Remember museums? Right after Labor Day, the new exhibition season begins. Upcoming shows at Miami institutions will focus on contemporary work and historical themes that provide context for art today, mostly eschewing blockbuster shows in favor of small, purposeful exhibitions. A lot of these are prepackaged displays put together by out-of-town institutions or curatorial services, with too few organized by staff curators at Miami museums. On the up side, the following highlights from this season's schedules include individual shows by emerging Miami artists and important international figures, as well as museum openings (the Wolfsonian and the Museum of Contemporary Art) and exhibitions of regional art, Dada and neo-Dada, monsters, murders, monuments, and music boxes.

Starting off on a morbid note, well-known contemporary artists explore aspects of the darker side of human nature and the media's prurient interest in crime in the provocatively disturbing selection of paintings, multimedia works, and photos that make up "Murder" (Miami-Dade Community College's Wolfson Campus Centre Gallery, September 7 to October 19). New York City-based curator John Yau includes Andy Warhol's silkscreen series Flash -- November 22, 1963 and a bloody dinner table created by Yoko Ono. On opening night, the curator will engage in a dialogue with Miami murder maven and writer Edna Buchanan.

"Two Cents" (October 20 to January 14) presents more than 40 works on paper by Jean-Michel Basquiat, the infamous, wildly talented New York artist who died of a heroin overdose in 1988 at age 27. The show, curated by MDCC galleries director Amy Cappellazzo, will incorporate poems by Kevin Young, a Harvard-educated African-American poet who won the 1993 National Poetry Series award; Young's poems were inspired by themes in Basquiat's work.

The notion of adapted identities is the basis for the artist team of Leone & Macdonald's site-specific installation "Passing," at the Wolfson Campus from February 7 to May 3. Using sound, video, and interactive computers, the installation's intent is to prompt viewers to examine manifestations of outward appearances versus inner self in contemporary society.

At MDCC's InterAmerican Gallery, several artists confront aspects of cultural identity in the Miami community. From September 21 to December 1, the Cuban artist Juan-Si presents "Altars: Images of the Remembered and the Forgotten," a participatory project with residents of Little Havana that explores the power of Spanish-language television over Latin immigrants. Albert Chong's "Ancestral Dialogues" (December 14 to February 2) reflects the traditions of the Chinese-Jamaican artist's heritage in photographs and assemblages. And sculptor Maria Elena Gonzalez's installation "In Our Faces" (April 18 to May 31) re-creates the kitchen of a typical Cuban-American home in Hialeah.

Downtown at the Center for the Fine Arts, "Caribbean Visions: Contemporary Painting and Sculpture" (September 8 to November 5) looks as if it will be the kind of multicultural megashow we saw a lot of in U.S. museums at the start of the decade: large-scale surveys of Latin American or African art set up to showcase little-known artists living outside Western European and North American urban centers. This show boasts more than 100 works by 57 artists from 11 Caribbean nations, and jaded art types might well feel weary just thinking about yet another barrage of diverse creativity. But no doubt "Caribbean Visions" will bring joy to Miamians whose homelands are represented. At an all-day symposium on September 16, Caribbean scholars will discuss such themes as Haitian art, the creative tradition of Carnival in Trinidad, and Wilfredo Lam's influence on Hispanic art.

The CFA gives the same gallery space over to that old museum fixture, the dead white male artist, with the critically acclaimed "Duchamp's Leg" (December 3 to March 3). The show examines Marcel Duchamp's weighty influence on the art of this century in works by John Cage, Joseph Cornell, Robert Gober, Lorna Simpson, Sherrie Levine, and others. Some of Duchamp's own readymades also are included.

In the museum's New Work gallery, Miami artist Barbara Neijna suspends cast concrete forms from the ceiling and walls (October 6 to December 3). Kenny Scharf spruces up the CFA's outdoor sculpture court with planters shaped like the heads of cartoon characters; he shows new paintings in the first-floor gallery (December 22 to March 31). And various artists, including Laurie Anderson, Vito Acconci, Annette Lemieux, and Haim Steinbach, contribute musical objects and sculpture to the ingenious "Music Box Project" (January 25 to March 17).

A horrific display goes up at MOCA (formerly the Center of Contemporary Art) with "The Monster Show" (October 13 to November 25), which explores imagery of mythological, cinematic, or otherwise fantastic monsters in works by Cindy Sherman, Charles Meng, Paul Myoda, and others. (The museum will hold a "Monster Mash" following the October 13 opening.) But the MOCA's season really starts in February when the museum's new building opens with "Defining the Nineties: Consensus Making in New York, Miami, and Los Angeles." Organized by MOCA curator Bonnie Clearwater, the show attempts to give the lowdown on the decade's artistic movers and shakers as singled out by the arbiters of art (collectors, critics, curators) in each of those three cities. At the same time, Mexican artist Gabriel Orozco will create a site-specific installation on MOCA's new plaza.

