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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. 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. Never has an artist gotten so much mileage out of black. 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.)

"Lunch Box History" -- The humble lunch box takes front and center in the Delray Beach gallery that recently showcased women's handbags. Can picnic coolers or laundry baskets be far behind? The new multimedia show follows the common sandwich and apple carrier, from the kind of enclosed bucket Rosie the Riveter might have used to more modern examples. A nostalgia-inspiring 165 examples of the device, thermoses, baskets, film clips, and photos have been assembled. (Through June 7 at the Museum of Lifestyle & Fashion History, 322 NE 2nd Ave., Delray Beach, 561-243-2662.)

"New Paintings": Emilio Perez's lush, eye-popping new work conveys a lyrical fervor that seems to echo the big-wave surfer's rush as he drops into an overhead tube. Perez romps adroitly across vibrant, churning swirls of chaos and serenity in a world all his own. This is clean, wicked stuff you won't want to miss. In the Project Room, Odalis Valdivieso's installation, Creative Destruction, tells a tale of malice in wonderland. No milk and cookies here. Digital images portraying sleeping girls camped out on the shore of a dumpsite cesspool and a contemplative hiker breaking in his Timberlands at the foot of what seems to be Mount Trashmore tersely navigate the region between the pastoral and apocalyptic. (Through April 2 at Rocket Projects, 3440 N. Miami Ave., Miami, 305-576-6082.)

"Reconstructing a Family Portrait": Elizabeth Cerejido's exhibit is a poignant narrative of political exile, love, and loss. The setting is Cuba in 1970, a year of political turmoil. People leave by the thousands. One family splits apart, the mother and her young daughter traveling to Florida while the father stays behind. The understanding is that they will meet in a few weeks. But fate has it another way. The exhibit begins with 26 de junio, 1971, a color photo of an envelope written that year, its postage-stamp image clearly indicating the radical political context of the moment. Then viewers see two photographs of the father's letters -- one right after the separation and one just before the family reunion. A neat touch is that Cerejido gives his letters a voice, which we hear from the recording of a male voice-over projected into the gallery space. (Through April 16 at Bernice Steinbaum Gallery, 3550 N. Miami Ave., Miami, 305-573-2700.)

"Ubiquitous Images of a Decadent Society": Francesco LoCastro brings Chuck Jones' farcical tiki-lounge culture and Hieronymous Bosch visions to a retro-futurist world. In the not-so-distant future, planet Earth turns into a huge global village in which humans, androids, and mutants hesitantly cohabitate. We are a fanatical, self-centered, materialistic society. The focal point is The Vicious Circle of Society, a large acrylic panel akin to the 15th-century moralizing work of Martin Schongauer. "Ubiquitous Images" contains a large collection of work spanning three years. Drawings, studies, and gadgets commingle, illustrating LoCastro's promising growth. I perceive a Bosch strain in LoCastro's art as the eruption of fantasy articulates these monstrous, apocalyptic scenes; a disconcerting blend of illusion and reality. Yet unlike Bosch, LoCastro is neither a pessimist nor a self-righteous moralist. (Through April 9 at OBJEX artspace, 230 NW 36th St., Miami, 305-573-4400.)

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