Capsule reviews of current area art exhibitions.
To her fans, Michelle Newman's exhibit at the Cornell Museum in Delray Beach's Old School Square is a dream come true. For the rest of us, her collection of hand-decorated textiles and garments is merely an inspired mix of colors and clothes that have been hand-dyed, woven, silk-screened, and painted on. That's a good thing. Newman, a Miami Beach native, has appeared on every DIY-driven channel, including TNN, HGTV, and the Discovery Channel. Her legions of crafty fans aren't misguided. Newman travels extensively and uses her own photos from her trips as inspiration. Part of the exhibit is a textile scrapbook -- a roomful of pictures from her visits to Cairo, Costa Rica, and the Siksika Nation in Alberta. Some of her inspiration is closer to home, such as an Andy Warhol homage featuring faces screened onto dyed scarves. Interesting, but not her best. There's a fine line between a flattering imitator and a copycat, a line that Newman sometimes walks but never actually crosses. Still, she suffers no shortage of original ideas. In a work labeled Peter S. Melusy, she has taken a piece of cork, silk-screened a photo onto it, cut it in strips, and woven it with yarn to create a work of art. It is unusual and rough and, because it's so quixotic, definitely worth a look. In the same room are three beautifully complex pieces inspired by Ballet Russes that are red, rich, and luxurious. Newman completes each one in several steps, from screening to batik-style dyeing to painting. Several of the pieces include how-tos. The exhibit, for all its brilliance and inspired variety, ends up being pretty simple -- colorful, pretty, and funky. (Through May 21 at Old School Square's Cornell Museum of Art and History, 51 N. Swinton Ave., Delray Beach. Call 561-243-7922.)
Now on Display
When the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach opened its new wing almost two years ago, it added 14 galleries with more than 12,000 square feet of exhibition space. Much of that space is devoted to the museum's justly acclaimed collections of Chinese art and pre-1870 European art, as well as a splashy ceiling installation by glass master Dale Chihuly. What often goes unmentioned is that the expansion also lets the Norton showcase more of its contemporary collection. The wing's first-floor galleries feature nearly a dozen pieces worth viewing. But it's the wing's largest gallery that features the most imposing works: a pair of mixed-media pieces by Richard Long. In August 2004, the artist worked directly on an expanse of blackened wall using clay and water to create the abstract Seminole. For the 2002 piece Mohawk, Long challenges our notions of what constitutes a landscape by covering most of the gallery's floor space with a vast, oval-shaped installation that suggests a stream of smooth gray Mexican river rocks flowing through chunks of white marble. (Through fall 2005 at the Norton Museum of Art, 1451 S. Olive Ave., West Palm Beach. Call 561-832-5196.)
"Andrew Wyeth: American Master," a small but fairly comprehensive retrospective of more than 50 works from a career that spans an astonishing 70 years, is one of four exhibitions now at the Boca Raton Museum of Art. If the crowd checking it out opening weekend is any indication, Wyeth's standing as the most popular living American artist remains unchallenged. Wyeth is celebrated for his portraits and his sentiment-soaked rustic scenes, but the strength of this show is in his landscapes, many of which are set in his native Pennsylvania and in Maine, where he spends his summers. Wyeth invigorates landscape by pushing it toward abstraction. This show's masterpiece is a large tempera from 1947 called Hoffman's Slough. Again, there is a landscape of sorts, a sweeping expanse of swampy countryside painted in rich, varied earth tones with black-and-white highlights. Look closely and you'll pick up on the two tiny buildings in the distance at the top of the image, the wispy dirt road in the upper left corner, a few blades of grass in the foreground. The representational details seem added almost as an afterthought. But there's no question that Wyeth knew what he was after -- and that he got it. (Through April 17 at the Boca Raton Museum of Art, 501 Plaza Real, Mizner Park, Boca Raton. Call 561-392-2500.)
"Joan Miró: Illustrated Books," now at the Art and Culture Center of Hollywood, is a small but well-conceived exhibition focusing exclusively on the "artist's books" of one of the great Spanish surrealists. There are selections from ten such projects, which give equal weight to words and images. The words are from writers as varied as St. Francis of Assisi and William Butler Yeats, although most are from French poets Mir was exposed to while living and working in Paris. Many of the illustrations are quintessential Mir: basic forms with sharp, clean lines, painted in deep blacks and bright colors. If his style is essentially childlike doodling, as some skeptics have declared, it's childlike doodling of a very high order. The simplicity of his forms and his lack of interest in detail and depth of field mask a surprising expressiveness. (Through April 24 at the Art and Culture Center of Hollywood, 1650 Harrison St., Hollywood. Call 954-921-3274.)
"ArtsUnited Presents ArtExplosion 2005," now on display in the JM Enterprises Family Gallery at ArtServe, is a textbook example of good intentions yielding mostly unfortunate results. Part of the sponsoring group's stated mission is "to use the arts to break down historical barriers preventing lesbians and gays from contributing fully and openly to the cultural, social, and economic success of South Florida." So far, so good. And the show, at least in theory, is a resounding affirmation of the diversity of its members' art: more than 150 works in a variety of media and with equally varied subjects. No apparent theme, but again, no problem -- group exhibitions are often loosely linked. Judged strictly on its merits, however, the exhibition is something of a mess. The art looks and feels as if someone hastily threw it together on the way to dinner. The text panels for some works are hand-scrawled, and there's no introduction to the show, either posted at the entrance or available as a simple handout. Still, there are pieces worth ferreting out: Robert Felthaus' acrylics of dancers and divers that recall Matisse; Oscar Caballero's creepy/funny mixed-media sculpture Female SJB on Her Dune; Tina Hixson's dreamy acrylic of a Himalayan landscape; a pair of big, dramatic New York and London cityscapes in oil by Richard Poklop; and moody, abstract acrylics by Shirley Tiano and Jarrett Terrill. Not surprisingly, there's plenty of beefcake imagery, most of it mundane, which makes the work of an old pro like Dennis Dean seem glaringly out of place. ArtsUnited has admirable aims and a wealth of talent to work with, but unless its exhibitions are curated with greater care than this one, it does its member artists a great disservice. (Through April 15 at ArtServe, JM Enterprises Family Gallery, 1350 E. Sunrise Blvd, Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-462-9191.)
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