Henry's Solid State

"All Florida" is surprisingly strong

At almost the literal center of the exhibition hangs Boca artist Eydi Lampasona's Made in China, a life-sized kimono made entirely of tiny clothing tags (more than 3,000 of them). Given the current doubts and ambiguities regarding our trade relationships with China, it's a strikingly prescient piece; it's also strangely beautiful. Too bad it's hung next to Miami artist Martin Casuso's Domestic Voodou Flags (Rectangle), a joke gone bad that uses reclaimed yarn to create a 16-panel mockery of the sequined voodoo flags so prominent in Haitian art. Instead of religious imagery, he presents everyday objects and animals such as men's briefs, a toilet, a squirrel, a spider, and a TV set.

Although the abundance of abstracts provides a satisfying cross section of what's going on in that segment of the art world today, there are a few exceptional examples of realistic painting as well. Self With Arrangement, by Sean Sexton of Vero Beach, is a grand oil — 72 inches by 78 inches — that conflates the classical and the contemporary. It appears to be a meticulous rendering of an agrarian workshop of some sort, with its bizarre array of objects — wrenches, extension cords, a drill — also incorporating such items as a jug of pickled eggs, a pumpkin, and an unripe coconut. And as the title implies, the artist works himself into the picture, framed in the background as either a painting of himself painting or a mirror image of himself creating the painting we're viewing. It has the feel of an Old Master painting dragged into the 21st Century.

Less flamboyant but no less extraordinary is Henry's choice for Best in Show, Naples artist Lynn Davison's ironically titled Modesty, a highly realistic female nude vainly attempting to cover herself with a swath of plastic wrap. Only a portion of her face is visible, and her fleshy, out-of-shape body is captured with some of the virtuosity and wounded majesty we might normally associate with Lucian Freud.

Like most group exhibitions I've seen lately, this one's a mixed bag when it comes to photography. There are a few good examples of straightforward, no-frills work: Susan Buzzi of Tamarac's carefully composed Ocean Watch, which gives us a glimpse of the ocean through a hole in a piece of driftwood, and Ramon I by Philip Ross Munro of Miami, whose color print captures what looks like a nude drowning in murky water. But it's appalling how many contemporary photographers seem unable to resist the temptation of computer-assisted manipulation. While there's nothing wrong with exploring a medium's full range of possibilities, at some point, gimmickry sets in.

Overall, however, there's nothing in this edition of the "All Florida" that's truly cringe-inducing, which is more than you can typically expect from a large group exhibition. Juror John B. Henry III has done his job and done it unusually well.

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