Manufacturing #17, Deda Chicken Processing Plant, Dehui City, Jilin Province, 2005 is not, as far as titles go, a memorable or creative one. But it is apropos for the image, which depicts hundreds, possibly thousands, of nearly identically clad, masked workers in pink scrubs and blue aprons as they do the equally uninspiring work of cutting up chickens for mass consumption. The lengthy titles of the large-format photographs in "Edward Burtynsky: The China Series," like the subjects they depict, comment on conformity and on the anonymity that results from the demands of industrialization specifically in modern China. Burtynsky confronts us with what our consumerism has wrought with these behind-the-scenes scenes of manufacturing. The exhibit also includes images of recycling, urban renewal, and the controversial Three Gorges Dam project. The world's largest hydroelectric dam should be operational in 2009 and will displace more than a million people and destroy historic and cultural sites as well as cause environmental havoc. The Canadian photographer's work, while documenting and commenting on social and environmental issues that arise under the banner of "progress," achieves its art in its visual rhythms (repetition) and its deviation from them. The itty-bitty plastic toy parts in China Recycling #7, Wire Yard, Wenxi, Zhejiang Province, 2004, achieve a lovely abstraction within their piles of discarded, multicolored pieces. (Through June 18 at the Boca Raton Museum of Art, 501 Plaza Real, Mizner Park, Boca Raton. Call 561-392-2500)
Now on Display
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Visitors to the Boca Raton Museum will find themselves pulled through its grand hall, past the photography exhibits, into "Graham Nickson: From Private Collections." There's a magnetic attraction to Nickson's painting Tracks: Green Sky at the end of a corridor, with the lines of the cantaloupe-hued and purple-blue bruise tracks narrowing like a funnel toward the horizon, seeming to send viewers vaulting into its lime-colored sky. What is initially striking about the entire exhibit, which includes both acrylic paintings on canvas and charcoal on paper, is the vibrancy of the acrylic paintings, made even more powerful by the sheer enormity of the works, some more than 12 feet wide. The British-born painter's palette holds colors one would normally experience under black lights: vivid fluorescents pop off the canvases, saturating viewers' retinas with fantastic color. Nickson's subjects are just as compelling: bodies some life-sized frozen in a moment of muscular tension. His paintings are populated with figures posed in beaches or back yards, places where these bodies most in bathing suits and some nude would seem natural. The subjects lift shirts overhead, bend to open a lounge chair or umbrella, climb a lifeguard stand, and raise a leg to dry a foot. Some works, like Rainbathers, contain so many bodies in various poses that the painting begins to feel as though it has captured a troupe of choreographed modern dancers. However, the bodies of Nickson's paintings, while healthy, aren't entirely perfect many sag and bulge. And in rendering them so beautifully, the artist honors the human form rather than exploiting or idealizing it. (Through June 18 at The Boca Raton Museum of Art, 501 Plaza Real, Mizner Park, Boca Raton. Call 561-392-2500)
A golden Buddha reverently holds a giant phallus before him like a censer of incense. It's the central image of Los Angeles artist Jamie Adams's triptych (each a 12-inch encaustic oil on linen) "Big Sur." With a playful juxtaposition, Adams' work not only holds the penis in high regard but puts it at the center of things the flanking images are a seascape and skyscape, to the left and right, respectively. The first in a series of three summer exhibitions, Mulry Fine Art presents A Group Show of Landscapes featuring painting, sculpture, and photography from the gallery's stable of artists. For the show, gallery directors sisters Fecia and Meghan Mulry have interpreted the landscape theme as creatively as the artists have rendered them, so don't expect to see a bunch of realistic fields and meadows. Even the photographs have a painterly quality to them. Wheaton Mahoney's "Sweet Pea," a giant, digitally manipulated close-up of a white-and-pink flower is reminiscent of one of O'Keefe's blossoms. Likewise, Celia Pearson's photographs capture their subjects in larger-than-life close-ups; however, the artist's method is a traditional one as she explores light and depth within the image as they capture their subjects: "Stem Leaf" and "Bromeliad." Others, like Robin Kahn's "State of the Art" series, take greater liberty with the theme. The New York artist uses a found image (perhaps originally a woodcut or linocut) of a forest-lined river as the backdrop for her cartoon of a woman balancing a man overhead with one arm. The cartoon woman performs a tight wire act on a piece of string laid across the picture. These works (identical except for the positioning of the string and cartoons) focus more on female roles than they do on nature. Also on display are works by Isabel Bigelow (paintings and monoprints), Peter Burega (abstract paintings), Luis Castro (wood and stone sculpture), Cara Enteles (multimedia), and Marc Leuders (photography). Through June 30 at Mulry Fine Art, 3300 South Dixie Hwy, West Palm Beach. Call 561-228-1006.
Boca Raton Museum of Art
"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, Frank Zappa. Panoramic photographs of the 1968 Woodstock concert include perspectives from both stage and audience. "Two Navels and a Vest" an image of the torsos of three jean-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 protestors and the pro-choice campaigns. With an astute eye for what is important socially and artistically Landy's images are as poetic as they are nostalgic. (Through June 3 at Palm Beach Photographic Centre, 55 NE Second Ave., Delray Beach. Call 561-276-9797)
In school, colored pencil is a medium for those who've matured beyond crayon but aren't quite ready for paint. In the hands of experts, though, colored pencil can produce remarkable, diverse, and vivid results. With more than 1600 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 which includes winners from the Society's competitive International Exhibit. Displayed in a former elementary school, now the Cornell Museum, the works are exhibited in loose thematic groups: 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 like "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. Running concurrently, Gathering of Kuumba (Swahili for creativity) presents a multi-media exhibition by African-American, Haitian, and Caribbean artists in South Florida. The uneven show includes the works of both very talented artists and their less-accomplished contemporaries and displays originals textiles, ceramics, sculptures, paintings alongside giclee reproductions. (Through June 3 at Cornell Museum at Old School Square, 51 N. Swinton Ave., Delray Beach. Call 561-243-7922)