Roman Vishniac was more of a storyteller than a photographer. In Vishniac's photographs, currently tucked into a tiny gallery at the Boca Raton Museum of Art, one sees picture after picture of the haunted eyes and bundled, hunched figures of poor Jewish people living in Eastern Europe, taken from 1933 to 1938. It's a story of verbs -- Jews walking, returning home, working, meeting, learning, and teaching, all in the face of Nazi occupation and through the boycott of Jewish businesses. For some, the photos were likely the last ever taken; a year after Vishniac finished his project, the Nazis occupied Poland, and soon after began the systematic extermination of the Jews. The photos in "Images of a Vanished World"
are not always artistically perfect. Some are blurred or just out of focus or the composition is faulty. But Vishniac, conscious of both anti-Semites and Orthodox Jews who were fearful of having their picture taken, hid his camera in his coat, with the lens peeking out of a buttonhole. The exhibit's first photo seems out of place. It's a shot of the photographer's daughter, Mara, age 10, standing in front of a storefront in Berlin. The shop, formerly owned by a Jewish merchant, was being used to house a hideous instrument to identify the head shape of a Jew versus the head shape of an Aryan. The photo appears to be almost one a tourist would take; not until you read the caption does the photo's underlying horror reveal itself. Despite the shaky quality of the 30 other photos, no such caption-reading is required. They are searing -- pictures of the way suffering begets determination. There's a man who, having been evicted from his own shop, returns every day to sit on its stoop, from either habit or faith that the shop will be restored. There's an old woman sitting in front of a synagogue that has fallen into disrepair. (Through January 16 at the Boca Raton Museum of Art, Mizner Park, 501 Plaza Rd., Boca Raton, 561-392-2500, www.bocamuseum.org.) -- Megan Kenny
NOW ON DISPLAY
The Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami becomes a multiplex cinema of sorts for "Cut: Film as Found Object." For each of 14 works in this dazzling show, the artist starts with existing footage, then subjects it to one or more modifications identified as "key gestures": to stretch, remove, arrange, systematize, erase, repair, continue, match. Douglas Gordon's 24 Hour Psycho, for instance, elongates the Hitchcock classic to play, frame by frame, over a full day. CNN Concatenated is an exercise in virtuous editing in which Omer Fast edits snippets of talking heads from the cable channel into terse sentences. And Christian Marclay's amazing Video Quartet uses four large, side-by-side screens to present countless film clips reassembled into a 14-minute concert that's a grand homage to maverick American composer John Cage. (Through January 30 at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Joan Lehman Bldg., 770 NE 125th St., North Miami, 305-893-6211.)
"Continental Drift: Installations by Joan Jonas, Ilya & Emilia Kabakov, Juan Muñoz, and Yinka Shonibare," at the Norton Museum of Art, is cleverly named for the geological phenomenon that separated the supercontinent over millions of years, leaving us with seven continents and thousands of islands that look like puzzle pieces. The installation by four artists -- American, Russian, Spanish, and British, respectively -- is imbued with the flavor of the new global economy. Everything is life-sized, and the pieces range from excellent to overwrought. For example, Shonibare challenges the notion of national identity with perception-versus-reality sleight of hand. Reimagining a famous Gainsborough portrait, in Mr. and Mrs. Adams Without Their Heads, Shonibare has his British colonials -- his headless colonials -- wearing ankara, a fabric associated with African garb. (Through January 2 at the Norton Museum of Art, 1451 S. Olive Ave., West Palm Beach, 561-832-5196, www.norton.org.)