Mr. and Mrs. Coleccionista

The Bagleys brought back these mind-boggling souvenirs from Latin America.

The remaining Larraz painting, The Review (1988), is beautiful and fraught with meaning. On the surface, it's a simple portrayal of a woman bearing a large bowl of tropical fruit on her head as she walks alongside a whitewashed wall. Larraz draws on an amazing array of whites for the woman's dress, for the wall itself, and for the building beyond it.

But as with so much Cuban painting, there's a wealth of metaphor at work. The barrels of four cannons jut out above (and cast their shadows upon) the wall past which the woman walks, reminding her of her place in a society dominated by a military dictatorship. At the same time, there's a purposefulness to her stride, and the fresh fruit atop her head suggests life and vitality against the backdrop of stone and metal. And the small hole in the wall through which seeps rusty water can even be read as an ominous portent, a slow, steady erosion of the power looming behind the wall.

Another Cuban, Tomás Sánchez, contributes Desde las Hierbas (2000), a small tempera rendering of a grassy landscape that, lovely as it is, only hints at the grandeur of the artist's much larger paintings.

Larraz's The Review: A wealth of metaphor at work.
Larraz's The Review: A wealth of metaphor at work.
Botero's Joven Nude
Botero's Joven Nude


On display through November 26.
Boca Raton Museum of Art, 501 Plaza Real, Mizner Park, Boca Raton, 561-392-2500.

Also worth noting are a pair of works in oil and wax by Nicaraguan Armando Morales, Two Nudes, One Undressing (1974-82) and Granada: La Port et le Baigneus (1991). In both, Morales has an uncanny way of making human flesh look sculptural, almost as if it has been carved from stone or cast in burnished metal.

The Bagleys' showstopper, for me, is a 1982 oil called Nemesis, by Mexican artist Guillermo Meza. It's a portrait of a woman with a headdress and gown made of petal-like forms that seem to cascade down and over her, partially revealing her breasts. Part of the garment to the lower right of the canvas looks to have been bloodied, and her solemn face is half-concealed by a strange veil of some sort that blocks her eyes. I have no idea what it all adds up to, but the ineffable air of mystery is irresistible.

If there's a complaint to be lodged against the Bagley collection, at least on the basis of this exhibition, it's that more than half the works included were created in the past 25 years, which necessarily means that much of this art has yet to stand the test of time. That's a minor quibble, of course, applicable more to those who approach art as investment and less to those who, like the Bagleys, are governed by the pleasure they take from their collection. As they put it: "We never anticipated the importance that living with art would make in our lives. It's been a long and happy road we traveled together; it's not over yet."

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