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Don Quixote
Don Quixote

Capsule reviews of current area art exhibitions.

Don Quixote's universal appeal lies in his pursuit of unrealistic dreams. Cervantes' character -- full of hope and delusion -- exists in all of us, and his tale continues to inspire great artists. Richard Strauss composed a tone poem of the same title in 1897. George Balanchine choreographed his Don Quixote ballet in 1965, casting himself in the title role and showcasing Suzanne Farrell. Don Quixote's fantasy world made him an inviting topic for Salvador Dalí, who created numerous illustrations for Cervantes' text. A handful of these are on view at the North Regional/Broward Community College Library, on loan from the private collection of Rik Pavlescak, a South Florida resident and fan of Dalí's work. The exhibit commemorates Hispanic Heritage Month and the 400th anniversary of the publication of Don Quixote (the first part was actually published in 1605, the second part in 1615), which quickly became Spain's literary masterpiece. Dalí's images are displayed in two glass cases, which hold eight books, a framed lithograph, and a record of Strauss' composition with liner notes featuring illustrations by Dalí. The frail figure of Don Quixote finds an apt counterpart in the gaunt horse he rides, bones and musculature showing through the animal's coat. Dalí's wide variety of approaches -- from realist to illusionist -- makes it hard to believe one man produced all these images. At times, they bear more resemblance to Norman Rockwell than the surrealist genius who said, "What is important is to spread confusion, not eliminate it." Events in English and Spanish supplement the exhibit: On October 8, there's a lecture in Spanish by retired a University of Puerto Rico professor, Dr. Victor Cataluna. On October 15, the library hosts a discussion with Broward Community College Professors Marisol Ballester and Marion Grauer in English and Spanish. (Through October 31 at the North Regional/BCC Library, 1100 Coconut Creek Blvd., Coconut Creek. Call 954-201-2600.)

Now on Display

The Art and Culture Center of Hollywood's "Reduced" includes four contemporary artists, the heirs of minimalism, which flourished in the 1960s and 1970s, in part as a response to the perceived excesses of 1950s abstract expressionism. It's tempting to declare that everything there is to say about minimalism has already been said. But based on the works included here, it would clearly be a mistake to dismiss it entirely. Just as "Fat Painting" reasserted the vitality of the ideas underlying abstract expressionism, "Reduced" demonstrates that some of the basics of minimalism are surprisingly enduring and versatile. The show is about as spartan as they come. It focuses primarily on a trio of South Florida-based artists, although it also includes a seminal 1971 video by John Baldessari. There are fewer than a dozen works by the three local artists -- five by Frances Trombly, four by Frank Wick, and two by Tom Scicluna -- all of which were created in the past three years. Trombly's work -- objects titled plywood or paper airplane and meticulously woven and stitched to create the uncanny illusion that they are actually fabricated from the materials they mimic -- is the show's strongest statement of minimalism's continuing influence, but it's not enough to carry the exhibition by itself. The work of Wick fleshes out the space without overwhelming it, both complementing and contrasting with Trombly's pieces. Wick is a sly, even grim, jokester. One wall bears his Winner, which consists of a large white panel with the title word stenciled in the center in a ghostly off-white, then painted over with bacon grease, which dribbles down from the letters and spatters the floor. The oblique joke is explained in the brochure by the curator, who says the piece "uses language to illustrate humans' ability to produce text as an advantage over animals and thus the right to eat them, rendering humans as the 'winner. '" (Through November 6 at the Art and Culture Center of Hollywood, 1650 Harrison St., Hollywood. Call 954-921-3274.)


