Capsule reviews of current area art exhibitions.
A little racy for quaint Delray Beach, Maestros de Cuba at the Cornell Museum showcases five contemporary Cuban artists whose work has never been exhibited together prior to this show. Working in different media with vastly different perspectives, the artists were selected by Anita and Jay Hyman, founders of the Society for the Advancement of Latin American Art, who frequently travel to Cuba to collect art. Los Pajaros, a crayon and watercolor piece by Jose Roberto Fabelo Perez, greets the visitor in the museum's foyer. It has a beautifully serene and surreal quality: a flock of birds moving toward a woman's profile, with shells suggesting the curls of her hair. Drawings and watercolors by Pedro Pablo Oliva Rodriguez appear, at first like caricatures, almost Hirschfeld-esque in their repeated lines and exaggerated features. But closer inspection reveals penises and genitalia, a pin driven through a man's neck, and a vise around a doll's head. Nelson Dominguez Cedeno offers several stunning paintings and mixed-media works: Cargo en Rojo (2005) describes a horse's muzzle seen from above, its nose gleaming white against a dark-burgundy background. In contrast to the male Cuban artists in the downstairs galleries, Vernissage, an ambitiously multifaceted exhibit of female artists, occupies two of the upstairs rooms. Organized by the Florida chapter of the National Association of Women Artists, the exhibit represents works by 41 women. Villagio di Barga, an etching by Bernice Harwood, stands out: Its black shapes contrast with peach shadows, a rough rendering of an alleyway view. Eleanor Shane's acrylics pop off the walls: Cave Music is a particularly vibrant example of fluorescent colors and abstract shapes. (Both shows run through October 30 at the Cornell Museum of Art and History, Old School Square, 51 N. Swinton Ave., Delray Beach. Call 561-243-7922.)
Now on Display
A lifelong friendship began on a three-week exploration of Cuba in 1933. The Boca Raton Museum of Art is showing a recently compiled exhibition of 50 images by American photography master Walker Evans and 20 of legendary Ernest Hemingway's photographs and artifacts. "Three Weeks in Cuba, 1933" examines a country in a time of political turmoil and two men in a time of personal and artistic growth and discovery. Evans was working on his first major assignment, illustrating the critical book The Crime of Cuba. Hemingway traveled to Havana to fish and work on novels. The two men were profoundly affected by their late-night conversations regarding the heavy political climate of Cuba. This nightly ritual inspired their individual artistic styles for the rest of their lives. Hemingway wrote To Have and Have Not while Evans produced his first great body of work, images that simultaneously exemplify the daily life and danger of Cuba during this time. "Three Weeks" displays Hemingway's weathered journal entries, photos of him fishing, and mementos of his stay, all found in Key West after his death. Evans' shots of everyday life capture the heart and soul of Cuba. From the crispness of Citizen of Havana, a photo of an elegant black man in a white suit standing in front of a shoeshine stand, to the graphic violence of crime scenes and the smoky skies of country landscapes, Evans depicts a country of tormented beauty. He takes the viewer on a gripping journey of Havana, past the street vendors and beggars, through the fruit market to the patchwork shacks of the Village of Havana Poor. This exhibition allows museum guests a glimpse into a friendship between two remarkable men and into a country in an era of upheaval. (Through November 20 at the Boca Raton Museum of Art, 501 Plaza Real, Mizner Park Boca Raton. Call 561-392-2500.)
Maestros de Cuba
It's an idea whose time has come: Art meets food. Mark's at the Park restaurant in Boca Raton engagingly displays the multimedia works of longtime local artist Elizabeth Chapman. Diners get the opportunity to digest this earthy yet ethereal exhibition as they indulge in Chef Mark Militello's home-style meatballs or pan-seared scallops. Hidden Emotions, which sneaks a discreet nude into the corner of its rich, layered paint on stacked canvas, will capture the gaze of whoever has the fortune of sitting at one particular table, and Helene's Gift, a patchy, organic work that boldly incorporates fleshy nudes and slate grays, will undoubtedly catch the eye of diners on their way to the restrooms. Chapman's innovative use of Masonite and canvas, held together invisibly in one piece and with heavy metal clamps in another, gives a quiet but intense balance to the abstracted blocks of color and thick textures, chalky squiggles, shadowy hands, and modest nudes that appear in many of her paintings. Floating Canvas is exactly that. It's not a stretched canvas; instead, it hangs loosely, suspended from a metal rod that reinforces the rawness of the dark patches of glazed, layered colors and the mystery of the shadow of a hand that materializes again. Near the entrance to the restaurant, organic materials, rusty metal hinges, tarpaper, and darks smears of paint give a dark depth to the piece titled Absence of Mention. An almost tangible harmony is at play throughout the restaurant, showing that Chapman was a good choice as one of two artists to provide the artistic image for the restaurant (sculptor Sid Walesh is the other). (Through November 30 at 344 Plaza Real, Mizner Park, Boca Raton. Call 561-395-0770.)
Don Quixote's universal appeal lies in his pursuit of unrealistic dreams. The rich fantasy world of the eccentric Spanish knight makes 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 both 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 show through the animal's coat. Dalí's wide variety of approaches from realist to illusionist makes it hard to believe that one man produced all these images. At times, they bear more resemblance to Norman Rockwell than to the surrealist genius who said, "What is important is to spread confusion, not eliminate it." (Through October 31 at the North Regional BCC Library, 1100 Coconut Creek Blvd., Coconut Creek. Call 954-201-2600.)
California native William DeBilzan's mixed media, abstract expressionist pieces have gained popularity throughout the United States since the early 1990's. His visibility increased dramatically in the 1990's when popular prime-time television shows like Frasier and Just Shoot Me featured his paintings. New River Fine Art is currently displaying their recent acquisitions of DeBilzan's original, colorful works. His paintings of elongated, rectangular figures and brilliant hues are embellished by the appropriation of stenciled text and various found objects, such as corrugated cardboard and mesh. DeBilzan creates his own frames of rough, antique wood, adding a rustic quality to the paintings. Some of the frames still have a hinge or joint from their previous use, further enhancing the folksy appeal of the work. His canvases, saturated with colors that evoke New Orleans or the Caribbean, offer a bold backdrop to lines of highly representational houses, trees, or people. Once Again offers the viewer a vibrant shade of green painted on canvas layered with mesh and corrugated cardboard that serves as a background to two lovers holding hands with their heads tilted in affection toward each other. The clean whites of their shirts juxtaposed with the primary colors of his pants and her skirt create a sharp contrast to the muted tones of stenciled, spray-painted letters and the numbers of the floor they stand on. DeBilzan's subject matter never seems to reference anything other than the warm comfort and bright joys of daily life. That simplicity is the appeal of William DeBilzan's body of work. (Through November 5 at New River Fine Art, 914 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-524-2100.)
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