The Morikami's gardens have been stunning visitors for years, many of whom never knew that South Florida had much of a history at all, let alone one that includes a significant pre-World War II Japanese population. Curator Tom Gregerson makes it his business to keep that history — as well as Japanese culture in general — fresh in the mind. Yamato Road, near where the Morikami is located, takes its name from a small community of Japanese farmers who flocked there to grow pineapples and sugar. Eventually, many of the farmers bought property only to have it taken away by the U.S. government when they were sent to internment camps by the War Relocation Committee. George Sukeji Morikami was one of those farmers, and he was the last one to remain in Palm Beach County. The gardens and museum are on the property he bought near the end of WWII. Gregerson has curated countless exhibits there, including "The Morikami Portraits: Photographs by Akira Suwa" and "Flora and Fauna: The Japanese Influence on Late 19th and Early 20th Century Western Art," as well as two commemorating the 20th anniversary of the museum, which opened in 1977. Gregerson also oversees the permanent collections of fine and folk arts that illustrate the lives of the early farmers.
Poor James Abbott McNeill Whistler. He's destined for eternity to be famous for Arrangement in Grey and Black, No. 1: Portrait of the Painter's Mother — better known as Whistler's Mother, one of the most famous paintings of the 19th Century. Whether by choice or necessity, the Boca Museum's ambitious overview of the American expatriate artist's career omitted the notorious portrait and was all the stronger for it. Instead, the exhibition — culled from one of the two most extensive Whistler collections in the world — presented the artist in the context of his colorful life and times. Along with a dozen oil paintings, the show included watercolors, drawings, lithographs, and personal memorabilia, plus some of the etchings that contributed to Whistler's reputation for being, as Hunterian curator Peter Black notes in the catalog, "the greatest etcher since Rembrandt." While far from comprehensive, the exhibition sought to reclaim the artist's rightful place in art history despite, not because of, a flamboyant life that often threatened to overshadow the work. And in that, the show succeeded admirably.
Leave it to the Norton to take on the challenge of making us rethink the medium of photography and its aesthetic possibilities. The most democratic of all media — who doesn't have a camera these days? — has also become perhaps the most suspect, thanks to the computer's ability to manipulate and distort reality. This small but brilliant exhibition tackled the idea of realism versus illusion head-on by focusing on seven very different international photographers whose work wrestles with these current challenges. From the late 1970s/early 1980s work of Cindy Sherman (who made a name for herself with film-still portraits of herself as other people) to the cutting-edge illusions of the young German Thomas Demand (who creates meticulously realistic 3-D models of his subjects that he photographs and then destroys), the show provided an extraordinarily concise survey of its subject. The exhibition also threw in three shots, all culled from local collections, by photo superstar Gregory Crewdson. His Spielberg-meets-David Lynch suburban images, all staged and art-directed on the scale of a Hollywood feature film, offer new narrative possibilities for photography that are just beginning to be explored.
At some unidentifiable point along the way, Purvis Young went from being a street person in Miami's Overtown neighborhood to being a South Florida cultural institution. Last year, that metamorphosis was confirmed by a happy coincidence: a sweeping retrospective of the artist's career at the Boca Raton Museum of Art and the screening of a documentary about the artist at the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival. The exhibition, "Purvis Young: Paintings From the Street," featured more than 100 works by the prolific artist, including a wall blanketed with dozens of side-by-side paintings that re-created the feel of Young's famous Goodbread Alley installation of the 1970s, for which he nailed his paintings onto a stretch of abandoned buildings. The film Purvis of Overtown chronicles Young's origins in the Miami ghetto and his ascension to iconic status as a self-taught artist who documents his world using his own distinct visual language in media as varied as house paint, shards of discarded furniture, construction-site debris, and countless other found objects. Did we mention that Fort Lauderdale's Gallery 721 boasts a collection of Young works so extensive that it's known as the Purvis Young Museum? While his paintings now command prices in the thousands, the artist himself, amazingly, continues to live and work in — and draw his inspiration from — Overtown.

