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 Pablo 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 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 also much in evidence. He uses the Eiffel Tower as a backdrop for a clothesline of underwear, for instance, 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. Call 561-392-2500.)
Now on Display
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Sometimes art turns up in the most unexpected places. Take, for example, "Into the Light: A Group Showing." This miniature exhibit of sorts -- the word exhibition seems too grand -- features works by a baker's dozen photographers, and it's on display at a photo lab in Oakland Park. A snazzy invitation to a reception describes the venue as "The Exhibit Space at Chromatek Imaging," which is just a fancy way of characterizing the area around the front counter. Given this unusual setup, it's not surprising that the curator, Terry Davis, and his 13 artists are all Chromatek employees. Gimmicky? Yes, but also quite clever. Davis even provides a curator's statement, in which he says his task was to take these often-unheralded people out of the darkroom and "into the light." As he explains: "Most technicians study photography for years before ever working in a laboratory. Many have degrees in photography and the arts. Almost always, they are themselves working photographers." Davis is no different -- he was once a darkroom assistant for Richard Avedon. Brief biographical information is provided for most of the photographers, although with so much vying for your attention in such a small space, it's sometimes difficult to tell whether an item is part of the exhibit or a promotional piece. Standouts include Tim Adler's high-resolution shot of the eerily unpopulated front of the U.S. Department of Justice; Bryan Bogater's dreamy, soft-focus capture of a view looking out to sea from beneath a concrete pier; and J.J. Walker's available-light image of the Roman Coliseum at night, luminous with a golden light from within. And Laura K. Morales reminds us not to take things too seriously with her black-and-white pic of a 4-year-old boy (her son) playing "photographer and model" with a cute little girl posing for him. (Through July 31 at the Exhibit Space at Chromatek Imaging, 3400 S. Powerline Rd., Oakland Park. Call 954-566-1082.)
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 clothes horses 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 historical context. Who knew (or knew they wanted to know) that the right to wear 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 toward casual clothes for men and the ultrafeminine "New Look" for women as a reaction to wartime 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. Also, 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 summer at the Museum of Lifestyle and Fashion History, 322 NE Second Ave., 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 size, 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 amid 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, One E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-525-5500.)
"At This Time, 10 Miami Artists": Donald and Mera Rubell's newly refurbished warehouse and legendary art holdings make the Rubell Family Collection one of America's best privately owned contemporary venues. Its current exhibit suggests Miami artists are internationally respected. Curator Mark Coetzee created a dynamic interaction among the pieces by not hanging each artist's works separately, thereby allowing viewers to move from the awe-inspiring -- José Bedia's raft installation -- to the bizarre -- Cooper's cryptic and angst-ridden Our American Cousin assemblage. Naomi Fisher offers some of her color-saturated and visually enticing Assy Flora series, while Jiae Hwang showcases I'm the Real Princess of the Magical Land, a witty and delicate collection of pencil drawings. Miami and its art scene are relatively young, and with an eye on the future, one easily understands why shows like this are needed: They bring to light historic points of reference for tomorrow's artists and historians. (Through October 30 at the Rubell Family Collection, 95 NW 29th St., Miami. Call 305-573-6090.)