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Somewhere along the way from Haiti to Hollywood, vodou became voodoo, and the island nation's rich religious stew of Roman Catholic, West African, Carib, and Freemason traditions was boiled down to B-movie zombies and not much else. "Sequined Surfaces: Haitian Vodou Flags," now at the Boca Museum, goes a long way toward correcting that stubborn misperception. The exhibition, drawn from the collection of Plantation-based writer and Haitian art dealer Candice Russell, is a lively look at one of the Western Hemisphere's most fascinating indigenous folk arts. As the show's curator, Russell, former art critic for City Link, provides a wealth of context for the colorful, symbol-laden flags, which are used in religious rituals (and stored for "recharging" when not in use). Working primarily with sequins and glass beads sewn onto panels of fabrics ranging from cotton to satin, flag artists portray loas, the Vodou pantheon of spirits as varied as Catholic saints. And since each loa has its own personality as well as its own sacred days and favorite items, there's plenty of source material to draw on for the imagery. The female loa Erzulie, for example, is a Virgin Mary variant partial to perfume, alcohol, cake, silk, and lace, while the agricultural deity Cousin Zaka is associated with bread, tobacco, and raw rum. "Sequined Surfaces" features more than 50 flags of various sizes, along with 14 beaded bottles, a handful of eerie, mixed-media dolls, and a wall hanging made from a metal oil drum. The museum complements the Haitian show with a smaller, more subdued exhibit, "In Praise of Hands: Southwest American Indian Tribal Crafts," which includes blankets, pillows, belts, jewelry, and other items from a local private collection. (Both shows are on display through November 7 at the Boca Raton Museum of Art, 501 Plaza Real, Mizner Park, Boca Raton, 561-392-2500.) -- Michael Mills
NOW ON DISPLAY
"Races Encontradas," a group show at Gallery Six in the Broward County Main Library that includes just over three dozen pieces by ten artists, pays little more than lip service to Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15 to October 15). Some of the work is quite good: the highly accomplished realism of Diana Alcaraz de Negrn and Mara Teresa Mesa, the bronze-and-wood sculptures of Luis Eduardo Garca Contreras, and the mixed-media pieces of Carlos José Tirado-Yepes. Unfortunately, few of the artists address, in any significant way, what it means to be Hispanic in America or in South Florida today. The show wants to celebrate the artists' Hispanic heritage without establishing a context for (or even a definition of) that heritage. A second show, "Celebration of Hispanic Heritage," which just ended at ArtServe in Fort Lauderdale, suffered from a similar schizophrenia. (Through October 16 at Gallery Six, Broward County Main Library, Sixth Floor, 100 S. Andrews Ave., Fort Lauderdale, 954-357-7444.)
Reconstituted Landscape: Isaac Asimov once implied that the microcosm and the macrocosm are one and the same. This becomes apparent in Matthew Picton's "Reconstituted Landscape," now on display at Damien B. Contemporary Art Center. Picton's installation of cell-like lattices in red, purple, gray, and orange take over the gallery space. They hang from dozens of Slinkies on a frame and rise from the gallery floor through the walls. The well-realized environment evokes a gigantic synapse transmission, as if inside a huge brain, reminiscent of Richard Fleischer's aesthetic vision in Fantastic Voyage. (Through October 20 at the Damien B. Contemporary Art Center, 282 NW 36th St., Miami, 305-573-4949.)