The Artist Stripped Bare

A showcase holds various small objects, such as a can labeled Artist's Shit signed by Italian "action" artist Piero Manzoni, whose Artist's Breath, a shriveled balloon once used in a performance, hangs mounted on wood nearby. Typed sheets of paper, displayed in a separate case, provide further evidence of actions and happenings. For example, there's George Maciunas's Score for 12 Compositions for Nam June Paik; composition number five reads, "Place a dog or cat (or both) inside a piano and play Chopin."

Seen in conjunction with the CFA show, "Neo-Dada" gives a more thorough picture of artists represented by only one or two works in "Duchamp's Leg." Take Edward Kienholz. His 1971 Sawdy, one of a multiple edition of car doors, is on view at the CFA, while a more complex, earlier work by Keinholz -- O'er the Ramparts We Watched, Fascinated (1959), a visceral tableau of machinery parts and mangled, naked dolls that tells an emotional tale of disillusioned patriotism -- can be seen at the Art Museum. Also, French sculptor Arman's Sonny Liston (1962-63), a gritty pier of welded antique household irons, and Large Bourgeois Trash (1960) -- both at FIU -- are forerunners of the sleeker An Accumulation of Teapots (1964) at the downtown museum.

Although "Neo-Dada" lacks the video documentation and other lively aspects of "Duchamp's Leg," it functions as a succinct selection of consequential works that, taken together, form a fascinating portrait of a period. The catalogue is superb, and there is one especially affecting interactive piece: Yoko Ono's Painting to Hammer a Nail. A small painting that reads "Make a Wish, Hammer a Nail" hangs next to a wood panel and a hammer on a chain, while under it on the floor sits an aluminum bucket full of nails -- an open invitation to visitors. The wood panel was full of nails by the end of the show's January 6 opening.

The work of Felix Gonzalez-Torres exemplifies Duchamp's generous attitude toward art. Gonzalez-Torres's own readymades took the form of deliberately strewn mountains of candy wrapped in colored cellophane, high piles of posters of clouds, the ocean, or fuzzy headshots of real people killed by handguns. (These are customarily displayed with a sign that instructs viewers to take just one. No one ever does).

The sight of gleeful museumgoers stuffing their pockets with candy as "art" in shiny wrappers is at odds with the emotional, often somber stories told by Gonzalez-Torres's work -- stories of AIDS and its metaphors, as well as other hard facts about the human condition. His most poignant piece, Untitled (Perfect Lovers), consists of two white wall clocks, placed close enough to be touching, marking synchronized time. Born in Cuba, raised in Puerto Rico, and based in New York City, Gonzalez-Torres died of AIDS-related complications in his apartment in Miami Beach on January 9. He was 38 years old. Candy won't be as sweet.

Duchamp's Leg.
Through March 3 at the Center for the Fine Arts, 101 W Flagler St; 375-3000.

Through February 10 at the Art Museum at FIU, SW 107th Avenue and SW 8th Street; 348-2890.

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