When the popular Hortt competition went on life support a few years ago, the Boca Raton Museum's All Florida show was left pretty much as the area's only regular, large-scale venue for artists wanting to compete among their peers for recognition. Fortunately, the museum has remained up to the challenge, as the "53rd Annual All Florida Juried Competition and Exhibition" demonstrates. This year's incarnation, selected by Chief Curator Elizabeth A.T. Smith of Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art, includes 77 pieces by 74 artists from 39 Florida cities. Faced with choosing from more than a thousand entries by nearly 400 artists, Smith opted for diversity. The exhibition includes works in mainstays like oil and acrylic painting as well as installations and mixed-media pieces. Among the highlights: Neptune's Nemesis, a color-enhanced digital photograph taken underwater by Karen Christopher of Palm City, who transforms a floating plastic garbage bag into a thing of beauty; and Just Inside the Treeline, a big, acrylic painting on board by Ryan Cummings of West Palm Beach that applies a complex grid to a landscape brimming with mystery. Smith stumbles with a pair of Judge's Merit Awards, but her choice for Best in Show is a smart one. It's a prickly piece called Is It So? #2, by Denise Moody Tackley of Boca, who uses fine-mesh metal screen and wire, festooned with safety pins, for a surprisingly nuanced commentary on matrimony. The All Florida is supplemented by another diverse display, "Boca Museum Artists Guild Biennial Exhibition," of nearly 50 pieces from the group's 500-plus members. It's a labor of love for museum Executive Director George S. Bolge, whose keen eye for juxtaposition is evident in the way the show is assembled. "53rd Annual All Florida Juried Competition and Exhibition" and "Boca Museum Artists Guild Biennial Exhibition" are on display through August 29 at the Boca Raton Museum of Art, 501 Plaza Real, Mizner Park, Boca Raton. Call 561-393-2500. -- Michael Mills
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