¨Mix It Up: A Mixed-Media Exhibition.¨
Although even under the best circumstances, ArtServe has never been an especially hospitable site for exhibitions ¯¯ a horrible irony for Broward County ¯¯ the place has outdone itself with the current ¨Mix It Up: A Mixed-Media Exhibition.¨ First, it promotes this sprawling group show as opening on May 21, which it didn´t. A phone call after an ill-fated visit on May 22 resulted in a lame response about ¨still labeling the art.¨ Well, a week later, those labels turn out to be strips of paper from the artists´ handwritten applications, crudely taped to the walls or, for a few unfortunate sculptures, actually taped to the works themselves. Sometimes the labels dangle vertically, so that you have to crane your head sideways to read them, and many of the pieces remain unlabeled altogether. This is inexcusable, even for an exhibition that appears to have accepted anything submitted to it ¯¯ there are works so crudely conceived and executed that they wouldn´t be out of place on an elementary school bulletin board. As for the work of a few genuinely talented artists, the show is a travesty, with paintings hung crookedly, crammed into a hallway, or squeezed into awkward spots around the information desk. Some names recur as you make your way through the mess. Dennis A. Dezmain´s turns up on a trio of mixed-media works: The Black, an expressive abstract with clots of impasto pigment in black, white, and gray; The Blue M&M, in which he sends up Julian Schnabel´s notorious plate paintings by smashing the giant title object into fragments and shards; and Platform, a big canvas with dense, abstract expressionist-style imagery that recalls the vigor of some of Jackson Pollock´s early work. Alfred Phillips, who like Dezmain is familiar from other group shows, also weighs in with a few playfully experimental works, and there are other obviously gifted artists included, all of whom should boycott any future ArtServe exhibition that doesn´t have someone clearly in charge of quality control. The artists ArtServe allegedly serves deserve much, much better. (On display through June 15 at ArtServe, 1350 E. Sunrise Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, 954-462-9191.) ¯¯ Michael Mills
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´ 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. For instance, Wheaton Mahoney´s Sweet Pea, a giant, digitally manipulated close-up of a white-and-pink flower is reminiscent of one of Georgia O´Keeffe´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 S. Dixie Hwy., West Palm Beach. Call 561-228-1006.)
A sort of heaven on Earth tucked away in the Himalayan mountains, Bhutan has been revered as home to gods and Bhutanese mortals. Buddhist since the Seventh Century, the culture reveres all life, so the natural splendor of this Asian country is well-preserved. Until the late 20th Century, the country was closed to outsiders, and even now, to maintain its natural environment, tourism is strictly limited (according to the Bhutan Tourism Corp., only 18,000 tourists were permitted in 2006). So if you aren´t one of the lucky ones who can visit the kingdom of heaven before you die, you can always visit ¨Bhutan: The Cloud Kingdom.¨ In addition to paintings, clothing, jewelry, prayer flags, and other cultural objects, the exhibit provides 60 photographs that document the land, dwellings, people, and culture of this country nestled between Tibet and India. Informative placards accompany the exhibit and let visitors know, for instance, about the symbolism within a flag with a dragon (honors the country´s nickname ¨Land of the Thunder Dragon¨) on a two-toned background (yellow honors the country´s secular authority; orange honors Buddhism) or the waterproof qualities and multiple uses of colorful, woven bamboo bowls. The exhibit´s five paintings (all gouache on paper) are spiritual in nature, depicting the Thunder Dragon, deities, parables, and important cultural symbols, while the objects reveal both the practical lives of the Bhutanese and their aesthetics. (Through July 31 at Society of the Four Arts, Children´s Art Gallery, 2 Four Arts Plz., Palm Beach. Call 561-655-7227.)