Don Quixote

William Wegman's name has become synonymous with photographs of Weimaraner dogs, which he captures making humorous and humanesque poses. The images are available in books at Target and on notecards virtually everywhere. But another side of the artist emerges in "It's a Dog's Life: Photographs by William Wegman from the Polaroid Collection" at Florida Atlantic University's Ritter Art Gallery. Two small televisions show Wegman's experimental films. Coupling the films and photographs indicates that Wegman embraces both subversive edge and commercial appeal. Through film -- some without dogs -- Wegman plays with typical settings, like a magic trick or a cinnamon toast commercial -- in unusual ways. In one short, a man (Wegman?) drools milk on the floor in a linear puddle. The films are witty, disturbing, and at times inexplicable. The photographs, on the other hand, have a widespread attraction. Massive -- 24 inches by 20 inches -- the prints showcase the dogs' soulful eyes and silky fur. Some of them are a little more unexpected, with Wegman's subjects blending elegantly into their surroundings. In Sad Film, a single Weimaraner sits in an otherwise empty film auditorium, as if watching the movie that's coming from the projector behind. The dog's expression is inquisitive and forlorn. Stud 2000 features a Weimaraner sitting on a stationary bike, a towel draped around its neck. Mantle has two dogs lounging above a fireplace like floral decorations, almost blending with the massive stone chimney. While the photographs capture the animals' priceless expressions and the texture of their fur is scintillatingly reproduced, visitors who crave a little more risk with their art may find themselves drawn more to Wegman's films. (Through November 12 at the Ritter Art Gallery, FAU, 777 Glades Rd., Boca Raton. Call 561-297-2661.)

"New Art 2005" at the Museum of Art culls an array of recent and older creations by nine winners of the South Florida Cultural Consortium Fellowship. Not only does the fellowship benefit the artists in terms of exposure and money ($15,000 to each artist, to be exact), but it also lets museum visitors see an unusually focused sampling of contemporary work. The artists explore a range of media -- painting, photography, sculptural installation, video, computer art -- but the exhibit is surprisingly consistent. The pieces eloquently marry materials and ideas, eliciting beauty and insight. For one of her installations, Miami's Karen A. Rifas has strung brown leaves on white threads which, arranged like shafts of light, emanate from the walls, floor, and ceiling. As the organic shapes cast shadows against the surrounding walls, the piece simultaneously conveys stillness and energy. It's titled I'm Dancing as Fast as I Can. Hollywood's Thomas Nolan constructs a city of towers and skyscrapers out of hundreds of unused staples and screws, mounted on top of the base of a swivel chair. Called Newerness, its tiny objects evoke a miniature cityscape, a fantastic juxtaposition of simplicity and complexity. Not for the queasy, filmmaker Lisandro Pérez-Rey is represented by several short videos, one of which shows a scientist dissecting an animal. But by capturing ordinary routines and interactions and splicing them with their subject's thoughts on life and love, Pérez-Rey also offers touching vignettes. Call them portraits for the 21st Century. (Through November 6 at Museum of Art, One E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-525-5500.)

Because Broward County's architectural gems are spread around -- unlike Miami's famous Art Deco neighborhoods, where they tend to show up in clusters -- visitors rarely get a sense of the scope of Broward's mid-century modern designs. "Going, Going, Gone? Mid-Century Modern Architecture in South Florida" now at the Museum of Art, seeks to rectify this situation, albeit in the two-dimensional medium of photography. Broward's best are at least the equal of those in Miami. On one wall of the museum, 27 photographs by Robin Hill offer dramatic glimpses of buildings, hotels, and inns that appear both retro and New Age. Shot from close and unusual angles, the energy-packed images are gripping. The icing on the cake is a 16-foot "Gold Coast" sign salvaged from the roof of the 1949 beachfront hotel of the same name. Its turquoise metal lettering with gold trim matches the hyper-bright colors in Hill's pictures. Also in the exhibit are Hill's 16 photographs of Miami-Dade County landmarks including the Fontainebleau Hotel and Giller Building. The structures' carefree colors and swirling arches recall a time of childlike exuberance. Fort Lauderdale's Hyatt Regency Pier 66, with its glass-enclosed lounge topped with a crown of lit columns, seems ideal for a visit from The Jetsons. The Jolly Roger and Yankee Clipper look more like blown-up toys than buildings, remnants of an era whose motto was "Because We Can" instead of "The Bottom Line." Afterward, visitors can leave the museum and see almost all of the structures for themselves. (Through November 6 at the Museum of Art, One E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-525-5500.)

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