (Through October 30, at the Museum of Art, Fort Lauderdale, One E. Las Olas Blvd. Call 954-525-5500.)

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