Embler Art Gallery is one of many among the chic shops and hip restaurants of Las Olas Boulevard, but the quality of its works and flawless display make it stand out. A small yet clean space, lacking the clutter of its neighbors, Embler showcases a visually pleasing assortment of paintings ranging from the velvety realism of Deborah Bigeleisen's rose blossoms to the impressionistic, streaky watercolor palm trees of Allyson Krowitz. The artists and their various styles, color themes, and subject matter are juxtaposed perfectly. The smeared, luminous landscapes of Krowitz, reminiscent of old Florida, complement the extraordinary accuracy of Bigeleisen's Dutch-influenced flowers and the powerful radiance of French artist Laetitia Derfeuil's abstracted landscapes. Derfeuil offers three light-infused canvases that hint at landscapes with passionate brushwork and soulful hues that perhaps unintentionally reference the glowing light and sweeping yet soft lines of English romantic painter JMW Turner. Ligne d'Horizon (Horizon Line) is rich and warm with thickly layered paint in various shades of gold that transition and intensify as they reach the assumed sky. In dramatic yet elegant contrast, Hernan Miranda of Paraguay exhibits a series of precise, detailed still lifes of objects that are sentimentally significant to daily routines in South America, including sandals, fruit, and intricate textiles. The assorted artists, each truly skilled in his particular style, provide gallery visitors and art buyers with an eclectic selection that will not only match their couch or wallpaper but will make the room. (Embler Art Gallery, 1015 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-761-7722.)
Now on Display
There's a sculpture in the lobby of the Broward County Library: the colorful, mixed-media animals and figures of Felix D. Gonzalez. Past the gift shop sits the Angler Fish, Gonzalez's most abstracted and unusual piece, comprised of found objects ranging from jagged pieces of metal, bicycle lights and pedals, spark plugs, cables, wires, and, as the lure on top of its head, a satellite dish. Bike tires make up the grotesque, crescent-shaped mouth, complete with voracious underbite. The piece captures the essence and ugliness of the anglerfish in an attractive way. A more naturalistic, whimsical Giraffe, made of wood, steel, copper, and brass, stands near the shallow indoor pool. Two sculptures have wooden posts for bases, with branches gently carved into the knobs of a coat rack; a parrot perches on one, and a cutesy owl wearing a bow tie is perched on the other. One piece of wood flows into an elegantly carved fish with brightly colored fins and gold detail. The works are kitschy, but at least two out of three are functional; any Florida resident will recognize and possibly resent how overdone fish, dolphins, and parrots are. Gonzalez's naturalistic and figurative piece titled Tsunami is interesting in approach, with blades of grass and flowers carved from mahogany, climbing from the ground into a torso with plexiglass wings and a quizzical face. The name, however, changes the perception of it from what seems to be a gentle force of nature to the devastating destruction of it. (Through April 30 at Broward County Main Library, 100 S. Andrews Ave., Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-357-7444.)
Embler Art Gallery
The dark, tattoo- and graffiti-influenced work of art student Patrick Maxcy covers a wall of the hallway leading to Florida Atlantic University's Schmidt Gallery, now presenting "Picturing Florida." It's an interestingly intimate segue from the expansive surrounding campus to the almost bare gallery. Maxcy's approach differs from the usual paintings hanging on white walls, as he uses all of the space offered to him by applying complementary, mixed-media images directly to the typically blank space beneath his mounted works. This encourages passersby to slow down and absorb some of his art, ranging from sci-fi creatures to realist portraits. At the end of the hallway is the gallery itself, where artists in residence Ellen Harvey and Marc Dean Veca have created their individual but associated wall pieces comprising "Picturing Florida." Veca painted a colorful, large-scale, surfboard-shaped piece in a very Dr. Seuss-like style, spanning two adjoining walls and adding considerable dimension to the gallery. His digitally designed painting, Strangler, references Florida with not only its shape but through mossy-green twisted vines that allude to the native strangler fig, with several not-so-subtle Disney logos and a background of puffy pink clouds and blue skies added to the mix. Harvey's wall installation takes a corner of the gallery but on a much smaller scale. She alternates 80 small paintings of photos submitted by local senior citizens with mirrors to create a checkerboard effect. The paintings of one half represents Ugly Florida, the other Beautiful Florida, and the mirrors always reflect the viewer. (Through April 18 at FAU's Schmidt Gallery, 777 Glades Rd., Boca Raton. Call 561-297-2966.)
