Artbeat

Capsule reviews of current area art exhibitions.

"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 of 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 which, 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, One 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." Afterwards, visitors can leave the museum and see almost all of the structures for themselves. (Through November 6 at the Museum of Art, One E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-525-5500)

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 clothes horses 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 timelines 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, even the most cursory reviews of American fashion would be impossible without her. Also, 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)

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