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"Small is beautiful" might serve as the motto of artist Timothy Leistner's Artist's Eye Fine Art Gallery, a postage-stamp-sized space tucked away in the shops of Canterbury Square in Dania Beach. But what he lacks in square footage he makes up for in artistic vision and ambition. Leistner continues to refurbish and improve the place, which he will have had for two years come July. He continues to stage shows of up to five artists at a time. His current exhibition, "Conscious Conscience," features his own work alongside that of Mark Alan Anderson and Tony Rosca. Leistner says the three, locals all, were inspired by an Annie Leibovitz lecture they attended. The portrait photographer urged the artists to work with what's close to home, as in family and friends. Hence, Leistner's lovely new series of color photographs feature his niece, a professional model. Her moody poses are suggestive of outtakes from Roman Polanski's film Tess of the D'Urbervilles. Anderson weighs in with shadowy color photos in which family members enjoy stolen moments of leisure or reverie, along with a particularly striking image of urban blight called Suspended. And the Romanian-born Rosca contributes a dozen high-contrast, atmospheric black-and-white shots, some of which are flat-out gorgeous — Onion Child, for instance, in which a hat-clad kid wears a garland of onions; Worker, in which a shirtless man strikes a provocative pose in what looks like a workshop; and especially the metaphor-laden Lost Identity, in which a somber-faced, beautiful little boy in a flap-eared fur hat stands holding a huge hammer and scythe. (On display through February 28 at Artist's Eye Fine Art Gallery, 30 S. Federal Hwy., Ste. 2, Dania Beach. Call 954-554-3153.)

"Shock of the Real" is a lavish look at a movement that more or less came and went nearly half a century ago. Of the roughly 18 artists generally considered to make up the first generation of the movement — including Robert Cottingham, Richard Estes, and Ralph Goings — nearly all of them are amply represented in the show, which also includes works by nearly a dozen other artists from the second and third generations of photorealism. That adds up to roughly 70 pieces, making this an impressively ambitious survey of what should be thought of as a movement in only the loosest sense of the word. The practitioners of photorealism never issued manifestos or drummed people out of their ranks for not adhering to a set of aesthetic rules. Rather, they seem to have arrived at and embraced their common style independently. That said, it is somewhat remarkable to note, as you move through the exhibition, the consistently high quality of the work.

This self-described "ongoing traveling exhibition that humorously and critically interrogates the debated contemporary philosophy of intelligent design" is an immersive experience that transforms FAU's Schmidt Center Gallery into one big multimedia installation. It's also a collaboration, with more than half of its 70-odd pieces created by New York-based artists Michael Zansky and D. Dominick Lombardi, rounded out by the contributions of ten other artists, most of them local. What it isn't is coherent overall, although each individual work speaks to the concept of intelligent design by referring back to its creator just by its very existence as a work of art. As impressive as some of its components are, however, it's possible to leave the show feeling vaguely dissatisfied, as if the whole affair is an elaborate put-on with an elusive punch line.

Playhouse Creatures could have been a simple thing: a funny, minor show about the lives of the first actresses allowed to grace the male-dominated stages of England. As it happens, it's far more. Playhouse Creatures begins as a ribald sideshow and ends as a serious meditation on the objectification of women in the Age of Enlightenment, and as it moves from one to the other, the play strives to be everything — to evoke every emotion, to elicit every reaction, to express seemingly every idea that playwright April De Angelis ever had about women, life, and ambition. It succeeds. The scenes are fast and over-the-top, just like the outsized acting, which seems more suited to a big, booze-drenched 17th-century playhouse than the tiny Sixth Star Studios. Take Linda Bernhard's performance as an aging actress who is slowly eclipsed by younger, less talented but bigger-bosomed rivals. She grieves like Maria Callas in Medea; a grief so large and loud that it'd be ridiculous if it weren't pitch-perfect. But Playhouse Creatures always is. As it dispatches with such divergent subject matter as love, money, art, sexism, the pyre, prostitution, and abortion, Playhouse Creatures remains shocking, novel, balanced, and, in the end, moving.

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Michael Mills
Brandon K. Thorp

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