Is "The Beatles: Photographs by Harry Benson," now at the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, more than just a slice of pop-culture history? You decide. This batch of 75 black-and-white pics by photojournalist Benson, who hooked up with the lads at the beginning of their career roughly 40 years ago, is a fascinating look behind the scenes as John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr began to realize their collective impact on the world. Benson's odyssey began in January 1964, when he accompanied the Fab Four on their first trip abroad to Paris. Enter Beatlemania (documented by several pics of near-hysterical fans). Benson quickly established a rapport with the boys and soon had an impressive array of photos to show for it. He captured the four immediately upon their exit from a plane at JFK International Airport at 1:20 p.m. February 7, 1964, just hours before their historic American television debut on the Ed Sullivan Show, and soon after snapped them frolicking on the beach in Miami before their second Sullivan appearance. The exhibition features shots of the band with manager Brian Epstein, with boxer Muhammad Ali back when he was known as Cassius Clay (look for the uneasiness in their faces as they try to figure out who's more famous), and with drummer Jimmy McNichol, who briefly replaced the ailing Ringo for a few Amsterdam shows in June 1964. Highlights include a lovely shot of McCartney lathered with shaving cream and a pensive image of Lennon as he ponders his misinterpreted quote that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus. (Through May 2 at the Norton Museum of Art, 1451 S. Olive Ave., West Palm Beach, 561-832-5196.) -- Michael Mills
Now On Display "Enrique Martínez Celaya: The October Cycle 2000-2002" -- There are only about two dozen pieces by the Cuban-born MartMartineznez Celaya in this one-man show, now at Fort Lauderdale's Museum of Art. Those pieces, however, are monumental, both in scale and in impact. MartMartineznez Celaya uses jet-black tar as the background for the paintings in this extraordinary series, which was inspired by one of the artist's poems. But he doesn't slap on a flat layer of the tar (which, by the way, isn't smelly). He works it around on the surface -- whether it's canvas or board or, in the case of the amazing, near-monochromatic October, velvet -- so that there's a range of blacknesses. The minimal forms MartMartineznez Celaya employs, including thin, sketchy white outlines of human forms and more detailed renderings of trees, seem to float on these highly textured black seas. And in a few startling pieces, the artist floods his fields of black with dazzling light. His small show is the best exhibition at Fort Lauderdale's Museum of Art in ages. (Through April 19 at the Museum of Art, One E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, 954-525-5500.)
"A View from the Bahamas: Watercolors by Stephen Scott Young" -- Young American artist Stephen Scott Young was born in Macon, Georgia, in 1958 and grew up in St. Augustine, Florida. His subject matter? Life in the Bahamas. Go figure. These are not your parents' watercolors, however -- no pale florals or still lifes, no pastoral landscapes (although Young's bio says he has worked with such material in the past). Young's technique is to overlay as many as 35 washes of pigment in a given work, and the effect often verges on photorealism, not something we usually associate with watercolor. And so it's not surprising to learn that among his influences, Young includes such realists as Winslow Homer, Edward Hopper, and Andrew Wyeth. He also has an excellent eye for the interplay of light and shadow, as in Sun Wash Charleston (so much for the Bahamas), a street scene featuring a building with ornate columns, a street lamp, a garbage pail, and a young man hosing down the sidewalk. Most of Young's Bahamas paintings are portraits of solitary figures, usually black girls or women, looking directly, often sullenly, at the artist (and hence at us). Despite his skill, Young can't disguise the sameness of so many of these pieces. A notable exception: the lovely Looking at the Kitten, a candid glimpse of a girl lying on a table outside a building, gazing at a kitten that seems oblivious to her presence. (Through May 10 at the Museum of Art, One E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, 954-525-5500.)
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