By John Thomason
By Benjy Caplan
By Artburst Miami
By Carlos Suarez De Jesus
By Daniel Reskin
Cakewalk: Aesthetic experience and erogenous pleasure have always been close relatives, to be sure. But rather than any genuine countercultural agenda, artists in 2004 are armed with a stylist’s finely tuned eye for the retro, a fascination with the abject and unlovable, a salacious eye for soft porn, and an unquenchable nostalgia. The trend is apparent in this terrific group exhibition curated by artist Jen DeNike, who rounded up works by more than twenty artists from New York. The result is an accurate survey of the many modes of expression prevalent today. Swirling, kaleidoscopic color is esteemed highly; nature plays an intimate, romantic role; and there is more than a smattering of the usual pop culture references (Darth Vader appears twice!). The homely processes associated with craft are also present, and the inclusion of several examples of conventional photography is welcome. The prize for most subversive work goes to Sabrina Gschwandtner’s Sundown Salon for its truly monumental appreciation of handcrafted knitwear. — Michelle Weinberg
Through July 3. Ambrosino Gallery, 769 NE 125th St, North Miami. 305-891-5577.
Definitive Juxt: Curated by Lissette Garcia and co-organized by José Carlos Diaz at the Odegard Building in the Design District, this show challenges viewers to accommodate highly personal visions of a group of Miami artists. Works by the Paper Dolls, Mauricio Espinosa, Sarah Murrie, Brian O’Dell, Jason/Opalka (FeCuOp’s Jason Ferguson and Brandon Opalka), Bert Rodriguez, Gustavo Roman, and Eugenia Vargas all investigate levels of engagement with popular culture. Overall, the installation of this show is handsome and theatrical. The risk highlighted is whether artistic eccentricity necessarily yields a transcendent experience, or merely devolves into the formulaic, the obscure, and the confusing. The now-ubiquitous DJ’s mashup produces a rush for citizens today that iconoclasts throughout history would marvel at. — Michelle Weinberg
Through July 8. Odegard Building, 47 NE 36th St;
305-205-8079 (by appointment only).
Gypsies Curse: José-Carlos Diaz, impresario of the Worm-Hole Laboratory, has struck again. This nonstop independent curator of intelligent contemporary art, manufactured predominantly by young, restless, college-educated culture workers, has scoped out Karen Azoulay, Rachel Foullon, Sally Heller, Aimee Jones, Stella Lai, Cristina Lei Rodriguez, and Mary Elizabeth Yarbrough from slide submissions, online art repositories, and word-of-mouth. Ostensibly an effort to deflect an actual curse, the art in this exhibition works more like a charm, all pink-tinged and fashion-forward, coy and decorative. — Michelle Weinberg
Through July 8. Open Saturdays 2:00 to 5:00 p.m. or by appointment. Buena Vista Building, 180 NE 39th St., second floor. 305-798-6529.
Love & Slavery in Miami: Willie Keddell is an artist who tills the fields of perception. The urban furrows of marginality are his seedbed of imagination. His work’s soulful aesthetic is abundant with concrete decay, the graffiti of untrod spaces, and the plaintive lament of the dispossessed. With assistance from a crew of “at risk” teenage apprentices from the Troy Community Academy, Keddell has brought an artist’s sensibility to the tangled history of two Miami landmarks — the William English plantation slave house/Fort Dallas, and the Wagner homestead, now located in Lummus Park by the Miami River. “Love & Slavery in Miami” is a project exhibiting historical documentation and photography of the landmarks’ pasts, as well as a performance piece based on the lives of the Wagner family. — Carlos Suarez de Jesus
Ongoing. Tours every Thursday between 9:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m.; Saturdays by appointment. Lummus Park, 404 NW Second St. 305-638-7008 (Keddell at Troy Community Academy).
Scream:10 Artists x 10 Writers x 10 Scary Movies: Curated by Fernanda Arruda and Michael Clifton, “Scream” addresses a variety of horrors influencing contemporary art. In addition to the work in the exhibit, which traveled here from New York, the curators invited ten writers to contribute essays on the participating artists, published in a catalogue that also lists a horror film chosen by each artist. (The films are available for viewing.) David Altmejd’s mangled-werewolf sculpture has grisly sex appeal enhanced by a glam coating of rhinestones, rotting stardust, and garish jewelry. Amy Sarkisian’s Toy Skull Reconstructions, squalid busts with bad skin, bad teeth, and ridiculous hair pieces, are gruesome, repulsive, and despicable. — Carlos Suarez de Jesus
Through July 3. Moore Space, second floor, 4040 NE Second Ave. 305-438-1163.
Suspended Objects: Dario Escobar takes symbols of mass consumption and morphs them into aesthetic counterfeits, fake agitprop, or grown-up toys with the flair of a Madison Avenue whiz kid. He describes his mind twists as “modern folly” or “cultural repertoire legitimated by our collective memory.” Either way, you feel ambivalently pulled by these pieces as if you could play with them, yet they belong in some ideological space between Terry Eagleton and AdBusters. Escobar’s is a timely critique of capitalism, though his wit can, in the end, bite its own tail — that is, if consumption’s representation ends up being consumed. — Alfredo Triff
Through August 30. Karpio-Facchini Gallery, 1929 NW First Ave. 305-576-4454.