You don't have to know a cheese knife from a palette knife to know that wine and mingling are what set apart an opening from any other day at a gallery. Photographer and painter Kevin Rouse got the bright idea to give his gallery that permanent, opening-night vibe by getting a liquor license and a larger gallery space, and, voilà, Kevro's Art Bar was born. Moving from the north to the south side of downtown Delray Beach, he traded up from traditional gallery space to "art oasis," including an outdoor patio, a photography and video studio, and a huge "tar art" free-for-all black-top "canvas," where other artists are invited to spread (or spray) some paint. Formerly just a blighted industrial property, the space has not only been transformed but also transcended, so much so that the gallery/bar could be called an art installation. Large-scale (4' x 6'), large-format nature photography, like the enchanted tree hammock in Briny Breezes (whose scale makes you feel like it's a portal to another world), dominate the north wall of the industrial-chic space. The exhibit is ever-changing, partially because all the works are for sale. But the space's shifting nature is also thanks to two large plasma TVs above the bar that display the artist's portfolio, including his vivid digital art. While maximizing your art experience, these and the lightbox in the corner provide a color-drenched ambience. The wedge-shaped couches lend themselves to the "opening night" vibe by looking more like primary-colored cheese. Like a jeweler's case, the glass bar showcases art work; its aluminum and African mahogany base raises the bar above its practical function to the sculptural realm. Because his aim is to make this a meeting ground for creative types, Rouse invites other artists to bring in DVDs of their artistic creations, whether they're vacation photographs or art film shorts. Patrons can also contribute to their experience by creating ceramic tiles for the magnetic mosaic behind the bar or by picking up the public electric guitar and letting their best riffs rip. (Ongoing at Kevro's Art Bar, 166 SE Second Ave., Delray Beach. Call 561-274-0007.)
This year's installment of Florida's oldest annual juried art competition — the "Annual All Florida Juried Competition and Competition," now in its 56th year — is also one of the strongest of at least the past decade. Chief among the myriad possibilities of why this is so are the show's selecting juror, John B. Henry III of Michigan's Flint Institute of Arts, and the space and freedom he has been allotted to install some exceptional art. The show includes 76 works by 71 artists, culled from 745 entries from literally all over the state. Best in Show is a highly realistic female nude by Naples artist Lynn Davison, captured with some of the virtuosity and wounded majesty we might normally associate with Lucian Freud. (Through August 26 at the Boca Raton Museum of Art, 501 Plaza Real, Mizner Park, Boca Raton. Call 561-392-2500.)
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With a giant Dalmatian puppy over its entry and silhouettes of a different breed in each of its windows, "For the Love of Dogs" begs for attention before visitors even make it through the door. It's sure to be an effective method of getting kids to hound their parents into taking them to see an art exhibit. The desire to pun is nearly irresistible, so let's just get the obvious ones out of the way: "It's a doggone cute show that has some teeth to it! Perfect for the dog days of summer!" OK, now we can focus on the substance of the show, which is nearly 100 works, including paintings, photographs, and sculptures, on the subject of canine life. Among the artists is Ron Burns, artist in residence for the Humane Society of America. His color-drenched pet portraits, like If You Want Me I'll Be in the Kitchen, feature Humane Society "models" and show the artist's graphic-arts background in the colors and composition. In contrast, Beth Carlson's oil paintings take a more traditional approach, celebrating dogs in country life. Barrie Barnett, whose art career began with people portraits and evolved into animal portraiture, lends her vivid, detailed pastels to the exhibit. Rachelle Oatman anthropomorphizes her tail-waggers in oil, depicting them in clothing and human contexts. In addition to these national artists, local artists also contribute their talents to the exhibit. In all, the subject-themed exhibit offers some strong work in a variety of media. (Through September 8 at Cornell Museum, 51 N. Swinton Ave., Delray Beach. Call 561-243-7922.)