Escape From Sterility

It ain't Florence or Oaxaca, but at least Broward has a few eye-catching pieces of public art.

Public art is also a presence, usually on a more modest scale, at other county facilities, including, most notably, parks and libraries. The airy plaza of the monolithic main library in downtown Fort Lauderdale is home to the oldest piece of public art in the county, the deceptively simple Solar Time Plane (1986) by Dale Eldred. The medium of the original is described as "solar diffraction grating with glass and steel," but as anyone who has seen it can attest, it really looks more or less like a gigantic xylophone facing the building at a slight angle. Ah, but when the light is reflected on the metal slats just so, it fragments into the colors of the rainbow. The miniature model landscape in the show captures a bit of the work's magic.

As a longtime skeptic of public art — perhaps I've seen one too many heaps of tortured metal — I was surprised to feel stirrings of affection while going through "Survey of 30 Years of Public Art in Broward County." I've lived here long enough to witness the increasingly accelerated urbanization of the area, to the extent that almost anything that provides a contrast to the contagion of faux-Mediterranean architecture and sterile high-rises is welcome. Or maybe familiarity has bred not contempt but, at the very least, tolerance.

At any rate, I can offer a qualified recommendation to visit the Art and Culture Center show. Even though it presents public art once removed, it might spur you to track down the original on-site works. After all, you helped pay for them.

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