Jest in Show

Jurors in a pair of ambitious group shows went for the fluff, bypassed the substance.

There are no sprawling installations of the sort that generated controversy in the latter Hortts before BAG entered the picture. To the contrary, juror Tom McPherson, director of Alabama's Mobile Museum of Art, seems to have been cautious to a fault in making his selections. He may have thought it daring to declare Dwayne Black's big acrylic Abu Ghraib the Best in Category for Painting, but the piece is too literal and heavy-handed. Daniel Garcia's mixed-media El Corazon Grande offers a much more provocative image of contemporary angst.

Another painting that forgoes the obvious for ambiguity and mystery is the acrylic Dark Pleasure by Alfred Phillips. Like the artist's People's Choice winner at "United and Proud," it's a realistic treatment of a seemingly ordinary subject, in this case a rattan chair with pillow against a backdrop of indoor plants. And a smoldering cigarette in a glass ashtray is enough to generate a hint of narrative — someone has just departed this scene, leaving no other clue about his or her identity. In a nice touch, the smoke curling up from the cigarette echoes the shape of some of the foliage in the background.

There's plenty of warmed-over abstraction in the show, as well as lots of mostly mundane photography and a smattering of uneven work in other media. But McPherson's pick for Best in Show, Kenneth Moylan's appropriately titled What Went Wrong, is an out-and-out bad joke — a composite of eight one-foot-square canvases with crudely painted images and phrases that add up to... not much of anything.

Phillips' Dark Pleasure: A disorienting experience, all in all
Colby Katz
Phillips' Dark Pleasure: A disorienting experience, all in all
Dezmain's KSS3
Dezmain's KSS3


"Hortt 45" is on display through July 5 at the JM Family Enterprise Gallery, ArtServe, 1350 E. Sunrise Blvd., Fort Lauderdale.
"United and Proud" is on display through June 29 at Gallery Six, Broward County Main Library, 100 S. Andrews Ave., Sixth Floor, Fort Lauderdale.

The gag falls especially flat when you consider that just a few feet away are two complementary mixed-media pieces by Dennis Dezmain that tower above almost everything else in "Hortt 45." At first glance, KSS2 and KSS3 look like latter-day abstract expressionism revisited, and indeed, that's their lineage, but there's more to them. Spend some time with them and you might find, as I did, evidence of an extraordinary eye for composition.

Dezmain packs his surfaces with geometric shapes that have been laid down in thick, bold lines, then reiterated in lighter strokes that reinforce the forms. Other shapes suggest the curves of decorative molding, and there are zigzags and crosshatches and all kinds of patterns. Pigment has been thickly applied in some places, then gouged to form deep furrows.

This is painting that's about painting, make no mistake about it. The artist's hand is everywhere evident. There's a grand rawness here — vitality and spontaneity tempered with technique — that, at its best, recalls some of the early work of Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning. "Hortt 45" has much to recommend it, but even if it didn't, I would be glad to have gone just to see Dezmain's work.

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