The 18 works that make up "Alan Dayton: Portraits," now at the Broward County Main Library's Gallery Six, can stand on their own merits. They're best appreciated, however, as behind-the-scenes glimpses of other artists. Most of Dayton's subjects are active in the visual arts in South Florida -- either as artists themselves or as arts supporters -- although he also includes representatives from the worlds of music, dance, theater, and literature. They're invariably captured looking the artist (and by extension us) straight in the eye, as if peering into a camera and saying "Cheese." But Dayton eschews photographic realism in favor of a moodier, more idiosyncratic approach. One of his techniques, and it's a risky one that usually pays off, is to work small details into the otherwise straightforward portraits that comment on the subjects, such as snapshots and other personal mementos. In the background of the portrait of novelist Vicki Hendricks, for instance, is a tiny image of skydivers, a striking detail that makes even more sense when you read in the program notes that Hendricks is "an avid skydiver." Dayton's pieces are supplemented, wherever possible, by original works by the artists portrayed. Lynne Kroll's portrait is paired with a lovely abstract watercolor by the artist, while the painting of Janet Gold is displayed opposite one of the small, evocative oil pastels for which she's known. It's a smart move that fleshes out what might otherwise seem like a sparse show. It's also a nice touch that the library's new exhibits coordinator, Sharon L. Morris, provides a modest exhibition catalog, which includes black-and-white reproductions of the portraits, as well as information on Dayton and his brief bios of the artists. ("Alan Dayton: Portraits" is on display through March 5 at Gallery Six, Sixth Floor, Broward County Main Library, 100 S. Andrews Ave., Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-357-7443.)
Now on Display
Four eclectic solo shows near the end of their runs at the Coral Springs Museum of Art. "Yuroz's Narrative Culture of Cubism" features more than two dozen pieces by the Armenian-born artist, most of them large oil portraits. A dozen and a half pieces of furniture hand-crafted in wood, iron, and glass accented with marble, granite, and quartz make up "Felipe R. Luque: Arte Decorativo." Watercolors featuring floral compositions are the emphasis in "Grace Dubow: Simply Grace!" And "Grace Fishenfeld: Moving Along Through Media and Idea" showcases the restless creativity of the part-time Floridian, who dabbles in media ranging from watercolor, pastel, and acrylic to collage, woodcut, and gouache. Artist-in-residence Barbara W. Watler is also on site, sewing quilt panels with designs incorporating enlarged human fingerprints. (Through February 19 at the Coral Springs Museum of Art, Coral Springs Center for the Arts, 2855 Coral Springs Dr., Coral Springs, 954-340-5000.)
There's fullness and richness (perhaps even too much) to "I Feel Mysterious Today," the wonderfully titled group show at the Palm Beach Institute of Contemporary Art in Lake Worth. Twenty-six artists from nearly a dozen countries are represented in roughly 70 works, most created since the term of the century, more than half of them by men. Guest curator Dominic Molon of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago interprets the term mysterious generously and characterizes the art as "presenting us with fantastic or supernatural imagery, peculiar everyday situations, and radically transformed objects and images." Roe Ethridge's big color photos, for example, turn lowly pigeons into creatures of great grace and beauty. And Roberto Behar and Rosario Marquardt's Enchanted Forest is really just an inspired installation of dozens, maybe even hundreds, of brightly colored plastic streamers. (Through March 27 at the Palm Beach Institute of Contemporary Art, 601 Lake Ave., Lake Worth, 561-582-0006.)
When the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach opened its new wing almost two years ago, it added 14 galleries with more than 12,000 square feet of exhibition space. Much of that space is devoted to the museum's justly acclaimed collections of Chinese art and pre-1870 European art, as well as a splashy ceiling installation by glass master Dale Chihuly. What often goes unmentioned is that the expansion also lets the Norton showcase more of its contemporary collection. The wing's first-floor galleries feature nearly a dozen pieces worth viewing. But it's the wing's largest gallery that features the most imposing works: a pair of mixed-media pieces by Richard Long. In August 2004, the artist worked directly on an expanse of blackened wall using clay and water to create the abstract Seminole. For the 2002 piece Mohawk, Long challenges our notions of what constitutes a landscape by covering most of the gallery's floor space with a vast, oval-shaped installation that suggests a stream of smooth gray Mexican river rocks flowing through chunks of white marble. (Through fall 2005 at the Norton Museum of Art, 1451 S. Olive Ave., West Palm Beach, 561-832-5196.)
It may or may not be a compliment to Roland DesCombes to say his drawings look like photographs. On one hand, the comparison is a testament to DesCombes' incredible technical skill. On the other, the comparison speaks to the biggest problem in his current exhibit, "Reflections," at the Jeannette Hare Art Gallery at Northwood University -- the technique often overshadows the subject. Not that skill is anything to sneeze at. On the contrary, DesCombes, as one of the comparatively few artists who uses graphite rather than the often more respected paint or the nebulous "mixed media," deserves all the praise he can muster. His drawings are two different experiences, up close and far away, similar to the effects of looking at Impressionist paintings from the same two perspectives. From a distance, the images are sharp. Up close, there are sketched in art marks that imitate detail. In his landscapes, DesCombes considers composition in the same manner a photographer would, applying cropping techniques and paying attention to light and dark areas. His landscapes are the best, especially the titular "Reflections" drawings, with reflections on water of trees and root systems native to DesCombes' home in central Florida. Wahula II and Wahula are spectacular in their attention to detail and for the longing they convey for a quiet, secret place to paddle into. Maybe they're too realistic, but that's what's special about them. The interiors -- of bottles, dolls, fireplaces, and other household minutiae -- are less successful. Try as the objects might to anchor a space, to announce their place in a whole room, all that amazes is the skill at which a clear bottle is drawn. (Through February 18 at the Jeannette Hare Art Gallery at Northwood University, 2600 Military Trl., West Palm Beach, 561-478-5538.)
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