Hard Eye Candy

Art can take serious issues lightly and be better for it

What's in a name? In Vivian Marthell's work, quite a lot -- of imagery and humor. While checking out "Intimate Addictions: Living Large in Tight Spaces" at lab6, I was particularly taken with butt-pops, as she calls these clever pieces made with beads and candy wrappers. Her chupa-chups and get the sensation, on the other hand, made me think of more serious stuff, such as Vladimir Lenin's point that the use of an object lies entirely in its practical necessity to man.

Though in Marthell's case concept and substance went hand in hand, not all the pieces in this show at the space (a brewing spot for art in Little Havana, now reopened in conjunction with Susan Caraballo's Artemis) glued form and content as successfully. For instance Charles Castillo's video pieces, set to Beethoven string quartets, follow the contemporary trend but didn't stir things up enough to move me. Nor did Laura Ratcliffe's female torsos in a state of dishabille -- the out-of-focus bland prints seemed too familiar a path.

As for Miguel Angel Giovanetti's extravagant superimposition of zoomed-in images of body parts, facial gestures, and stalklike foliage, they were slightly baffling. Giovanetti does open himself to the endless possibilities of the paradox with works such as man flowers II and doll's dress II. It may be that he is moving toward a guarded topographic enthusiasm while hanging on to some of his dramatic imagery.

Gean Moreno puts out in-your-face pop
Gean Moreno puts out in-your-face pop

Details

By various artists. Through August 31, 305-643-6611.
lab6, 1165 SW 6th St.

Carlos Suarez de Jesus' critique of politics and social clichés are a welcome addition to Miami's artscape. Don't miss pieces such as election debate 2000 or clinton years: amerika 2000, with its transvestite-looking protagonist either weirdly exhorting the lazy masses or clownishly ready for a surreal trapeze act (walking a tightrope between left and right?). Next in Suarez de Jesus' cynical view is "penitent sheep," consisting of a herd in sheep masks, the ultimate deception. Yet I put Suarez de Jesus' signs in the realm of public conflicts more than the subtler realm of confidential habits, as the title of the show proclaims.

My only problem with the lab6 show arises from my own anticipation of what both "intimate" and "addictions," would be, conveying that world from a decade ago of homosexuality, drugs, and sexual appetites confined to private spaces -- all of which is inconceivable without reference to AIDS. And though rehashing some of that may seem redundant, the truth is that it is still here among us.

"Summer Tossed Salad" at Kevin Bruk Gallery is a show of South Florida artists, mostly from Miami. Bruk came up with the idea of delegating curatorial duties to some of the participating artists, a refraction of taste, which proved engaging. In general when checking out Bruk's shows, I discern a high-end New York-L.A. axis: sleek, detached, neopop, production-driven work. As in any salad, some ingredients go better with the whole than others. Here are my picks:

William Cordova rivets your attention by creating minute yet precise arrangements consisting of stereo components, piled-up car tires, backpacks, opened cans, and other bits of litter. Cordova does with drawing what Japanese artist Tomoko Takahashi does with objects: mounts an astute critique of cultural obsolescence, which Cordova treats cautiously, using banal depictions from daily life. In Empty Habits & the Huddled Hustler, Cordova features a cubic, sacral construction made from huge slabs, from which hang tennis shoes, a red towel, and a lamp.

Gean Moreno's richly colored, in-your-face pop works enhance decoration patterns almost to the point of abstraction. We see a quilt of trimmings that trigger associations of all kinds, from Hindu script to the days of disco, from DNA to cyberspace -- not an easy feat.

A painter with something to say is Gavin Perry. His Ahab is a massive piece, not necessarily depicting the infamous king of Israel who was married to Jezebel and was the nemesis of Elijah the prophet. Instead Perry takes you to a transcendent but seductive mustard-colored space, which he truncates with successive layers of soft-edge rectangles in white, dark green, and black. The piece breathes beauty. What Perry says in his work you may feel no need to comment upon, which is good. Just look and enjoy.

The Glittering Prizes is Matt Rush's ensemble of mostly oval little paintings depicting high-heel footwear, executed with nail polish. The artist shares a kindred sensibility for shoes with Pedro Almodovar. Rush's diversions, presented with a mixture of acerbity and exhibitionism similar to that of the Spanish filmmaker, steps in all the right places.

The work of Annie Wharton shows the process of her compositions taking shape. The young Miami artist comes up with attractive, Brian Marden-like pattern repetitions of curly networks swirling in white, blue, and orange.

Finally there is the intellectually subtle labor of Jorge Pantoja, whose work is about the least gesture expressing a full sweep. I've seen and admired his more serious Eastern-influenced images, but this time he plays around humorously. Stop by his drawings From Head to Hand (The Vikings) and Laurel and Hardy -- you'll find them to be a nice treat.

 
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