Artist Francesco LoCastro Curates Exhibits at the Art and Culture Center of Hollywood

When curator Jane Hart left the Art & Culture Center of Hollywood last year, it came as quite a shock. Over almost a decade, Hart had brought sophisticated, cutting-edge contemporary art to the quaint, unassuming space near Hollywood's Young Circle. Shows here always stood out in Broward County's otherwise bland cultural landscape. Without her, would the center become superlame?

Not to worry. It seems that the institution has managed to get along by letting local artists have a turn at curating. Now up: Francesco LoCastro, who first made waves with his street-style, lowbrow paintings and whose work has since evolved significantly. Lately, he's been making mesmerizing geometric abstract paintings.

From February 13 to March 27, the center will spotlight the work of five midcareer artists who find common ground, LoCastro explains, "by pushing the limits of art-making."

He's showing their work not as a single exhibit but as five distinct ones. "These works were chosen for their ability to provide varied viewpoints on the creative process," he says. "As a whole, the exhibitions exemplify a current mood of contemporary art, mapping a trajectory of continued expansion of the aesthetic landscape."

"The work can't be a TV dinner. It's not quick. It's a long-roasting pig that takes a while to digest."

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"Cartoons, Cowboys, Abstractions and More" by Kiki Valdes is made up of seemingly disparate paintings in oil that both satirize and salute iconic themes through abstract expressionism. "The most important thing for me is to dazzle the viewer," Valdes explains. "At the same time, the work can't be a TV dinner. It's not quick. It's a long-roasting pig that takes a while to digest. I am interested in showing humor and some of the darker and real things in life. I don't render realistic paintings in the more traditional sense but rather to render a piece of life. It has to feel like life." 

"Something That Hovers and Pulses Just Under the Surface" by Kelley Johnson is a multidimensional, diametric installation that fuses painting and sculpture.

"There is something about space — two-dimensional space — and the possibility of magic and energy," Johnson muses. "Making and playing with dimensions, architecture, angles, and planes... There is something inside of it that is an alchemy, a transformation that occurs... the soul connection with this beat in time. I start off with a simple idea, a line or shape; then I have to react to that and then react to the next... freeform and open. I enter the paintings in an open way; each work is a new direction, a push forward."

Other works are from Nolan Haan, a former Peace Corps volunteer who composes elaborate patterns on concrete blocks and cinderblock walls in acrylic on silk; Maynard Monroe, who uses text to reinvent and even defy the traditional concept of the still life; and Rocky Grimes, a self-taught, Miami-based print artist who combines photocopies, serigraphy, abstract construction, polished material, and found objects.

Says Valdes: "Nobody understands art. A grand majority of people don't understand painting. I question my work every day. Questioning the work makes me grow. I don't care for opinions when I don't ask for them. But the biggest challenge is making good work. I think making good work is a mixture of luck, good ideas, craftsmanship, and divine providence." He pauses, then offers some sage advice: "It's important to paint more than you party... and keep good friends."

Exhibitions by Kelley Johnson, Nolan Haan, Maynard Monrow, Kiki Valdes, and Rocky Grimes
February 13 to March 12. Opening reception 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, February 12. The Art and Culture Center of Hollywood,1650 Harrison St., Hollywood. Admission is $7 for adults; $4 for students, seniors, and children. Tickets for the opening reception cost $10 for nonmembers. Free admission every third Sunday of the month. Call 954- 921-3274, or visit