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Every year, the Broward County-based, nonprofit, all-volunteer group ArtsUnited organizes two exhibitions to showcase local gay and lesbian artists: "United & Proud" and "ArtExplosion." The latest edition of the latter, "ArtsUnited Presents ArtExplosion 2005," is now on display in the JM Enterprises Family Gallery at ArtServe, and it's a textbook example of good intentions yielding mostly unfortunate results. Part of the group's stated mission is "to use the arts to break down historical barriers preventing lesbians and gays from contributing fully and openly to the cultural, social, and economic success of South Florida." So far, so good. And the show, at least in theory, is a resounding affirmation of the diversity of its members' art: more than 150 works in a variety of media and with equally varied subjects. No apparent theme, but again, no problem -- group exhibitions are often loosely linked. Judged strictly on its merits, however, the exhibition is something of a mess. The art looks and feels as if someone hastily threw it together on the way to dinner. The text panels for some works are hand-scrawled, and there's no introduction to the show, either posted at the entrance or available as a simple handout. Still, there are pieces worth ferreting out: Robert Felthaus' acrylics of dancers and divers that recall Matisse; Oscar Caballero's creepy/funny mixed-media sculpture Female SJB on Her Dune; Tina Hixson's dreamy acrylic of a Himalayan landscape; a pair of big, dramatic, New York and London cityscapes in oil by Richard Poklop; and moody abstract acrylics by Shirley Tiano and Jarrett Terrill. Not surprisingly, there's plenty of beefcake imagery, most of it mundane, which makes the work of an old pro like Dennis Dean seem glaringly out of place. ArtsUnited has admirable aims and a wealth of talent to work with, but unless its exhibitions are curated with greater care than this one, it does its member artists a great disservice. (Through April 15 at ArtServe, JM Enterprises Family Gallery, 1350 E. Sunrise Blvd., Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-462-9191.)

Now on Display

When the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach opened its new wing almost two years ago, it added 14 galleries with more than 12,000 square feet of exhibition space. Much of that space is devoted to the museum's justly acclaimed collections of Chinese art and pre-1870 European art, as well as a splashy ceiling installation by glass master Dale Chihuly. What often goes unmentioned is that the expansion also lets the Norton showcase more of its contemporary collection. The wing's first-floor galleries feature nearly a dozen pieces worth viewing. But it's the wing's largest gallery that features the most imposing works: a pair of mixed-media pieces by Richard Long. In August 2004, the artist worked directly on an expanse of blackened wall using clay and water to create the abstract Seminole. For the 2002 piece Mohawk, Long challenges our notions of what constitutes a landscape by covering most of the gallery's floor space with a vast, oval-shaped installation that suggests a stream of smooth gray Mexican river rocks flowing through chunks of white marble. (Through fall 2005 at the Norton Museum of Art, 1451 S. Olive Ave., West Palm Beach. Call 561-832-5196.)

"Andrew Wyeth: American Master," a small but fairly comprehensive retrospective of more than 50 works from a career that spans an astonishing 70 years, is one of four exhibitions now at the Boca Raton Museum of Art. If the crowd checking it out opening weekend is any indication, Wyeth's standing as the most popular living American artist remains unchallenged. Wyeth is celebrated for his portraits and his sentiment-soaked rustic scenes, but the strength of this show is in his landscapes, many of which are set in his native Pennsylvania and in Maine, where he spends his summers. Wyeth invigorates landscape by pushing it toward abstraction. This show's masterpiece is a large tempera from 1947 called Hoffman's Slough. Again, there is a landscape of sorts, a sweeping expanse of swampy countryside painted in rich, varied earth tones with black-and-white highlights. Look closely and you'll pick up on the two tiny buildings in the distance at the top of the image, the wispy dirt road in the upper left corner, a few blades of grass in the foreground. The representational details seem added almost as an afterthought. But there's no question that Wyeth knew what he was after -- and that he got it. (Through April 17 at the Boca Raton Museum of Art, 501 Plaza Real, Mizner Park, Boca Raton. Call 561-392-2500.)

Photographer Jim Marshall's "Famous Musicians," now on display at the Palm Beach Photographic Center, is not for the faint of heart. Anyone who loves music or photography will be dazzled by the legendary status of the subject matter and by Marshall's technical skill. He has captured famous musicians from Dylan to the Who. But the exhibit should carry a warning to the lover of photography and music: Viewing may cause extreme excitement marked by heart palpitations, sweating, and audible gasping. It's a visual history of the pinnacle of rock 'n' roll. Take Marshall's famous photo of a young Bob Dylan kicking a tire down a New York street. According to Marshall, it took two frames and was "no big deal." The most striking thing about it is the astounding intimacy Marshall shares with his subject. It's clear musicians trusted and respected him as much as he respected them. The pictures are not just of the musicians but of their talent, their pain, and their joy. There can be an almost tangible sensitivity in the shots, as in Marshall's much-criticized portrait of a slumped and saddened Janis Joplin, grasping a Southern Comfort bottle like a baby holds a blanket. It showed how Joplin was lost until the moment she stepped onto the stage. A well-known shot of Jimi Hendrix rocking out to an empty auditorium before the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 and a candid shot of Allen Ginsberg's face as he watches Thelonius Monk walk could be representations of what a man's face does when he sees God. The only problem: The exhibit may deter any amateur photographer from taking pictures. Marshall has already taken all the best ones. (Through April 2 at the Palm Beach Photographic Center, 55 NE Second Ave., Delray Beach. Call 561-276-9767.)

"Joan Miró: Illustrated Books," now at the Art and Culture Center of Hollywood, is a small but well-conceived exhibition focusing exclusively on the "artist's books" of one of the great Spanish surrealists. There are selections from ten such projects, which give equal weight to words and images. The words are from writers as varied as St. Francis of Assisi and William Butler Yeats, although most are from French poets Mir was exposed to while living and working in Paris. Many of the illustrations are quintessential Mir: basic forms with sharp, clean lines, painted in deep blacks and bright colors. If his style is essentially childlike doodling, as some skeptics have declared, it's childlike doodling of a very high order. The simplicity of his forms and his lack of interest in detail and depth of field mask a surprising expressiveness. (Through April 24 at the Art and Culture Center of Hollywood, 1650 Harrison St., Hollywood. Call 954-921-3274.)

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Michael Mills

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