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Artbeat

Colby Katz

"Beauty's where you find it," as that great pop philosopher Madonna observed in her dance classic "Vogue." So, too, with art. And if that means venturing into a dance bar to find it, so be it. Visit the new Wilton Manors bar Circuit, for instance, and you'll find the work of Fort Lauderdale artist Tim Otte, who has created a trio of site-specific sculptures. You can't miss the first of the three mixed-media works, which welcomes you at the entrance. It's a simple but striking construction for which Otte recreated the bar's logo in cut-out metal letters attached to a long, thick metal rod next to a pair of faux electrical outlets. Jagged silver "sparks" painted on the bright red wall complete the piece. Shut Up and Dance, on the wall behind the pool table, takes the concept a step further, with the first three words of the title painted on the wall in graffiti-style lettering and the remaining word spelled out in big, bold, red metal letters, each housed in its own electrical circuit box. The metal boxes, which Otte says he picked up at Home Depot, are accented inside and out with various found objects that manage to seem high-tech and retro at the same time, including electrical accessories that suggest the whole installation might light up at any time. (It doesn't.) Inventive as they are, these first two pieces are just a warm-up for Circuit Queen, which hangs behind the bar a few feet away. It's a large, androgynous creature fashioned from an exhilarating array of found objects, including salad bowls, a wooden mask, jewelry, wire, a goblet, and the framed mirror that accommodates it all. Again, there's an abundance of electrical hardware such as fuses, cables, and switch plates, and the entire sculpture, which is painted silver, links to a fake outlet box on the wall that implies a power source. "I'm one of those artists who doesn't know when to say, 'I'm done,'" admits Otte, who says he kept adding elements to the work even after it was installed. This "Circuit Trilogy" represents an exciting new direction for the artist, whose heavily stylized celebrity portraits have had commercial success. Artbeat hopes he keeps exploring the possibilities of mixed media. (Circuit is at 2031 Wilton Dr., Wilton Manors, 954-563-8001.)

Now on Display

"New Art 2005" at the Museum of Art culls an array of recent and older creations by nine winners of the South Florida Cultural Consortium Fellowship. Not only does the fellowship benefit the artists in terms of exposure and money ($15,000 to each artist, to be exact), but it also lets museum visitors see an unusually focused sampling of contemporary work. The artists explore a range of media -- painting, photography, sculptural installation, video, computer art -- but the exhibit is surprisingly consistent. The pieces eloquently marry materials and ideas, eliciting beauty and insight. For one of her installations, Miami's Karen A. Rifas has strung brown leaves on white threads which, arranged like shafts of light, emanate from the walls, floor, and ceiling. As the organic shapes cast shadows against the surrounding walls, the piece simultaneously conveys stillness and energy. It's titled I'm Dancing As Fast As I Can. Hollywood's Thomas Nolan constructs a city of towers and skyscrapers out of hundreds of unused staples and screws mounted on top of the base of a swivel chair. Called Newerness, its tiny objects evoke a miniature cityscape, a fantastic juxtaposition of simplicity and complexity. Not for the queasy, filmmaker Lisandro Pérez-Rey is represented by several short videos, one of which shows a scientist dissecting an animal. But by capturing ordinary routines and interactions and splicing them with their subject's thoughts on life and love, Pérez-Rey also offers touching vignettes. Call them portraits for the 21st century. (Through November 6 at Museum of Art, One E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-525-5500)

Because Broward County's architectural gems are spread around -- unlike Miami's famous Art Deco neighborhoods, where they tend to show up in clusters -- visitors rarely get a sense of the scope of Broward's mid-century modern designs. "Going, Going, Gone? Mid-Century Modern Architecture in South Florida," now at the Museum of Art, seeks to rectify this situation, albeit in the two-dimensional medium of photography. Broward's best are at least the equal of those in Miami. On one wall of the museum, 27 photographs by Robin Hill offer dramatic glimpses of buildings, hotels, and inns that appear both retro and New Age. Shot from close and unusual angles, the energy-packed images are gripping. The icing on the cake is a 16-foot "Gold Coast" sign salvaged from the roof of the 1949 beachfront hotel of the same name. Its turquoise metal lettering with gold trim matches the hyper-bright colors in Hill's pictures. Also in the exhibit are Hill's 16 photographs of Miami-Dade County landmarks including the Fontainebleau Hotel and Giller Building. The structures' carefree colors and swirling arches recall a time of childlike exuberance. Fort Lauderdale's Hyatt Regency Pier 66, with its glass-enclosed lounge topped with a crown of lit columns, seems ideal for a visit from The Jetsons. The Jolly Roger and Yankee Clipper look more like blown-up toys than buildings, remnants of an era whose motto was "Because We Can" instead of "The Bottom Line." Then visitors can leave the museum and go see almost all of the structures for themselves. (Through November 6 at the Museum of Art, Museum of Art, One E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-525-5500)

