The Art and Culture Center of Hollywood is a quaint yellow building with stately palm trees and well-landscaped shrubbery. Usually, it's the art inside that's controversial — not the politics surrounding the place. But over the summer, Jane Hart, who had been curator for eight years and who was instrumental in building the center's reputation as a standout in the contemporary art scene, left the institution amid rumors of friction with administrators. As "an act of solidarity," two high-profile curators who were slated to serve as jurors for a major upcoming art show — the Seventh All-Media Juried Biennial — likewise stepped down.
Though the well-loved Hart has not been replaced, the center seems to be managing fine so far with the help of independent curators. Another admired denizen of the local art scene, Michelle Weinberg, stepped in to save the day just in time for the biennial, which opens this week. One of the most significant art events in the state, the show takes place every other year and is open to emerging and established artists who reside in Florida. Awards to be presented: Best in Show; first, second, and third places; and honorable mentions. Those come with cash prizes, from $400 to $2,000.
Weinberg, the creative director of Girls' Club gallery in Fort Lauderdale, curated the show. Some of her notable works include having designed a mosaic for Hollywood ArtsPark, colored-asphalt crosswalks and sidewalks in Tampa, and murals for Celebrity Cruise Lines and for Facebook's Miami offices. Lately, she's been doing thought-provoking but playful pattern work with tiles and rugs.
For the biennial, nearly 400 Florida artists submitted works for consideration. Of their 1,083 entries — which ran the gamut from paintings, sculptures, performances, video, computer-generated images, and installations tailored especially for the site — only 88 pieces made the cut. Winners will be announced at the show's opening reception this Friday evening. There will be a donation bar and light hors d'oeuvres.
Weinberg explains that the jurors — including Elizabeth Cerejido, a former curator at Houston's Museum of Fine Arts; and Marisa J. Pascucci, a curator at the Boca Raton Museum of Art — picked "the most realized" works, works that have some "sort of statement that's gelled and is alive in that piece." She characterizes the art included in the show as "risky and inventive" and said much of it "has a narrative to the storytelling."
While the layperson such as myself might not always see the narrative, the works are provocative at the least. Justin Gaffey's Attached — composed of steel, acrylic, string, and graphite on a wood panel — offers a female figure partially obscured by red threads. The strings are taut, evoking a feeling of tension. The image asks the viewer to consider, perhaps, the nature of our relationships: Do they support us or tie us down? Is the woman's weight straining the threads? Or do ties that bind pull on her?
Molly Khorasantchi's vibrant oil-on-canvas Roots of Feelings 2 is slightly more abstract. A coiled orange line — its size inconsistent, its edges undefined — stands against a backdrop of assorted colors and shapes. Small blocks of geometric forms appear occasionally, emerging from an image that is at once chaotic and coherent.
Jane duBrin's Posing presents a haunting image rendered in vine charcoal on canvas. The portrait depicts a man or woman, eyes closed, facing the viewer. We don't get details, only the contours of the person's face. The effect is an ethereal visage that reminds of the fleeting, transient nature of existence.
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Eddie Arroyo's work feels particularly relevant to the South Florida location of the biennial. The acrylic-on-canvas 1 NW 62nd Street Miami, FL 33150 — one of Arroyo's intriguing "Miami Portraits" series — seems to offer some commentary on the South Florida art scene. Although it depicts a corner in Little Haiti, adjacent to Wynwood, the latter is referenced in graffiti that's been hastily scrawled on the wall of a local business. Like other "Miami Portraits," no people appear in this image. The only figures present in the series are those depicted in the street art or advertisements that are part of the landscape. It begs the question: What is a place without its people?
Autumn Casey's exhibit "Waiting in Purgatory but at Least There's Chairs and It Feels Musical" will appear at the ACCH alongside the biennial. Casey's installation includes video and sculpture and blends found objects with items from the artist's personal life — resulting in an experience of "existential uncertainty." Also on display will be the exhibition "#acchfocus," consisting of 52 winning images from the ACCH's 2013-14 Instagram contest.
The biennial exhibition will run through November 1. On October 3, Weinberg and Pascucci will lead a workshop for artists wishing to enter more shows. Topics include how to select the strongest works, "how to photograph them properly, and how to write a brief artist statement and biography."
Seventh All-Media Juried Biennial
Through November 1; opening reception 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, September 18, at the Art and Culture Center of Hollywood, 1650 Harrison St., Hollywood. Admission costs $10; free for members. Call 954-921-3274, or visit artandculturecenter.org.