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Artbeat

In case you needed more proof that celebrity gives a person a big head, here's "Gerry Gersten: Face to Face," an exhibit of caricatures by the guy who was once an illustrator for Mad Magazine, capturing the enormous mugs of entertainment celebs and political personages. For instance, Willie Nelson's big melon — with a facial expression that's either startled or disgusted — is four times the size of his guitar. Unlike the photographs approved by the agents of today's celebrities to show them only at their most flattering, the 52 portraits by Gersten, whose line drawings have also appeared in Esquire, Sports Illustrated, Time, and Newsweek, capture the quirks and exploit the unique flaws of their subjects (sort of like the paparazzi but without the fistfights and car crashes). For instance, Woody Allen, drawn in profile, has a schnoz the size of Manhattan. Other images provide, in their artful exaggeration, a sort of public service, like the one of Billie Holiday and her horsy choppers, which reminds us to see the dentist. Showing concurrently in the upstairs gallery, "Gathering of Kuumba" brings together the artwork of regional African-American, Haitian, and Caribbean artists. New this year for the seventh-annual showcase is the "Children of Kuumba," Palm Beach County students of similar ethnic origin who present their work alongside their elders'. (Through March 18 at Cornell Museum, 51 N. Swinton Ave., Delray Beach. Call 561-243-7922. )

Now on Display

"The Peacock's Feather: Male Jewelry of Old Japan" doesn't actually contain any colorful plumage. It's just a metaphor for how 18th- and 19th-century Japanese men called attention to themselves by displaying their finery (it's only the male peacock that has those lovely feathers). The exhibit displays a fine selection of intricately carved miniatures — some just an inch in length — of bone, ivory, and wood that were used to attach other fashion accessories to their kimono sashes. The museum's exhibit offers informational cards that explain the imagery of each object and how it relates to Japanese culture — so you get to enjoy the artistry as you learn about aesthetics, values, and lore. For instance, Kiyohime and the Temple Bell depicts a figure cowering inside a bell encircled by a monstrous serpent. This references the story of a young woman who fell in love with a monk who refused her advances and hid from her beneath a temple bell, until her passion became hatred and transformed her into a hideous monster and her rage incinerated them both. The show also displays tobacco cases and pipe cases, which might not seem like jewelry to 21st-century Americans, but the symbolically adorned lacquered boxes and carved cases were fashion statements for the Japanese men two and three centuries ago. Running concurrently, "Traditional Japanese Ceramics" features 64 pieces that demonstrate the myriad techniques in ceramics, a medium used in Japan before anywhere else in the world. The selection ranges from rustic, unglazed stoneware to elegant, glazed porcelain, to sensual, marbleized clay. (Through March 18 at the Morikami Museum, 4000 Morikami Park Rd., Delray Beach. Call 561-495-0233.)

How much of the everyday objects surrounding you could be considered art? "Objects of Design: Decorative Arts and Elements of Frank Lloyd Wright" shows that in the hands of a genius, nothing — no matter how ordinary — is exempt from becoming a work of art. The exhibit displays stained-glass windows, china, furniture, fabrics, sculpture, screens, photographs, stationery, drawings, and copper panels that make you consider the opportunities we have to surround ourselves with things of beauty. For instance, chairs and lamps can be sculptures that just happen to provide us with a place to sit and a little light to read by. The show, presented in the front gallery, is modest in representation but vast in the array of the architect's design elements. According to the gallery catalog, Wright's philosophy — that space "should be experienced as a whole, without division between inside and outside or between the table and what's on the table" — is employed in the presentation of his works. The fabrics, for instance, are displayed on a long, dark wood bureau folded in rectangles and squares in geometric asymmetry for which the architect/designer is famous. The gallery also offers an opportunity to watch two 1987 Mike Wallace interviews for a better understanding of Wright and his aesthetic and philosophy. Meanwhile, in the rear gallery, the black-and-white photographs (gelatin silver prints) of "Lewis Baltz: Important Prototypes and Portfolios," which offers exploited landscapes, unimaginative structures, and the refuse of modern life, starkly contrasts with the beauty of Wright's shimmery iridescent stained glass and colorful geometric patterns. (Through February 10 at Eaton Fine Art, 435 Gardenia St., West Palm Beach. Call 561-833-4766.)

