Apples and Oranges | New Times Broward-Palm Beach

Apples and Oranges

Everything but the Kitchen Sink might make a better name for Art Frenzie, a new Wilton Manors gallery crammed with an amazing amount, not to mention variety, of art. Paintings and prints cover the walls, of course, but they're also hung from the ceiling, placed on easels, and propped wherever there's a bit of space. Large metal sculptures on pedestals are also scattered throughout the one room, which seems much smaller than it actually is because it's so full.

When owners Bernadette Zizzo and Debbi Burke opened Art Frenzie just before Thanksgiving last year, their goal was to have an eclectic shop, a funky alternative to the sort of stuffy, pretentious galleries that model themselves after museums. On that count they have succeeded.

If original paintings don't suit your taste (or budget), there are framed, high-quality reproductions, including some of works by such big-name artists as Wassily Kandinsky and Gustav Klimt. Toward the back of the gallery, a hand-painted child's chair sits among piles of small matted prints, while a few feet away a carved wooden ceremonial mask leans against one leg of an easel. Some wall space is taken up by several fully functional clocks that play off the styles of such artists as van Gogh and Picasso; one is a direct parody of Salvador Dali's Persistence of Memory, with its famous drooping timepieces.

Zizzo and Burke also do custom framing. They'll even collaborate with an interior designer to help folks put together rooms in which art and decor complement each other.

But back to the art. Whenever this much art is assembled in one place, quality is bound to vary. The gallery currently has a dozen or so prominently displayed works by Valter Morais, a Brazilian artist with a studio in Pembroke Pines. Morais has a great eye for bold colors and patterns, but he also tends to use the same compositional tricks again and again. He seems to have absorbed (and simultaneously trivialized) elements of cubism as well as the bright, flat style of Roy Lichtenstein's cartoon-inspired canvases.

Nor can I muster much enthusiasm for the primitivism of the Fort Lauderdale-based David Lee, who has quite a few pieces on display at Art Frenzie. Lee specializes in portraits of rotund people, and he appears to be reaching for the kind of effects Fernando Botero achieved with his well-rounded figures. But the people in Lee's pictures have a dreary sameness, and some of them are pushed so far into caricature that they resemble pigs more than humans.

Another Lee, the Korean painter Charles Lee, is represented by a handful of works that are uneven but at least more varied. A couple of his portraits of musicians recall the colorful, playful canvases of Sandro Chia, while others dabble in contrasting styles. The most striking is a medium-size, mixed-media collage. The piece initially comes across as an abstract, with blocky swaths of rich color bracketed by pale, thin lines set off by a token gesture toward representation in the form of a small violin on the right half of the canvas. From a closer vantage point, however, the picture begins to give up its secrets: a fragment of a manuscript, a faded envelope with a nineteenth-century postmark, some postage stamps, segments of sheet music. Hovering ghostlike just beneath the painted surfaces of the canvas, these items charge the collage with a tantalizing air of mystery.

The most impressive works come from three artists who share absolutely no common ground. Only two fairly large horizontal oils by Pablo Caiza, of Ecuador, are on display, but they're both as serenely surreal as a work by Rene Magritte. In City Grande, tiny human figures gather in a village plaza and dot the trails on the layers of hills behind the village, which are punctuated by a trio of pinkish-hued trees outlined against a cloudless blue sky. And nestled in the hills and hovering above the ground in the plaza are, of all things, gigantic apples.

In the other Caiza, La Belle Grande, a similar setting of hillside villages peopled with more tiny figures is disrupted by a flying train entering the canvas from the upper left. Giant bells tumble from a flatbed railcar, littering the landscape below. In both paintings it's impossible to tell whether the figures are going about their business, oblivious to the oversize apples and bells in their midst, or if they've gathering to gawk, the way real-life humans might if UFOs suddenly appeared in front of them. The dramatic tension created by this unresolved question gives the images an unsettling aura.

Art Frenzie has also begun to carry works by a New York painter simply referred to as Corno. Of the four canvases that had just arrived when I was there (they weren't even stretched and framed yet), two are very large renderings of flowers that aren't anything out of the ordinary except in scale -- each is at least six or seven feet square.

The other two Cornos, however, are something else altogether: vivid, nude torsos -- one female, the other male -- painted with a fleshy, luminous muscularity. Set against a white background, the male is comprised of golden flesh tones and black lines defining the body. But the female is a volatile mix of purples, reds, and oranges on a bright blue background, the lower part of her head obliterated by a bright smear of color.

The artist applies the paint in thick brush strokes that leave behind prominent ridges and welts of pigment. And while there's not the sense of dramatic violence you get from a Francis Bacon portrait, Corno's figures have some of the same epic quality, the almost frightening immediacy, of a Bacon painting.

Finally, there are the verdant oils of the Miami painter John Sterpe, who had just dropped off four pictures the last time I visited Art Frenzie. The canvases -- two large horizontals and two medium verticals -- were grouped together, and they went so uncannily well together that I half wondered if they might be fragments of a much larger work.

Sterpe's palette is composed almost entirely of greens, with a few browns and yellows worked in here and there, but it's an astonishingly nuanced range of greens. His subject, at least in these four paintings, is the subtropical landscape, specifically trees and other lush foliage at the edge of a body of water, painted with the meticulous attention to detail of photorealism. There is no sign of animal life in these images, and yet they're intensely alive, simmering with a quiet energy that's also strangely soothing.

There seems to be a good bit of turnover at Art Frenzie, which is not surprising given the volume and variety of the gallery's stock. And while Zizzo and Burke are open to showcasing specific artists from time to time, they're clearly less interested in one-person shows than a lot of other commercial galleries. In other words, if you visit Art Frenzie and like what you see, go back again sometime to check on the constantly changing lineup.

Art Frenzie is located in the Shoppes of Wilton Manors, 2244 Wilton Dr., Wilton Manors, 954-537-3518.