Capsule reviews of current area art exhibitions.
Mother Nature must need some help expressing her feelings for Sky Father, so Dennis Oppenheim lends the goddess a helping hand in "Salutations to the Sky." The series of aerial photographs are fictive proposals to redirect the flow of the Sacramento River so that it spells out such messages as "Always," "Forever," and "Faithfully Yours." There's even a Dear John version that spells out "Adios" in earth tones. Patches of colorful earth create geometric fields that surround the river's winding declarations. Oppenheim, an innovator in what's known as Earth Art for example, branding designs into fields is also an inventive sculptor in the more traditional sense. Two of his pieces are displayed in the Eaton sculpture garden, including Aerial Water Closets, which appear to be powder-coated metal and steel trees whose limbs bear strange fruit pastel toilets and sinks. Exhibited concurrently are the watercolors of Richard Frank, selected works commissioned by Northern Trust to capture local and historic landmarks so the artwork could be used for such things as corporate holiday cards. Some paintings capture their subjects for instance, the Norton Museum of Art Courtyard or the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse very literally, as if the artist rendered a watercolor version of a photograph. Others, like Celebratory which depicts the architecture, art, and gardens of the Society of the Four Arts capture the many aspects of their subjects in collage-like amalgam. (Through May 27 at Eaton Fine Art, 4325 Gardenia St., West Palm Beach. Call 561-833-3134.)
Now on Display
"Elliot Landy's Woodstock Vision: The Spirit of a Generation" captures photographic images of a rock 'n' roll era before the profession was a commercially viable one, let alone a glamorous one. As a result, Landy's work reflects virtually unlimited photographic access to many musical icons of the '60s. Capturing his subjects both candidly and posed for magazine stories and album covers, the exhibit guides visitors with the photographer's written reflections on the era and observations on his subjects. These wall-mounted notes include anecdotes of his friendships with legends such as Bob Dylan and Janis Joplin. Other subjects include Jim Morrison, the Band, Joan Baez, Van Morrison, Laura Nyro, Albert Ayler, and Frank Zappa. Panoramic photographs of the 1968 Woodstock concert include perspectives from both the stage and the audience. For instance, Two Navels and a Vest an image of the torsos of three jeans-clad hipsters, two female and one male is strikingly similar to the fashion of youth culture today. Maybe times have not changed as much as Dylan predicted, because a photo of young men climbing the sound towers at Woodstock definitely captures the same spirit a celebration of the beauty of individuality and the power of community still alive in today's indie-rock movement. The photographs also capture the political concerns of the times, whose climate parallels today's, including the pro- and anti-war protesters and the pro-choice campaigns. With an astute eye for what is important socially and artistically Landy has captured images as poetic as they are nostalgic. (Through June 3 at the Palm Beach Photographic Centre, 55 NE Second Ave., Delray Beach. Call 561-276-9797.)
"Salutations to the Sky"
"Everything I touch turns to $old" boast five sweaters, knitted appropriately in cash green- and Midas gold-hued fibers. With these as the sole display in the windows of its Dixie Highway storefront, Gavlak gallery might easily be mistaken for a real estate office. That notion would not be entirely dispelled either inside the gallery, where a series of large format photographs titled "Small Businesses" feature quirky free-standing structures as if they were real estate properties available for investors. In fact, both sweaters and photos are the creation of Lisa Anne Auerbach, who uses the media for social commentary on capitalism. The sweaters are part of Auerbach's knitting project "Steal This Sweater" (a nod to '70s social revolutionary Abbie Hoffman's Steal This Book), where her messages are literally knit into a cultural fabric. "Buy this sweater off my back" is knitted into the fabric of some sweaters, along with prices that range from $5,000 to $25,000, all supposedly based on how much gold is used in each design. Auerbach's big pictures (30 by 40 inches) of small businesses capture their personalities and moods, each a portrait of a unique face of the American Dream. Signage is a constant that clutters these portraitures, and the photographs take their titles from the products being sold (Ice) or from the businesses' names (Desirables). The photos serve as a reminder of the contrast between the local retailers who contribute to the characters of their communities and retail giants who offer nothing but slickly presented homogeneity. (Through May 24 at Gavlak Studios, 3300 S. Dixie Hwy, Ste. 4, West Palm Beach. Call 561-833-0583.)
With more than 1,600 members and the mission "to present the public with the highest aesthetic standards in fine art," the Colored Pencil of Society of America has selected its finest 105 for its "Signature Showcase," an exhibition that includes winners from the society's competitive international exhibit. Displayed at the Cornell Museum, the works are exhibited in loose thematic groups so that you'll find fruits, veggies, and flowers in one room and animals, landscapes, and architecture in another. The styles are as varied as the colors: realism, photo-realism, impressionism, cubism, and abstraction among them. Some are predictable in their subject matter for instance, Peppers IV, a serial study by Arizona's Bill Cupit though expertly executed. Several, like Seattle-resident Laura Ospanik's Shadow Lights, study the play of light through transparent objects. Others are striking in their creativity: Lula Mae Blocton from Connecticut uses a bold, geometric pattern (presumably African) to dominate the foreground of Amistad Mende while an image of the historical slave ship repeats in the background. (Through June 3 at Cornell Museum at Old School Square, 51 N. Swinton Ave., Delray Beach. Call 561-243-7922.)
The small collection of pre-Columbian and ancient Mexican ceramics and sculptures currently on display at the Norton Museum of Art is aesthetically magnificent and historically significant. "Earthen Images: Ceramics from Ancient America" features 17 objects from six South American civilizations that flourished thousands of years before the discovery of the Americas. Three highly ornamentalized cylindrical vases sit together in a glass case, reflecting skeletal figures and organic designs in natural, subtle hues of orange, red, and cream. A sleek "Coprador" style Maya funerary sculpture of a dog holding an ear of corn in its mouth casts an unsettling gaze at its audience. Even more disturbing is the fact that these iconographic dogs from Colima were actual hairless creatures bred as ceremonial food and companions for the afterlife. The late pre-Classic (100 BC-300 BC) figures were found in eight of every ten Mayan tombs. Another creepy but fascinating object is a ladle, used during the ritual of human sacrifice. It depicts the sacred ulluchu fruit, which was believed to have anticoagulant properties, shaped into a ladle to hold the blood of sacrificial victims. (Through May 28 at the Norton Museum of Art, 1451 S. Olive Ave., West Palm Beach. Call 561-832-5196.)
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