Artbeat

Capsule reviews of current area art exhibitions.

Don't be too quick to dismiss it as just a college poster exhibition. And don't knock yourself if you find yourself enjoying FAU's exhibit more than, let's say, a show of "important" works by "serious" artists. There's a reason this stuff is appealing — it's advertising, baby. "Graphic Noise: Art at 1,000 Decibels" and "The Graphic Imperative: International Posters for Peace, Social Justice, and the Environment, 1964-2005" demonstrate that the most popular art isn't done on inspiration but on commission... just like in Renaissance times, when artists cranked out religious art for the church. Those with the dough get glorified in art, so it's no surprise that there are nearly five times as many contemporary rock 'n' roll posters for the "Graphic Noise" exhibit (500) than socially conscious ones for its "Graphic Imperative" counterpart (111). Even if you're not a fan of specific bands, you may still fall in love with their promotional artwork. For instance, a beautiful blond woman with her hair in carefree wisps shows off her assets in a clingy black outfit with a plunging neckline in Duran Duran's 2005 Los Angeles concert poster by Tara McPherson. Or maybe you're more into indie-rocker chicks like the one who scrapes her nails down the wall of an art gallery; on her arm, a tattoo of a winged red heart with Elvis written inside it to demonstrate her devotion to Elvis Costello in a poster by Leia Bell that announces his 2005 Salt Lake City show. Unlike the concert posters, the ones designed to help improve the world also provide a bit of a history lesson. For instance, in Lorraine Schneider's 1967 Vietnam War-protest artwork (which was used on a war-protest Mother's Day card sent to the White House), a flower blooms in red and black, and the text decries, "War is not healthy for children and other living things." Some make statements about today's concerns, like the AES Group's New Freedom, a photographic image of the Statue of Liberty dressed in a burqa and holding the Qur'an. Others, like Seymour Chwast's End Bad Breath (1967), which shows Uncle Sam with a mouthful of planes bombing homes, show that some issues have endured. Because many of these posters are silk-screened images, it's also an excellent opportunity to explore the medium. (Through January 27 at Florida Atlantic University's Schmidt Gallery, 555 Glades Rd., Boca Raton. Call 461-297-2661.)

Now on Display

If you're one of those who scarfs down your raw seafood without learning much more about Japanese culture other than how to hold a pair of chopsticks, "Japanese Painting From the Collection of Mrs. Marilyn Alsdorf" will give you a better understanding of the culture and its history. Boasting a selection of work from notable painters from the 11th through 19th centuries, the exhibit of 30 works covers a variety of subjects. The earliest are religious. You'll learn about Buddhism from early, simple iconic sketches (but since the ink is applied with a brush, it's still technically a painting), like Seated Boddhisattva and Amida Raigo Depicting the Descent of the Buddha Amida Nyorai, finely detailed work that lives up to its complicated name. Later works focus on nature — landscapes and animals. Delicate calligraphy paintings by Hon'anu Koetsu allow language and image to co-exist artfully in small squares. There are even some good examples of works that make social commentary, such as those by Hakuin Ekaku, a Zen priest who perfected a deceptively simple style as a vehicle for his criticism. There are also works that explore the existential, such as Skull and Calligraphy, a meditation on life and death. Most works are fairly small but "framed" in fabric as hanging scrolls, which are works of art themselves. Also on display is World Heritage Sites of Wakayama Prefecture: Pictures of Koya-san and Kumano, pictures of Florida's "sister state" in Japan. The exhibit includes large glossy images of Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines, religious festivals, social rituals, and the area's terrain. Just think what a wonderful conversationalist you'll be at your next sushi-serving soiree. (Through December 31 at Morikami Museum, 4000 Morikami Park Rd., Delray Beach. Call 561-495-0233.)

 
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