"Life as a Legend: Marilyn Monroe," a sensory overload of an exhibition at the Boca Raton Museum of Art, includes roughly 300 works in various media by more than 80 artists. The emphasis is on photography — as befits a woman whose most enduring love affair was with the camera — and even the nonphotographic works are inspired by or influenced by either still photos or motion pictures. The show includes the work of such acclaimed photographers as Eve Arnold, Peter Beard, Cecil Beaton, Henri-Cartier Bresson, Alfred Eisenstaedt, Philippe Halsman, and many others, as well as the famous silk prints by Andy Warhol and other paintings and sculptures. Some of the artists seem less interested in Monroe herself than in her potential as raw artistic material to be manipulated. Much has been made, and continues to be made here, over Monroe's iconic status as a product of her dramatic rise and fall, culminating in a tragic, mysterious death 45 years ago that froze her at age 36 in our collective memory. We are mesmerized by her, according to this view, because she is eternally young and ageless, her beauty preserved like an insect in amber. No doubt that is part of her apparently perennial appeal. But it's also a bit sad that none of the art included here takes the imaginative leap to envision an elderly but still elegant Monroe (although a couple of artists use the famous photo of her taken just after her death as a starting point to harrowing, even ghoulish, effect). (On display through April 1 at the Boca Raton Museum of Art, 501 Plaza Real, Mizner Park, Boca Raton. Call 561-392-2500.)

 

Graham Flint's mural-sized photographs aren't just artistic — they're scientific. That's why they feel like portals to other places rather than mere photographic evidence that those places exist. It's almost surreal. No mere virtual reality, the images provide a kind of meta-reality. In New York Cityscape at Night (2006), for instance, the image is so crisp, so lifelike, that you actually feel like you're flying over the Big Apple and experiencing it firsthand. Pick up one of the magnifying glasses provided by the museum and you'll find that you can actually see even more detail — almost like you were looking at the urban setting with a pair of binoculars. Unlike other photographs that lose resolution as you get closer, these maintain their clarity. That's because Flint is not only a shutterbug; he's also a physicist, and among his inventions is a high-resolution camera — a Gigapxl camera — that he designed and built in 2001. Since then, he has used his invention to capture images of the good ol' USA. You'd think the exhibit would be an excellent way to see the country without all the hassles of travel. But only four of the 13 photographs that comprise "Portrait of America: Images From the Gigapxl Project," at the Boca Museum, are from out of state. So, other than the NYC skyline, a couple of images of a Louisiana state park, and another of a Padre/White Sox game (which provides a fascinating opportunity to use the magnifier to study the crowd's expressions and postures), it's really more of an opportunity to get up-close and personal with Florida while experiencing a technological breakthrough in photographic documentation. (Through April 1 at Boca Museum of Art, 501 Plaza Real, Boca Raton. Call 561-392-2500.

The zen of tedium can produce the sweetest fruit. "Yozo Hamaguchi: Father of the Modern Mezzotint" might easily be overlooked, tucked in a quiet corner behind the flagrant Marilyn Monroe exhibit at the Boca Museum. You really would be missing something. The Japanese artist (1909-2000) renders his cherries, watermelons, and other natural subjects using a complex printing medium that is so labor-intensive that it has traditionally been used for practical reproductions rather than creative purposes. The method produces a velvety black background on which colorful objects become poetic (distilled down to their essentials like haiku) for their simplicity. The mezzotint process produces subtle color gradations that in Hamaguchi's hands give his subjects an otherworldly glow, infusing them with a spirituality not typically associated with produce. Presenting its little red orbs in a vertical line, Twenty-Two Cherries explores variation both in the fruits' stems and clefts and in the two little dissident cherries that have gotten out of line — an exploration he takes one step further in six other prints that are identical except for cherry and stem colors. The effect is that we are first aware of similarities and then of the differences that distinguish each cherry, each print. Exploring the emotional quality of color is ideal for this printing medium. For instance, the only thing that distinguishes Bottle With Lemon and Red Wall from Bottle With Lemon in Darkness (besides their titles) are the colors, the yellows becoming less vivid and the red wall, gray in the second print. (Through February 18 at Boca Museum, 501 Plaza Real, Mizner Park, Boca Raton. Call 561-392-5200.)

 

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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