Artbeat

Capsule reviews of current area art exhibitions.

If you think furniture can't or shouldn't be thought of as art, a visit to E Coleccion might persuade you to reconsider. This latest addition to the southernmost reaches of Wilton Drive in Wilton Manors features nothing but handmade (hence one-of-a-kind) imports, and some of what you'll find there is breathtaking. Enrique Blanco, who opened the store in mid-July with brother Roberto, even identifies himself on a brochure as "Owner/Curator." That's understandable when you see a wooden coat rack, casually draped with a scarf, that's a study in graceful curves and soaring forms, more sculptural than decorative. (An ordinary valet rack is similarly ambiguous.) Much of the furniture is straightforward and utilitarian, although that doesn't keep it from being aesthetically pleasing. Blanco is drawn to clean, simple lines, but he avoids the chilliness of much post-modern design by emphasizing natural ingredients. There's lots of wood (much of it faintly fragrant), and when metal is used, it's used sparingly and tends to be dark with age instead of sleek and shiny. Most of what the brothers bring in is from Central America, and among their most seductive items are the ones made with used railroad spikes from Mexico, which prove surprisingly versatile when pressed into service for coffee tables, lamps, plant stands, wine racks, and magazine bins. The constantly changing collection also includes earthy clay vessels, hand-painted pillows, organic cotton linens, and papier-mâché apples that look temptingly real. A table in back bears a reproduction of one of Frida Kahlo's self-portraits, and there are sculptural wall hangings that make appealing use of basic geometric forms in wood and metal -- they're like harmonious extensions of the furniture. Other hangings, from a company called Papiro that gets its goods from South American artisans, come closer to fine art. They combine tree bark fibers with geometric shapes and gridlike patterns to create wall art that's highly sensuous but unobtrusive. (E Coleccion is at 2033 Wilton Dr., Wilton Manors, 954-567-4600.)

Now on Display

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 unique combination of modern and ancient techniques ranging from Polaroid 4 x 5-format photography to hand-mixed egg tempera paints and intricate gold leafing reminiscent of the early Renaissance. Scherer and Ouporov's collective projects, past and present, 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 Road, Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-566-1082)

California native William DeBilzan's mixed media, abstract expressionist pieces have gained popularity throughout the United States since the early 1990's. His visibility increased dramatically in the 1990's when popular prime-time television shows like Frasier and Just Shoot Me featured his paintings. New River Fine Art is currently displaying their 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 East Las Olas Boulevard, Fort Lauderdale. Call 954.524.2100)

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