Google Rudolf Bauer and you'll discover two things: He was a German-born abstractionist, and he's compared frequently to Russian painter Vasily Kandinsky. True, both Bauer and Kandinsky abstracted their subjects in that same, soft, there-but-not-there style impressionists used on landscapes, with a shake of cubism thrown in for good measure. But the Boca Raton Museum of Art has gone where the Internet goes only if you look really hard. They've dug up an amazing collection of Bauer's early drawings and prints, created when he worked on German humor magazines in the 1920s and '30s. Bauer's drawings look as if they could have been New Yorker covers except they're so Continental. In Man with Cigarette, the smoking man is hoarding the cigarette in the way only Europeans do. The fashions are extreme -- pointy, tight, and embellished far beyond their American flapper cousins in the '20s -- and the women are too perfect. Bauer was clever. His involvement in magazines honed his social commentary, and his drawings range from observations, rendered in gauche, of couples walking to pure caricature. Depictions of upper-class women making out raunchily with their gentleman like they were stable hands or performing a nighttime wash-up are wicked, like twisted Gibson Girls. If Bauer were going to caricature you, you'd want to cover your plump thighs. The exhibit is near-perfect in layout, traveling from his expressionist period, where the flavor of society at the time almost mocked itself, through his cubist transformation to the futurist abstractionist he finally became. As depictions of reality, some of the nudes displayed at the end of the exhibit look no better than what a novice might create in Figure Drawing 101. But they showed Bauer as a man whose hand must always have been sketching, and they're not disappointing. Instead, they're like ingenious credits at the end of a movie: not imposing but too good to step away from quickly. (Through June 19 at the Boca Raton Museum of Art, 501 Plaza Real, Mizner Park, Boca Raton. Call 561-392-2500. Admission $8 for adults.)
Now on Display
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 are 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 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.)
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Christo and Jeanne-Claude: The Würth Museum Collection: The works of Christo and his wife/collaborator, Jeanne-Claude -- notably their projects of wrapped monumental structures -- have to be seen in context. They manifest much of their sublimeness through the ephemeral and temporary nature of their existence. This show of 65 collages, drawings, photographs, and scale models from the Würth Museum Collection hardly provides viewers with the profound aesthetic experience of seeing the real, finished installations. But what this exhibit does is display compelling documentation of the technical requirements and processes that eventually lead to the completion of their ambitious projects, from their Wrapped Coast in Little Bay, Australia, to their most recent project, The Gates (7,500 saffron fabric panels suspended from frames that snaked throughout the pathways in New York's Central Park). (Through June 26 at Bass Museum of Art, 2121 Park Ave., Miami Beach. Call 305-673-7530.)