How's this for a cool concept? Solicit works of art in various media from more than a hundred top South Florida artists, then raffle everything off ßso that all raffle participants take home a piece of original art. The holder of the first randomly drawn ticket, for example, is entitled to the work of his or her choice, and so on, until all the art is gone. The money goes to the sponsoring institution.
That's the ingenious idea behind "Abracadabra: Third Annual Fund-Raising Art Exhibition and Raffle," now at the Art and Culture Center of Hollywood. Of course, the raffle tickets do run $375 each, but considering some of the talents involved in the exhibition, that's easily a fair price to walk off with one of their works.
"Abracadabra" is just one of four exhibitions currently on view at the Art and Culture Center, and since its raison d'être is the raffle, it's about as coherent as you might expect it to be, which is to say not coherent at all. The art is all over the place, as if an eclectic collector decided to hold a yard sale. There's no rhyme or reason here; the diversity of artists and styles is exactly the point. There are, however, wonderful works by some of our best area artists, including Eduardo del Valle and Mirta Gomez, Timothy Leistner, Skot Olsen, Carol Prusa, Karen Rifas, and Steven Sylvester, to name just a few.
In sharp contrast, an almost single-minded focus underlies "Doug Crocco: Entropy," which occupies the center's long, narrow middle gallery. There are fewer than a dozen works here, executed in colored pencil on paper, and all but a couple are built around words: "SEIZE THE FUTURE, A COLD EMBRACE, HOLD ON TO OUR LOVE," all presented in distinctive typefaces. I'm not sure Crocco gets quite the same mileage out of his wordplay as such artists as, say, Ed Ruscha and Jack Pierson. But his work is pleasing enough — a sort of palate cleanser between "Abracadabra" and what is to come.
Crocco's straightforwardness hardly prepares us for the exhibition that's crammed into the center's tiniest gallery, which measures perhaps only 12 by 15 feet and has been repainted for the occasion with vertical stripes of bold color. "Balbone Martinez: Speaking in Parables Will Get You Nowhere With This Crowd" is actually the work of a pair of artists, Michael Balbone and Emily Martinez, working in collaboration. Their little grab bag of a show, consisting of not quite four dozen pieces of varying sizes and in various media, lives up to its pull-you-in title.
The rack card for the show describes Balbone and Martinez's methodology as "primarily based upon recycling trash and found imagery," and they have assembled a veritable treasure-trove of quirky odds and ends. Among the components of their installation are pieces that play on religious iconography, with an irreverent twist — a Last Supper in which the participants have all been affixed with oversized doll eyes, for instance, or a pairing of the Sphinx and the Great Pyramid couched among words that add up to a paranoid diatribe. An advertising placard such as you might find in a store or restaurant includes the declaration "WISHES WON'T DO DISHES" as well as the politically incorrect addendum "BUT MEXICANS WILL."
Balbone and Martinez are playing with matters of context and interpretation, and the information overload they supply is initially exhilarating. Then a sort of aesthetic delirium sets in, and you may find yourself ready for another contrast, which is readily supplied in the center's Project Room. There you'll find "Dinorah de Jesús Rodríguez: Ellos y Nosotros — Them and Us," a comparatively stark but seductive installation that takes full advantage of the bifurcated space.
In the first half of the room hangs a large, white birdcage. It takes a moment to notice that the cage is both bottomless and doorless and hence useless, at least with regard to its intended purpose. The other half of the room holds its counterpart, a freestanding cage that is also bottomless, and although it has doors, they are open. Both cages have spotlights trained on them, and each is accompanied by a ceiling projection of 16-millimeter found footage (including bird imagery) that has been manipulated and set to the sounds of the seashore.
Aside from Art Basel Miami Beach and its ilk, it's not often that we're confronted with so much art at once in one place. But this quartet of tonic shows is a welcome reminder of what, at its best, we've come to expect from the Art and Culture Center of Hollywood. The center has stumbled in the past year by emphasizing Miami-based art. There's plenty of Miami art here, but it's given a broader context that's cause for guarded optimism. Now if I could just scrape together 375 bucks for that "Abracadabra" raffle...