Boca Raton Museum of Art
Eduardo Chacon

A great museum must perform a delicate balancing act of satisfying the public while also expanding and enhancing that same public's cultural literacy. The Boca Museum has long done an exceptionally fine job of giving the public both what it wants and what it doesn't even know it needs. That has especially been true under the leadership of Executive Director George S. Bolge, who is leaving this summer after roughly 16 years at the museum. During his tenure, Bolge has programmed his share of crowd pleasers, including artists as disparate as Picasso, Duane Hanson, and Purvis Young. But he has invariably emphasized less-familiar artists as well. In the past year alone, he has paired an exhibition of Alfred Wertheimer's photographs of Elvis Presley at 21 with a retrospective of relatively obscure American painter Stanley Boxer; coupled a blockbuster M.C. Escher show with a much smaller one focusing on impressionist Mary Cassatt's works on paper; and juxtaposed Italian artist Valerio Adami with well-known American photorealist painter Robert Cottingham. Most recently, he coupled a flashy "CUT! Costume and the Cinema" show with a horizon-expanding look at California impressionism. Let's hope the museum carries on the great tradition he established.

Approached individually, either one of these two ambitious surveys of Latin American art would be a force to reckon with. Seen together as essentially one big show, which is how the museum presented them, they achieved even greater breadth and depth. The breadth came from the historical context provided by the Goodmans' collection, here represented by 74 works by 46 artists. Dr. and Mrs. Goodman have been seriously collecting Latin American art for roughly two decades; their abundant taste and discernment are evident in the choices they've made, from great Mexican muralists Diego Rivera and David Alfaro Siqueiros to such surrealist masters as Cuban Wifredo Lam and Chilean Roberto Matta. The smaller, ostensibly secondary show of 56 works by 41 artists, assembled by in-house curator Jorge Hilker Santis from the museum's sizable permanent collection, provided depth as well as an emphasis on more contemporary work. As a sweeping study in contrasts and comparisons, the two exhibitions constituted an unbeatable combination.

Girls' Club Collection
Robin Hill

For starters, there were no actual paintings in this daring little show at the equally daring little downtown Fort Lauderdale gallery known as Girls' Club. Instead, Frances Trombly's installation, which takes up the gallery's entire first-floor display space, is a suite of pieces designed to make us think about painting. Each of the linked works is a blank "canvas" made of hand-stitched fabric and either placed face-down on the floor or propped against a wall, back to us. Like a Zen koan, the title "Frances Trombly: Paintings" is meant to jar us onto another plane of awareness, where we start thinking about (and questioning) our ideas about what constitutes art and what does not.

It's lively, it happens every month, and you've probably never heard of it. When you're done explaining to your skeptical friends what FAT stands for (Flagler Arts and Technology — any questions?), stop by the intersection of NW Fifth Street and NW First Avenue and get ready to explore the Wild West of the Florida art world. Gawk at the scale of the Project Lofts, which houses big-name temporary exhibitions; release your inner child at the Puppet Network headquarters across the street. Get your yipster-bobo thrills at Collide Factory (at First and Sistrunk), where lively music and art meets a Google-cool office environment. Two black-box theaters within clapping distance premiere new shows. Even the neighborhood holdouts get in on the action: Paul Fioretti at South Florida Window Lift (First and Fifth) shows off the sculptures he welds from discarded machine parts. When you're done, head to Maguires for a heady pint and talk about what that looping video of a screaming naked man really meant.

Once a year, renowned artists crouch down on the asphalt alongside high school kids and amateurs, everyone covered in chalk and happily sunburned. The streets of downtown Lake Worth are filled with crowds guzzling funnel cake and beer, watching wide-eyed as the painters coax magic from the pavement. While admiring the brilliant artwork, you might also spot belly-dancing hippies, a musician playing a hand saw, kids in strollers, and anarchists sipping kava. Welcome to the glory that is Lake Worth.

Propaganda

After a considerable number of personnel shakeups behind the scenes during its two years in business, Lake Worth's Propaganda has managed to keep its footing and its finger on the pulse. The legendary South Florida emocore act Further Seems Forever chose the spot to host its first show in six years, and countless local acts have relied on the tried-and-true sound in the room to show off their best live traits on a stage that's visible from every vantage point. With a new emphasis on craft beers, the dark and smoky room can easily stake a claim to an environment just as refined for drinking as it is for listening.

Bamboo Room

The Bamboo Room closed in '08, and we lost a live-music venue that felt more like a neighborhood watering hole. Luckily, the once-beloved club returned in February, and again we have a music venue with no groupies blocking our view of the stage and no clouds of smoke choking the air. A high, peaked ceiling with wooden beams makes the place feel spacious and airy. There's a generous bar in the back, with Cheers-style chandeliers and a mounted deer head on the wall. Roughly 50 tables provide comfortable seats while allowing plenty of room to dance on the varnished pine floor. Outside, a narrow deck is lit with colored paper lanterns, and palm trees lean their leafy branches over the rails. On stage, pink and blue lights illuminate exposed brick. A painted city skyline evokes memories of Chicago or maybe Detroit. When the guitar begins to wail, remember how much we've been missing the blues.

Nothing much musical happens in December, so the off-kilter rock festival Zitfest was a fantastic diversion from the local winter blahs. Conceived and organized by members of Lake Worth experimental trio the Jameses, 17 local bands filled two long days with punk attitude, PBR, and camaraderie for a tidy $12 ticket. Lake Park's the Orange Door normally hosts blues acts, but the weekend glut of garage rock, postpunk, and experimental tunes from South Florida (and beyond) proved to be a zesty enterprise for area music fans on any budget. Are smiles good for the complexion?

Just like those jiggling blobs of fat hanging off countless lower backs, an initial grip is all it takes to seize onto Lake Worth's psychedelic punk act Love Handles. With Faith, Hope & Love Handles, vocalist/guitarist C.J. Jankow and drummer/keyboardist Jordan Pettingill focus their unpredictable live antics into an even-keel collection of two-minute slacker devotionals. Leading the album's stomp through South Florida enclosures with no air conditioning but great acoustics is the call and response of "Take It." All in all, it's a record raw and rousing enough to shake a few pounds off that sagging midsection.

In terms of decibels, sweat, and determination, Lavola's got South Florida by the balls. Led by Julian Cires' soaring, unparalleled vocals and similarly acrobatic guitar work, the trio provides a sonically complex experience on par with the Mars Volta and occasionally even Radiohead. Ably filled out with bassist Matt Hanser and drummer Brian Weinthal, this is a group that's always on the brink of complete thudding and screeching chaos, but it never loses the handle. Each one of its EPs — Black Sea of Trees, Live at Propaganda, and Leaving Paris — has proved to be better than the last.

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