The Art and Culture Center of Hollywood: The Eccentric Aunt of Galleries | Art | South Florida | Broward Palm Beach New Times | The Leading Independent News Source in Broward-Palm Beach, Florida

The Art and Culture Center of Hollywood: The Eccentric Aunt of Galleries

If we were to think of our arts institutions here in South Florida as family members, the Art and Culture Center of Hollywood might be characterized as a specific breed of aunt — a respectable, calm-on-the-surface type who likes to bake but who still has a streak of eccentricity that manifests itself in little eruptions of wildness.

I'm thinking of the center's "Abracadabra" fundraiser earlier this year, an art raffle free-for-all that left everyone a little giddy. Or the 2008 exhibition featuring the work of Nathan Sawaya, an exacting artist whose medium of choice is Lego bricks (he's coming back this summer with new work). Occasionally, this dotty aunt goes full-tilt bozo and we have to indulge her taste for something as severely unhinged as last summer's show featuring the "work" of a Jack Russell terrier named Tillamook Cheddar.

Perhaps this particular aunt has what the family prefers to think of as a colorful past, like an early career in burlesque or vaudeville. After all, the building that houses the Art and Culture Center was once a funeral home. That alone, it sometimes seems, might account for the institution's refusal to take itself too seriously, which is also to say its willingness to take chances.

The center still has a couple of shows hanging around since debuts in late January. They're worth seeing if you haven't gotten around to them. "Doug Crocco: Entropy," which occupies the center's long, narrow middle gallery, consists of not quite a dozen works in colored pencil on paper. Most of them are built upon such short phrases as "Seize the Future" and "Hold on to Our Love," with each slogan rendered in a different typeface. The works make up for in tartness and brevity what they might lack in variety.

Variety, on the other hand, is what you'll find in the exhibition "Balbone Martinez: Speaking in Parables Will Get You Nowhere With This Crowd" that takes up the center's smallest gallery. It's really the output of a pair of artists who work as a team, Michael Balbone and Emily Martinez, and they have nearly four dozen pieces of varying sizes and in various media crammed into the tiny space.

As usual, Auntie A&C has also cooked up a couple of new dishes to stimulate, provoke, and perhaps even titillate. In the big main gallery, there's "Adler Guerrier: Out to Lunch," an extended mixed-media installation that, according to the rack card, "explore[s] the effects of geography, politics, and history on Hollywood, Florida and nearby environs."

Actually, the gallery is sparsely dotted with drawings, paintings, photographs, and sculptures that, taken as a whole, make Hollywood and environs seem like one of the most anonymous places around. Even the two long-form videos projected onto either end of the space, which include footage of vehicles moving about the city, look as if they could have been shot in any urban hub. Maybe that's the point, but I couldn't help feeling that this Haitian-born, Miami-based artist failed to capture Hollywood's distinctive flavor. His take on the town comes across like that of a tourist rather than a local.

Around the corner in the center's Project Room is a more satisfying installation, "Michelle Weinberg: Show Room." The Project Room came about as a way for the Art and Culture Center to give artists a self-contained space to commandeer for highly idiosyncratic one-person shows. As such, it's one of the most daring display spaces in the area, and Weinberg demonstrates that she knows how to make the most of its possibilities.

Weinberg lives in Miami, but as creative director of the Girls' Club gallery in Fort Lauderdale, she has a better feel for what will fly here. In this case, she has come up with a series of linked works that take advantage of her interests in various media.

The wall at one end showcases Artist's Studio in Landscape, a set of six identical silk-screens that portray the studio as a sort of modified gazebo. Other works in the show seem to deconstruct and reconstruct the elements in this piece. Positive Vibration Park, for instance, adds such tongue-in-cheek comments as "Darkly Funny" and "Deeply Moving" in stylized type.

But Weinberg's pièce de résistance actually combines two works to great effect. Her Very Good Floor is made up of 190 cement tiles, each eight inches square and reading "Very Good." The tiles form something like a picnic blanket, on which sits Boy/Girl Tea Service, a whimsical set of porcelain teapots and cups and saucers that comment, obliquely, on notions of gender.

I came away from the Art and Culture Center this time, as I often do, with a sense of "What was that all about?" — feeling both stimulated and amused as well as faintly puzzled. But then, that's how I almost always feel after visiting one of my quirkier aunts. And there's nothing wrong with that.

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Michael Mills

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