Artbeat

Capsule reviews of current area art exhibitions.

Eugene and Clare Thaw set about gathering artifacts that show that Native American art equals — or rivals — the art of other cultures. "Masterpieces of Native American Art From the Eugene and Clare Thaw Collection" displays 108 of more than 800 pieces from the Fenimore Art Museum in Cooperstown, New York, that the couple collected "not for their anthropological value but for their artistic aesthetic." Organized by geographic regions, we see how natural resources influence art. For instance, the fashion of arctic and subarctic zones includes a lightweight seal-gut parka in white with festively dyed purple, red, and green triangles made of tufts of walrus fur. The hand-stitched garment shares little with a Southwestern woman's shawl, woven and embroidered in cotton. Of course, on the runways, fur is a big P.C. no-no, but here in a Native American exhibit, it becomes a mere cultural difference. We think nothing of the eagle feathers and tufts of horse hair in the 1890 Plains indian headdress or the other animal remains incorporated into these objects. So the exhibit shows us not only how the artistic sensibilities of these cultures differ from each other but from ours as well. The exhibit includes masks, weaponry, clothing, jewelry, weavings, bead work, and souvenirs, and it provides cultural commentary to explain the imagery depicted within the objects. {Through February 4 at Society of Four Arts, 2 Four Arts Plaza, Palm Beach. Call 561-655-7226.)

"The Peacock's Feather: Male Jewelry of Old Japan"
"The Peacock's Feather: Male Jewelry of Old Japan"
"Life as a Legend: Marilyn Monroe"
"Life as a Legend: Marilyn Monroe"

Nothing like kicking the bucket to make others appreciate a person — and this is doubly true for artists. In May, the death of the Dutch abstract expressionist who helped found an art movement known as CoBrA (an acronym for the initial letters of the founders' cities of origin: Copenhagen, Brussels, and Amsterdam) inspired a Fort Lauderdale exhibit — "Karel Appel: In Memoriam."As far as memorials go, this is an intimate one, comprised of just 11 works from the museum's permanent collection. Despite its size, the exhibit not only honors the artist but provides examples of his work in a variety of media. Though his work may be labeled abstract, it is not strictly so. Even in the ones that come the closest to being nonrepresentational, there is at least the hint of object. Using vivid colors applied in thick swipes and swirls, one untitled, undated oil painting (which is more non-specific than abstract) might be construed as a portrait: dark blue splotches suggest eyes, the rectangle at the bottom could be a mouth. Most works are abstract in the art term's original meaning — the reduction of the subject to a simplified form. The works exhibited have a childlike quality in their simplicity, expressiveness, and playfulness. Big Bird with Child offers an excellent example, where the mixed media piece uses wood to give dimension to the otherwise flat forms. (Through May 1 at Museum of Art/Fort Lauderdale, 1 E. Las Olas Blvd., Ft. Lauderdale. Call 954-525-5500.)

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