 

As Rick and Ilsa moonily agreed at the end of Casablanca, "We'll always have Paris." The rest of us will as well, as long as there are exhibitions like "Brassaï's Paris" and "Robert Doisneau's Paris," a pair of evocative photography shows running concurrently at the Boca Raton Museum of Art. The two men were contemporaries -- Brassaï lived from 1899 to 1984, Doisneau from 1912 to 1984 -- and both became known for chronicling street life in the City of Lights. Brassaï, born Gyula Halász in Brassó, Hungary, trained as a painter and sculptor and took up photography only after moving to Paris in the mid-'20s. His place in the history of the medium was secured, however, with the 1933 publication of his first book, Paris de nuit (Paris by Night). Nocturnal and gregarious (his wide circle of friends included Picasso, Henry Miller, and André Kertész), he plumbed the city for prostitutes, drug addicts, and transvestites, among others. This small show of 28 gelatin silver prints includes such material but also subjects like a bridge bathed in night fog and a little dog on a vast stretch of stone steps. The Paris of Robert Doisneau encompasses an even broader spectrum of French life. The 117 black-and-white images are grouped loosely by subject, from schoolboys and laborers to nudes and artists and their models. Like Brassaï, Doisneau knew many cultural figures of the time, and included here is his famous 1952 shot of Picasso with fat-fingered bread rolls for hands; there are also portraits of such writers as Colette and Jacques Prévert. Doisneau's sly humor is much in evidence. He uses the Eiffel Tower as a backdrop for a clothesline of underwear, and shoots the tower from Notre Dame so that a gargoyle appears poised to bite off the top. Taken together, these two exhibitions remind us how strongly our impressions of Paris have been shaped by the many ways it has been photographed. (Through August 28 at the Boca Raton Museum of Art, 501 Plaza Real, Mizner Park, Boca Raton; 561-392-2500.)

Imagine the best vintage clothing store on the planet, filled with the top gets on any thrift store connoisseur's list -- Pucci, Chanel and Blass. At the Museum of Lifestyle and Fashion History in Delray Beach, you can't buy or touch any of the many outfits currently on display from the permanent collection. While vintage clotheshorses might experience a painful envy, the museum's mix of cool clothes from the late 19th century to the mod '60s is a great attraction. Accompanying the clothes are several timelines and essays that fit fashion into its historical context. Who knew (or knew they wanted to know), that the right to wear the color red sparked a 16th century peasant revolt in Germany? Or that Nancy Reagan's fondness for the color coined a new shade -- Reagan Red? (Eeeew. Yuck.) Or that World War II sparked a move towards casual clothes for men, and the ultra-feminine "New Look" for women as a reaction to war-time severity? There is an almost too-obvious tribute to the fashions of Jackie Kennedy Onassis, though it would be nearly impossible to have even the most cursory reviews of American fashion without her. In the '50s section, there's an unfortunate choice of kitsch over clothes, with a full-skirted, June Cleaver-esque dress displayed alongside a kitchen set. A small exhibit in the corner does the most to bring the show's point down like a hammer -- a display of what tragedy does to fashion. In two small glass cases are purses inspired by 9-11, one by Charleston, South Carolina, artist Mary Norton titled "After the Tragedy," and one bedazzled in the ubiquitous red, white and blue that emerged right after the attacks. It's good stuff, and did we mention the Pucci shift dresses? (Through the summer at the Museum of Lifestyle and Fashion History, 322 NE 2nd Avenue, Delray Beach. Call 561-243-2662)

Magdalena Abakanowicz's 95 Figures stand in diagonal rows, like bronze sentinels on the second floor of the Museum of Art in Fort Lauderdale. The human-sized sculptures provoke a heavy sense of foreboding. Some take a step, others are static; they're all headless and armless. The work is easy to appreciate for its largeness, the precision of the figures' placement and its ability to draw a visceral reaction. The urge to climb in and stand among the figures, to be amidst the crowd and absorb the mob's purpose, is almost irresistible. At the same time, the work provides no pleasure or enjoyment. There are five other pieces displayed with the figures. One at the end of the hall leading to the exhibit, The Second Never Seen Figure on Beam with Wheels, is looming and unique, a perfect counterpoint to the crowd. (Through October 30, at the Museum of Art, Fort Lauderdale, One E. Las Olas Blvd. Call 954-525-5500)


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