The first two things you see in the Coral Springs Museum of Art's "The Art of Pop & Comics" exhibit are blown-up, redrawn pages from Batman and the Beatles' Yellow Submarine comic books. Not exactly what you'd expect to see in a silent, suburban art museum.
The museum is featuring these 40 pieces through May 23 in this exhibit curated by Lenore Stern-Morris and designed to run in conjunction with Comics Fest Coral Springs, which takes place May 9. The exhibit features works by comic-book artist Jose Delbo, "pop art historian" Charles Fazzino, painter and sculptor Marvin Gralnick, "King of Pop Art" Nelson de la Nuez, and South Florida-based painter and teacher Al Razza.
"What's cool about this," says Julia Black Andrews, executive director of the museum, "is that while comic cons are comic cons, this work takes it to a different, more sophisticated level beyond what your average comic-con attendee expects to see."
"The Art of Pop & Comics" and Comics Fest Coral Springs
Designed by Stern-Morris to progress from comic books at the start, the exhibit slowly adds layers of pop culture and influences from the rest of the world; she says the idea was to pick apart pop culture and offer people a chance to think about it.
"Each artist presents a different symbolism in terms of pop culture," Stern-Morris says, "but they all work together because they give people a different view."
Delbo's giantly redrawn comic-book art centers on Batman, the Beatles, and others, with the selections being moments when characters are having some type of self-reflection or revelation: a close look at the inner workings of the characters on the wall before arriving at Fazzino's three-dimensional works, which include characters' entire universes and specific references to plot lines.
The mixed-media selections from Fazzino include a Simpsons selfie that can tell you a lot more about The Simpsons than just what is happening in the piece itself — and the same can be said of his other works.
Gralnick and de la Nuez's paintings, collages, and sculptures form a good meeting place of the two artists before and the one after, a fitting position literally in the center of the exhibit. De la Nuez's sculptures, in particular — merging video, music, painting, and one of the most famous speeches in history — make one think a little more about what art can do and say.
Razza, whose pinup-influenced paintings round out the exhibit, marks an interesting journey from statements about inner thought to the show that pop culture provides all of us continuously. Although Razza's art is not empty, it's hard not to think about the emptiness of pop culture while staring at images painted on newsprint that feel almost like advertisements without messages.
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"Everybody who walks past this work wants to stop and look closer," Stern-Morris says. "You stop and then go, but then you stop again because you start picking the works apart."
She says it wasn't hard to select from the works submitted by the artists, all of whom she's known for three years to most of the 25 years she's spent in the art business.
Stern-Morris, a dealer who has studied pop art and works with several galleries in Miami, says the artists and works were selected at least partly because they appeal to nearly any age group and work to pull people into the world of art.
"Kids love this, but adults can relate to it too," Stern-Morris says, comparing the exhibit to others she's done in Miami that centered on pop culture. "It has no age barrier. It's amazing."