California native William DeBilzan's mixed-media, abstract, expressionist pieces have gained popularity throughout the United States since the early 1990s. His visibility increased dramatically when popular primetime television shows like Frasier and Just Shoot Me featured his paintings. New River Fine Art is currently displaying its recent acquisitions of DeBilzan's original, colorful works. His paintings of elongated, rectangular figures, brilliant hues are embellished by the appropriation of stenciled text and various found objects, such as corrugated cardboard and mesh. DeBilzan creates his own frames of rough, antique wood, adding a rustic quality to the paintings. Some of the frames still have a hinge or joint from their previous use, further enhancing the folksy appeal of the work. His canvases, saturated with colors that evoke New Orleans or the Caribbean, offer a bold backdrop to lines of highly representational houses, trees, or people. Once Again offers the viewer a vibrant shade of green painted on canvas layered with mesh and corrugated cardboard that serves as a background to two lovers holding hands with their heads tilted in affection toward each other. The clean whites of their shirts juxtaposed with the primary colors of his pants and her skirt create a sharp contrast to the muted tones of stenciled, spray-painted letters and the numbers of the floor they stand on. DeBilzan's subject matter never seems to reference anything other than the warm comfort and bright joys of daily life. That simplicity is the appeal of William DeBilzan's body of work. (Through November 5 at New River Fine Art, 914 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-524-2100.)
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 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 that, 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 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)
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 time lines 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)
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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.)