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Confetti, an 1893 lithograph by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, advertised the advent of the practical paper version of confetti. The previously plaster substance had caused injuries among partiers, and the new, less dangerous kind was promoted with Lautrec's poster of a smiling, carefree woman having handfuls of confetti tossed at her painlessly. "Toulouse-Lautrec and His Poster Contemporaries: Art Takes to the Street," now on display at the Boca Raton Museum of Art, takes the viewer on a journey through the 1890s and the merging of commercial and fine art. Toulouse-Lautrec is the first known artist whose career emerged from the world of advertising; he framed and exhibited his posters like paintings. Promoting everything from opera and world's fairs to absinthe and chocolate, Lautrec's and his colleagues' posters provide an allegorical history and exemplify designs that transcended the commercial realm and became works of art. One of the rarest posters featured in the exhibition is from a series of five created by Jules Chéret in 1900 for the Palais de Glace, the famous ice-skating rink at the Champs-Elysées. Chéret used color in a revolutionary and inexpensive way that brought the production of these posters to an entirely new level. Toulouse-Lautrec and his contemporaries transformed French lithography during the turn of the century with their experimental and bold use of color and lines. (Through April 2 at the Boca Raton Museum of Art, 501 Plaza Real, Mizner Park, Boca Raton. Call 561-392-2500.)
The small collection of pre-Columbian and ancient Mexican ceramics and sculptures currently on display at the Norton Museum of Art is aesthetically magnificent and historically significant. "Earthen Images: Ceramics from Ancient America" features 17 objects from six South American civilizations that flourished thousands of years before the discovery of the Americas. Three highly ornamentalized cylindrical vases sit together in a glass case, reflecting skeletal figures and organic designs in natural, subtle hues of orange, red, and cream. A sleek "Coprador" style Maya funerary sculpture of a dog holding an ear of corn in its mouth casts an unsettling gaze at its audience. Even more disturbing is the fact that these iconographic dogs from Colima were actual hairless creatures bred as ceremonial food and companions for the afterlife. The late pre-Classic (100 BC-300 BC) figures were found in eight of every ten Mayan tombs. Another creepy but fascinating object is a ladle, used during the ritual of human sacrifice. It depicts the sacred ulluchu fruit, which was believed to have anticoagulant properties, shaped into a ladle to hold the blood of sacrificial victims. (Through May 28 at the Norton Museum of Art, 1451 S. Olive Ave., West Palm Beach. Call 561-832-5196.)
The mummy of Tutankhamun, discovered in 1922 in a burial chamber near Luxor, Egypt, remains in its home country, as does Tut's elaborate gold-plated sarcophagus. But 50 burial objects are now on display at the Museum of Art in "Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs," as well as 70 objects from other tombs and a nifty video reproduction of the grimacing mummy, revealing itself on a flat, bed-like screen with an accompaniment of spine-tingling movie music. The exhibition is shamelessly overpriced (top tickets are $30) and, let's face it, a little on the skimpy side (there are more than 5,000 artifacts from Tut's tomb, meaning we get a measly 1 percent for our money). But you can't argue with the show's artistic merit. The anonymous Egyptian sculptors and goldsmiths who created the objects to facilitate the young pharaoh's passage to the other side were great artists. Here, for example, is a striking, 18-inch, gilded wood statuette of Horus the Elder, with a long, tight-fitting tunic, folded arms, straight Cleopatra tresses, and the face of a falcon. There are the carved heads of cow goddesses, one of them leaving the graceful wood grain exposed, like fur markings. Lanky panthers are caught midstride. And there are dozens of images of Tut himself in various incarnations, doe-eyed, visionary, emanating a vast calm. You begin to understand the excitement of the archaeologists who broke into Tut's tomb 83 years ago. (Through April 23 at the Museum of Art, 1 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-525-5500.)
The notorious Whistler's Mother is not among the dozen oil paintings included in "James McNeill Whistler: Selected Works from the Hunterian Art Gallery, Glasgow, Scotland" at the Boca Raton Museum of Art. And maybe that's a good thing, because without the glaring spotlight of its fame to distract us, we're left to look at Whistler's work in an altogether different light. This exhibition draws on one of the world's most extensive Whistler collections and features items culled from a 40-year period. Along with those 12 oils are dozens of drawings, etchings, and lithographs, a few watercolors, and a smattering of such personal memorabilia as letters, manuscripts, and books. Aside from a couple of the oils, however, we don't get much sense of Whistler's achievement as a painter. That's a shame, because since his death in 1903, he has largely fallen out of favor, overshadowed by, for instance, impressionism, which he arguably anticipated. The show does include one of the series of Nocturnes painted in the mid-1870s, inspired by a favorite subject: London's Thames River at nightfall or in the evening. Despite Whistler's undeniable technical mastery, his overall cultural contribution seems to have been eclipsed, ultimately, by his flamboyant life and personality. This uneven exhibition from the Hunterian Gallery seeks to reclaim the artist's rightful position in art history and to restore some perspective to his reputation. It's a valiant effort, even if it's only partially successful. (Through April 2 at Boca Raton Museum of Art, 501 Plaza Real, Mizner Park, Boca Raton. Call 561-392-2500.