Capsule reviews of current area art exhibitions

"Controlled chaos" is the apt term Rosenbaum Gallery curator Elena Brodskaya uses to describe Joan Miro's works on paper and sculpture. Surrealist and Dada influence is evident in the abstracted, ambiguous forms and rainbow hues found in most of Miro's body of work. Two of the most appealing pieces in the show do not reflect the spastic activity of the mature style Miro is known and recognized for but a cool, more subdued mood. Untitled III is a rather sparse collage containing a couple of pages from magazines, one in Spanish, the other in German, as well as an orange O painted over some German text, a scrap or two of colored paper, a few squiggles of crayon, and a loosely sketched star, all coexisting perfectly on a black canvas. It is almost painfully still and has a subtle sophistication that is not necessarily present in his more energetic, kinetic works. The other, Paysage Romantique, is an ethereal pastel and gouache of wide patches of sheer color that allow brushstrokes to be visible and a barely illuminated sliver of blue moon to shine through. It gently hints at nighttime and things of dreams, in contrast to the more obvious and animated automatist allusions of pieces like Personage and Oiseau II (Person and Bird Two), in which biomorphic shapes and scribbles float in simple space. In harmonious balance to the more frantic works of Miro is a small installation of the paintings, drawings, collages, and prints by abstract expressionist Robert Motherwell. His works, dating from 1962 to 1988, offer a quiet yet bold complement to Miro's, with sweeping calligraphic strokes, blots of thick black ink, and cigarette prints. (Through March 7 at Rosenbaum Gallery, 608 Banyan Trl., Boca Raton. Call 561-994-9180.)

Now on Display

By Staff Writers

Burton Gallery sits amid multiplying restaurants that are quickly overtaking Atlantic Avenue in downtown Delray Beach. Right now, in the gallery's large storefront windows, the colorful paintings of William DeBilzan and the bold photography of Mitchell Parnes seem to call to passersby. Parnes' photography of Southeast Asia confronts gallery visitors with a raw look at life in lands that probably few have been fortunate enough to travel to, providing a glimpse into the fascinating cultures of Vietnam, Thailand, and Indonesia. DeBilzan's canvases are saturated with vibrant colors that evoke the Caribbean and provide a pulsating background to his geometric houses, trees, and people. Parnes assembles his own sculptural frames much like Californian DeBilzan. Parnes takes his framework a step or two further by painting some of the pieces of wood to look antiqued, having Taoist poetry inscribed by a local on others, and leaving hinges hanging and nails protruding on the rest. While some photos are sleekly mounted and left unframed, pictures like Man Sleeping on Bench and Cigarette Guy have elaborate frames that reinforce the meaning and significance of the photos. The handwritten sign, sunken face, and expectant stare of Cigarette Guy are further enhanced by a frame that stands like a rickety sign with broken hinges and chipping paint. (Through March 18 at Burton Gallery, 38 E. Atlantic Ave., Delray Beach. Call 561-274-8532.)

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 colleagues' posters provide an allegorical history and exemplify designs that transcended the commercial realm and became works of art. One of the rarest posters featured in the exhibition 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 lines. (Through April 2 at the Boca Raton Museum of Art, 501 Plaza Real, Mizner Park, Boca Raton. Call 561-392-2500.)

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 BC-300 BC) figures were found in eight of every ten Mayan tombs. Another creepy but fascinating object is a ladle, used during the ritual of human sacrifice. It depicts the sacred ulluchu fruit, which was believed to have anticoagulant properties, shaped into a ladle to hold the blood of sacrificial victims. (Through May 28 at the Norton Museum of Art, 1451 S. Olive Ave., West Palm Beach. Call 561-832-5196.)

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