Best Art Gallery to Leave Palm Beach County in the Past Year

Lurie Fine Art Galleries

Wouldn't you know it: Just when a first-class gallery with an emphasis on Latin American art seemed to be firmly established outside Miami's orbit, the gallery in question gets sucked into that very orbit. We're talking Lurie Fine Art Galleries, which was previously one of the eight galleries that make up Boca Raton's snazzy, one-stop-shopping Gallery Center complex. But last year, Lurie (which also has an outpost in Studio City, California) was lured south to Miami's seductive Art and Design District. Its gain is our loss, especially since the overall gallery scene in Broward/Palm Beach is so dismal. Lurie's stable has grown to include such artists as Nelson Dominguez (Cuba), Ernesto Manera (Argentina), and Lula Flores (Chile), not to mention the hotter-than-hot Carlos Luna (Cuba by way of Mexico). At least Lurie was gracious enough to give us a knockout show of recent work by Fort Lauderdale-based American artist Matthew Carone before abandoning ship.
Sometimes simpler is better. Way better. Whoever came up with the title for MoCA's dazzling career retrospective of the work of Morley, the British-born artist who settled in the States in the late '50s and became a citizen in 1990, not only hit the nail on the head but hammered it flush with the board. Whether you emphasize "the art of painting" or "the art of painting," you've got Morley in a nutshell. This larger-than-life character has traversed the territory from '60s photorealism (or what he prefers to call "superrealism") through surrealism into his own take on expressionism and back, all while never losing his ardor for the medium of painting and, in his masterful hands, its amazing range of possibilities.
Savor Cinema
Photo by Eric Barton
Cinema Paradiso used to be a church, and it still feels like one. With its stained-glass windows and its stature as home of the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival, it's a place that draws passionate people to worship celluloid idols. Even better than the theater's cushy plush seats and amazing film selections (sports flicks, anime, foreign films, documentaries) is that the concession stand sells beer. Directors and actors are always doing post-show Q&As. Last year, eight-time world surfing champion Kelly Slater personally dropped by to introduce the premiere of his newest film, and in March alone, there was a showing of Anna Karenina accompanied by opera singers and a wine-and-cheese reception and a tribute to John Waters with the trifecta showing of Pink Flamingos, Polyester, and Hairspray. But there are Rated G events too, like an Easter bonanza for kids featuring movies, an onstage dance-along, an Easter-egg hunt, and a petting zoo. And President and CEO Gregory Von Hausch has been known to loan the space for cheap, or even free, to nonprofit groups and good causes.
Sure, indie rock rules the scene, and a ton of imitation bands are cropping up all over South Florida (with matching hair, trying to become the next Fall Out Boy). But that doesn't mean that any of these cookie-cutter groups actually knows how to play. Locally, the band with the strongest instrumentation and best stage show is Marijah and the Reggae All-Stars. Their blend of Caribbean and West African music is impressive live or recorded; they've mastered instruments from those regions. They've also got incredible timing and lock into a groove that's unmatched by any other act locally. Everyone in the band has more than 20 years of playing experience and gigs frequently with other reggae singers throughout the tricounty area. There also aren't many female-headed reggae bands out there, and Marijah is working twice as hard to stay afloat in this male-dominated genre. What stands out about the group is its ability to get crowds rocking with conscious lyrics and a heavy roots-rock attitude. You don't have to be a lover of Caribbean music to appreciate this band and the reggae-Afro-fusion sound it cranks out live. Just don't be surprised to see that this reggae band is actually headed by an Italian-American woman from New Jersey.
Can a Christian singer really rock? How can a vocalist be powerful and edgy while belting out lyrics like "Oh who am I, this breath of fading mist?/Where do I stand on this speck of heaven's dust?" Nic DiPace somehow balances Christ-like humility with a powerful and expansive voice. He lends emotive realism to Americana-laced guitar work, spilling over into guttural screams during punked-out anthems and conveying urgency and intensity with his moody wails. Just check out the West Palm quintet's Northern Records debut The Skies Pale in Comparison. Even though the band's official statement on the disc is "We just think that The Skies Pale in Comparison to who He is, and who we are in Him," even the godless will be humming along in glee.
As far as hip-hopping and b-boying in Broward County is concerned, there's nobody else with the lyrical dexterity or the street clout of Fort Lauderdale's Butta Verses. He's a member of the De La Soul family and soaked in a lot of exposure touring with them, but he's still got his own rhyming style that's witty, aggressive, and often comical at the same time. On stage, he delivers punch lines at rapid speed and has the cadence and breath control of a veteran. He was born and raised in the Bronx and carries the essence of hip-hop culture in his persona, both on and off the stage. Graffiti work, b-boying, DJ'ing, and MC'ing are all apart of his repertoire, which is what it used to take to even be considered decent in this genre. With those bases covered, he's miles ahead of most of the fly-by-night rappers popping up recently. He's also put out a few stellar mixtapes since relocating to Broward County that showcase his rhyming ability and buttery-smooth delivery. And since hip-hop today, even at the local level, remains saturated with garbage, it's good to see a rapper like Butta V standing tall and hopefully showing the new jacks how to do it.

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