Capsule reviews of current area art exhibitions.

Confetti, an 1893 lithograph by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, advertised the advent of the practical paper version of confetti. The previously plaster substance had caused injuries among partiers, and the new, less dangerous kind was promoted with Lautrec's poster of a smiling, carefree woman having handfuls of confetti tossed at her painlessly. "Toulouse-Lautrec and His Poster Contemporaries: Art Takes to the Street," now on display at the Boca Raton Museum of Art, takes the viewer on a journey through the 1890s and the merging of commercial and fine art. Toulouse-Lautrec is the first known artist whose career emerged from the world of advertising; he framed and exhibited his posters like paintings. Promoting everything from opera and world's fairs to absinthe and chocolate, Lautrec's and his colleague's posters provide an allegorical history and exemplify designs that transcended the commercial realm and became works of art. One of the rarest posters is from a series of five created by Jules Chéret in 1900 for the Palais de Glace, the famous ice-skating rink at the Champs-Elysées. Chéret used color in a revolutionary and inexpensive way that brought the production of these posters to an entirely new level. Toulouse-Lautrec and his contemporaries transformed French lithography during the turn of the century with their experimental and bold use of color and line. The influence of Japanese printmaking is apparent in many of the posters, including the simplistic May Belfort lithograph by Toulouse-Lautrec that juxtaposes geometric blocks of red and negative space and the highly stylized patterns and flowing lines of the art nouveau works by Mucha and Steinlen (known for the now-trendy Chat Noir poster). (Through April 2 at the Boca Raton Museum of Art, 501 Plaza Real, Mizner Park, Boca Raton. Call 561-392-2500.)

Now on Display

By Staff Writers

The small collection of pre-Columbian and ancient Mexican ceramics and sculptures currently on display at the Norton Museum of Art is aesthetically magnificent and historically significant. "Earthen Images: Ceramics from Ancient America" features 17 objects from six South American civilizations that flourished thousands of years before the discovery of the Americas. Three highly ornamentalized cylindrical vases sit together in a glass case, reflecting skeletal figures and organic designs in natural, subtle hues of orange, red, and cream. A sleek "Coprador"-style Maya funerary sculpture of a dog holding an ear of corn in its mouth casts an unsettling gaze at its audience. Even more disturbing is the fact that these iconographic dogs from Colima were actual hairless creatures bred as ceremonial food and companions for the afterlife. The late Pre-Classic (100 to 300 BC) figures were found in eight of every ten Maya tombs. (Through May 28 at the Norton Museum of Art, 1451 S. Olive Ave., West Palm Beach. Call 561-832-5196)

 
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