Given the precarious nature of the gallery business these days, especially in fickle Broward County, every new arrival should be welcomed with open arms. So it is with Opus Fine Arts, which debuted in a strip mall in Oakland Park in mid-November. It's a lovely little space that offers works by nearly a dozen artists. The bulk of the gallery's stock is in the exotic-sounding medium of giclée, derived from the French verb gicler, meaning "to squirt" or "to spurt." Fancy terminology aside, giclés are really just high-quality inkjet prints produced from digital files of scanned or photographed artworks. The best ones look deceptively like the originals on which they're based, with sharp colors and crisp details, and they're often signed and numbered like more traditional prints such as lithographs and serigraphs and sometimes accented with daubs of paint. Normally, Artbeat is among the skeptics of giclé (there are many), but Opus has some exceptionally fine specimens. Chief among them are large pieces by Australian Robert Hagan: Pelican Point, a sunlight-suffused waterfront image, and All Aboard, a rainy landscape out of a Hollywood western that juxtaposes a steam train and a stagecoach. Also noteworthy are the moody, sensuous evocations of nightlife by Argentine Fabian Perez and the Old Florida landscapes of Keith Martin Johns, whose style resembles that of the legendary Highwaymen. The gallery's holdings by some artists specializing in Disney imagery pale in comparison to the beautifully realistic work of this trio. Opus owners Bruce Mayberry and Mandy Knapper also report strong interest in the black-and-white photos of Thomas Barbey, whose surreal compositions mesh imagery from multiple sources. Most of his work is merely gimmicky, although his Tourist Trap, which plops a massive tree into a San Francisco street scene, is eerily beautiful. (Opus Fine Arts, 1071 NE 45th St., Oakland Park, 954-689-6685.) -- Michael Mills
NOW ON DISPLAY
"The Inspired Moustache: An Exhibition of Diverse Expressions of Salvador Dal through Books and Memorabilia from the Collection of Rik Pavlescak" -- This quirky excursion through Dalwood, now at the Broward County Main Library, features 116 items drawn from the "much larger and comprehensive collection" of Pavlescak, who lives in West Palm Beach and works as a private human services consultant and as grants and education manager for the Comprehensive AIDS Program of Palm Beach County. Bienes Center librarian James A. Findlay, who helped coordinate the show, sums it up this way: "As is so often the case, it begins with a casual acquisition, leads to more detailed investigation and research, and ends with a compulsion to acquire as much material as possible..." For those who have always dismissed Dal as a shameless huckster/artistic whore, this orgy of Dalana will only confirm their worst suspicions and then some. For those of us who have always seen Dal for who and what he was and adore him in spite of or even because of it, this weird little show is great fun. (Through January 15 at the Bienes Center for the Literary Arts, Sixth Floor, Broward County Main Library, 100 S. Andrews Ave., Fort Lauderdale, 954-357-8692.)
"Me, Myself & I" -- Self-portraiture is the simple but potentially risky theme of this group show, currently at the small but inviting Schmidt Center Gallery at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton. The exhibition, assembled by a pair of guest curators from New York, features 30 artists, each represented by a single work, and includes photos, videos, sculptures, and works in oil, acrylic, and tempera. Confronted with art history's vast archives of self-portraiture, the artists respond in varied ways, ranging from distortion and transformation to outright disappearance. Even the most seemingly straightforward self-portraits have a stringent twist. The common denominator is the fractured lens of postmodernism, which gives the show its rich variety. (Through January 29 at the Schmidt Center Gallery, Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts & Letters, Florida Atlantic University, 777 Glades Rd., Boca Raton, 561-297-2966; closed from December 18 through January 4.)
"Optical Perceptions: Serigraphs by Victor Vasarely" -- The acknowledged leader of the op-art movement, Vasarely felt that any observer should be able to "get" his art, filled with precise shapes and oscillating colors leaping from the plane, regardless of educational background or experience. "Art for all" was the Hungarian-born French artist's motto. But, as with his piece Meta VY 48 G, sometimes you can't stop thinking to yourself that it looks like a couple of soccer balls trimmed in gold. Vasarely wanted the observer to see not soccer balls but shapes and forms with precisely rendered lines and complementary colors that vibrate in the brain, causing the octagons to advance and recede into space. For those unfamiliar with op-art: think M.C. Escher, the scion of T-shirts and dorm posters printed with a dizzying array of fish and escalators disappearing into the chest of the wearer. Vasarely believed that everything in the world has an underlying geometry, which is what he sees and re-creates. It's not supposed to look like anything, though Vasarely's understanding of what colors do when placed side by side is astounding. The fascinating collection of serigraphs is mostly in color, and most of the works are titled Untitled, presumably to prevent reading too much into a name. Two works resemble sunrises -- the horizon line is straight despite the curved shapes that make up the terrain in the foreground. The purples and reds vibrate -- warm colors tend to advance into space. In the end, you have to stop looking for the soccer ball. It's just form and dimension and color, so just enjoy it. (Through December 17 at the Art School, 801 W. Palmetto Park Rd., Boca Raton, 561-392-2503.)
"The Four Seasons" -- An exhibition-sized, site-specific installation at the Art and Culture Center of Hollywood by Guerra de la Paz, the collaborative name of two Miami-based Cuban artists, Alain Guerra and Neraldo de la Paz. Working out of their studio in Little Haiti, they create what they call "clothing sculpture" by using leftovers from neighborhood rag shops that export used clothing to underdeveloped countries. For this show, they fill the museum with around two dozen pieces, most of them linked to a specific season. What at first feels refreshingly silly about the exhibition ends up seeming contrived, gimmicky, and a little too self-satisfied, although specific pieces have their undeniable charms. (Through December 5 at the Art and Culture Center of Hollywood, 1650 Harrison St., Hollywood, 954-921-3274.)
"Diana, A Celebration" is even more lacking in actual art than last year's Vatican show at MoA. We get battered childhood toys, a few dozen of Diana's steppin'-out gowns, photographs of the Spencer family estate, a looped tape of Elton John singing "A Candle in the Wind," a very valuable-looking tiara (the impression of value reinforced by the presence of two edgy guards hovering next to it), and the Wedding Dress. Ah, the Dress. It's big, all right. There are 25 yards of silk taffeta in it, 100 yards of tulle crinoline, and 150 yards of veil netting, and it's mounted on a faceless mannequin in a 30-foot-long glass case; every inch of its 25-foot train is on full display. But somehow, it doesn't live up to the hype. Those blousy sleeves, the beaded bodice, the lacy collar, the little bows, the embroidered hem line -- they all add up to one clunker of a gown. This was before Diana discovered herself as a public figure, of course, and you're left with the impression that the royal matriarchs, Queen E. and the Queen Mum, had her tightly in their clutches. The dress must have been suffocating to wear. Pictures of Diana in it somehow bring back a long-forgotten impulse to rescue her -- to leap into that vast froth of fabric and drag her coughing and gasping back to shore -- and the show prompts a similar impulse. Can we drag the real Diana out of there? (Through December 31 at the Museum of Art, 1 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, 954-525-5500.)
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