"The Miami art scene feels electric," says Francesco LoCastro, the 28-year-old painter who is largely responsible for sticking the plug in the proverbial outlet and cranking up the juice. "The then-rundown Miami/Wynwood Fashion District was home to one gallery four years ago... It now holds around 40."
LoCastro has been fortunate enough to make a living off his art. Nearly every original painting that he's put a price tag on has sold, and he just finished work for a Converse ad campaign. But he's not the only one around here making what's called lowbrow art -- pieces that mix influences from Japanese anime and California hot rods to pinup girls and giant squid.
"South Florida is home to some of the best lowbrow/pop surrealist talent in the country, " LoCastro says. "However... local galleries have failed to embrace the movement." So he's stepped up to curate an exhibition that merges local talent (such as Sas Christian, FACTION, Skot Olsen, and Colin Christian) with some out-of-town art stars (Esao Andrews, Robert Craig, Michael Hussar). It's called "Monsters of Lowbrow: A New Art Invasion," and the opening reception starts at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Greco Building (143 NW 23rd St., Miami). The exhibit closes May 28. Call 954-696-8349. -- Deirdra Funcheon
Artist Pepe Tortosa punches it up
According to Honore de Balzac, the legendary 19th-century French novelist, art is "nature concentrated." Pepe Tortosa, a Venezuelan pop painter, must agree; he seems to have cornered the market on natural concentration as evidenced by his most recent works, on display from May 7 through 31. Like a Hawaiian punch in the eye, Tortosa's art is alive with the colors of Latin culture: electric turquoise dragonflies, sunshiney yellow flower petals, and tangy dissected orange segments. His subject selection, shadow play, use of gauze and wood, and perspective variations make for a diverse collection, sometimes oddly reminiscent of grandma's funky retro curtains. Best to appreciate each piece individually. To see the newest collection, visit Art Expressions (1212 NE Fourth Ave., Fort Lauderdale) or call 954-527- 7700. -- Riki Altman