Kimonos are too lovely to be trusted; surely, they have something up their long, silky sleeves. ¨The Secret Life of Japanese Textiles¨ brings their mysteries out into the open, unveiling not only these traditional vestments commonly associated with Japanese culture but also their lesser-known counterparts. For instance, the Ni Kumi firefighter´s jacket, which mimics the robe shape of the kimono, including the long, wide sleeves, seems to present a magnificent way to go up in flames. In addition to apparel, the exhibit offers an array of fabric-created pieces ¯¯ from bed covers to horse wear ¯¯ including a Boss´s Day banner that shows that brown-nosing spans the cultures. The curator´s accompanying text says the weaving and dyeing techniques used to produce the images in the fabrics, like Genji (oxcart) wheels in water motif on one kimono, reflect the Japanese aesthetic; the blurred edges are part of the appeal. Any fashion bug knows that clothes make only half the man or woman; fabulous hair is also a must. So showing concurrently is ¨Japanese Combs.¨ More than just something to arrange the hair, the combs are decorative works of art to be worn in upswept tresses. Adorned with lacquer, gold, and delicately painted designs and inlaid with mother-of-pearl and coral, these combs of ivory, tortoise shell, and wood create an exhibit with teeth in it. (Through June 10 at Morikami Museum, 4000 Morikami Park Rd., Delray Beach. Call 561-495-0233.)
¨You come for the exhibit and you get a whole city,¨ museum educator Brandy Brownlee says during a guided tour of ¨The Good News Gospel Exhibit¨ at Spady Cultural Heritage Museum. The first floor, formerly the dining and living rooms of the home of community leader and educator Solomon D. Spady, houses the traveling gospel exhibit with a modest collection of posters, promotional photos, and songbooks. Curated by Sante Fe Community College Professor Sherry Sherrod Dupree, who wrote the accompanying 1992 book on the subject, the exhibit offers memorabilia that range from the 1902 poster of the Sons of Harmony of Gainesville, Florida, to the text-only, rainbow-colored 1990s concert posters. The exhibit´s promotional materials promise the personalities of gospel´s golden era (the 1940s to the 1960s) and deliver with likenesses of such performers as Sister Rosetta Tharpe (the glamorous diva forerunner of Mahalia Jackson), Aretha Franklin, and more. The ¨whole city¨ visitors get is West Delray Beach in its early days, exhibited permanently on the second story of the 1926 mission-style home. Photographs and cultural artifacts from the late-19th and early-20th centuries (when the African-American community was still segregated from its white counterpart east of Swinton) offer discussion prompts for the docents, who give unscheduled tours for all visitors. Photographs of structures (the first churches and homes) and people (including those of young ladies in formal gowns on the day of their piano recital and young gentlemen with their tennis racquets) demonstrate a thriving African-American community. (Through June 26 at Spady Cultural Museum, 170 NW Fifth Ave., Delray Beach. Call 561-279-8883, or visit www.spadymuseum.org.)
For evidence that great things can come in small packages, check out ¨Pleasure From Their Presence: Chinese Bird and Flower Paintings,¨ a micro-exhibition in a tiny side gallery at the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach. It includes only seven works, all culled from a University of Michigan Museum of Art show: fans, hanging scrolls, and album leaves with self-descriptive titles, presented with as much care and attention to detail as any larger exhibition (the space is painted a somehow-perfect brilliant red). The earliest item is The Peach Blossom Spring, a 1542 fan mounted as an album leaf; as the wall text notes, the painting is by Qiu Ying, with calligraphy by Wen Zhengming, both from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). A Ming piece from just 70 years later, Chen Zun´s Cat Under Flowers, is a dramatically different image of a ghostly cat nestled among rocks, flowers, and grasses, all portrayed in swift, broad strokes that are more suggestive than illustrative. Jump forward into the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) and there are two lovely mid-18th-century album leaves of a day lily and a lotus by Jin Nong, identified as one of the Eight Eccentrics of Yangzhou, whose patrons were wealthy salt merchants. From the 18th Century, Li Shan´s Day Lily and Bulb is an album leaf mounted on a hanging scroll, a starkly beautiful small rectangle that seems to float on its pale-blue silk backdrop. Perhaps most exotic of all is Bird on a Bamboo Branch, a fan painting with imagery on one side and calligraphy on the reverse. It´s attributed to Lang Shining, the name adopted by Giuseppe Castiglione, an 18th-century Italian Jesuit who was assigned to China and became court painter to three generations of Manchu emperors. There´s a novel´s worth of intrigue in that one tidbit of information. (Ongoing at the Norton Museum of Art, 1401 S. Olive Ave., West Palm Beach. Call 561-832-5196.)
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