On February 29, the museum inaugurates its outdoor "Art Court" with "Reel Work: Artists' Films and Videos of the 1970s," a definitive selection of artists' film and video works to be presented in eight programs over a two-month period. John Baldessari, Chris Burden, Bruce Nauman, William Wegman, Hannah Wilke, Gordon Matta-Clark, and Andy Warhol are among the artists represented. The program is curated by Dara Myers Kingsley, the director of the film and video collections at New York's Andy Warhol Foundation.

Sure to be a South Beach favorite, "Pierced Hearts and True Love: A Century of Drawings for Tattoos" (April 28 to May 26), organized by the Drawing Center in New York, examines the history of tattooing as an art form. From April 25 to June 9, in celebration of the 70th birthday of Robert Rauschenberg, the museum exhibits sculpture by the artist, showing some works publicly for the first time.

At the Bass Museum, "Passionate Visions of the American South: Self-Taught Artists from 1940 to the Present" (September 28 to January 14) offers an extensive display of Southern outsider art, organized by the New Orleans Museum of Art. The paintings, drawings, and objects by self-taught artists are inspired by religion, nature, and popular culture; the work reflects their daily lives in mostly rural areas of the South. From February 10 to May 5, the fat lady sings during the Bass's "Fellini: Costumes and Fashions," which presents set designs, costumes, and accessories from the Italian director's numerous films, as well as clothing by designers inspired by his cinematic style. The show was organized by the Centro per L'Arte Contemporanea Luigi Pecci in Prato, Italy.

Soviet-dissidents-turned-American-citizens Komar and Melamid invited Russian and Western colleagues to "collaborate with history" by proposing Soviet monuments as sites for artistic interactions. The responses A by artists including Krzystof Wodiczko, Joseph Kosuth, and Mark Tansey, in the form of texts, drawings, collages, prints, books, and photos -- brainstorm inventive ways to subvert the meaning of the old icons. "Monumental Propaganda" runs at the Bass from May 16 through July 14.

Speaking of propaganda, the long-awaited Wolfsonian Museum opens in Miami Beach with "The Arts of Reform and Persuasion, 1885-1945" (November 11 to April 28, at which time it travels to Los Angeles), featuring 280 works from the Mitchell Wolfson, Jr., collection that, taken together, demonstrate how design -- both revolutionary and conservative -- has been used to help people adjust to the modern world. Its three sections ("Confronting Modernity," "Celebrating Modernity," and "Manipulating Modernity: Political Persuasion") chronologically detail the impact of design on modern experience through objects, furnishings, and posters.

The Art Museum at Florida International University starts its season with works from the collection of Martin Z. Margulies, including paintings and sculpture by Joan Mir cents and sculpture by Isamu Noguchi (September 8 to October 11). Margulies donated most of the outdoor sculpture now placed around the school's south campus. Marsden Hartley's celebrated abstract compositions based on the military emblems worn by German officers were last exhibited as a series in 1915. They will be reunited at FIU (one stop on a three-city U.S. tour) starting October 20, together with pop artist Robert Indiana's series paying homage to Hartley's work. "Dictated by Life" runs through November 29. Also at FIU will be "Neo-Dada: Redefining Art, 1958-62" (January 12 to February 10), which focuses on artists working in the late Fifties who were inspired by the absurdist philosophy of post-World War I European Dadaists. The show proposes an alternative historical view of art that usually is classified in categories such as pop, nouveau realisme, and fluxus.

Closed for renovations until November 9, the Lowe Museum at the University of Miami reopens with "Image and Memory: Latin American Photography, 1880-1992," 141 photographs that reflect social, political, and aesthetic tendencies in the region over the last century. The show runs through January 7. The Lowe also trots out works from its permanent collection (January 8 to June 5), followed by an exhibition of pottery by famed English potter Josiah Wedgwood (June 6 to July 28).

Miami artists Tag Purvis and Christine Tamblyn will show new work on film and CD-ROM at the South Florida Art Center's Ground Level Gallery (September 7 to September 30). In October the gallery will display sketchbooks by local artists, and in November, Ground Level becomes "The Black Box," a monthlong artists' salon hosted by intellectuals-about-town Steve Bollman, Alfredo Triff, and Gene Ray. Coinciding with the city's renovation of Lincoln Road, artists will examine issues of urban renewal in the gallery space in January.

In September the Museum of Art in Fort Lauderdale beckons with retrospectives of two important Cuban artists: abstract painter Rafael Soriano and the late expressionist painter Antonia Eiriz, a great talent whose subtly critical images branded her a political dissident in revolutionary Cuba. The work of two young exiled Cuban artists, Arturo Cuenca and the artist known as Gory, will be shown simultaneously (all three exhibitions run through November 26). From October 27 to January 14, the museum hosts paintings by turn-of-the-century American impressionists and realists, eighteen of which will be on loan from New York's Metropolitan Museum. Works by famous American folkie Grandma Moses can be seen from February 2 to May 19, while another major show of paintings by a Cuban artist, this time Tomas Sanchez, also opens February 2.

In Palm Beach, the Norton Gallery starts its season on October 28 with early work by Mark Rothko, culled from the collection of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. The paintings follow Rothko's evolution from creating expressionist landscapes and still lifes to increasingly calligraphic and abstract works, and proceed right up to the sublime large-scale color fields for which he is best known (through December 17). Worth a trip.

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