Got Art?

It might be visually stimulating, but can it improve your health?

One can't help being amazed how the greenhorn impresario swung that deal. Maybe he pledged at the same frat as a Corcoran bigwig, or some of the Capitol's yokels found themselves hyperventilating over Japour's magisterial view of Biscayne Bay.

"I didn't know much about what I was doing at first but felt strongly about giving back, so I organized many of these events to support charities that benefit children. I feel very seriously about what I'm doing and have invested a lot into my art business," he intones.

Setting up shop where the action is motivated Lenny Tachmes to close his North Miami gallery and convert a two-story Twenties home — on the corner of NW 39th Street and Second Avenue — into an alternative art space with living quarters upstairs.

"The house was perfect for me. I was tired of paying rent and wanted to invest in property and be near Wynwood," Tachmes says. "Also, it was close to my plastic surgery practice at the Four Seasons."

Tachmes sunk $40,000 into retro-fitting the first floor into a three-room gallery, covering the windows with sheet rock, installing lighting, hooking up a spiffy sound system, and treating his public to a topnotch commode. He preserved the home's original plaster crown molding and the fireplace tricked out with Spanish tile. The house features a spacious front porch with coral rock columns, where the culturati kibitzed during the opening-night bash.

"What I love about this place is that it's great for entertaining VIPs and hosting private cocktail receptions for collectors to meet my artists," Tachmes comments.

The gallery popped its cherry with "Vol. 5, No. 1," a sweet little group show featuring the work of Leyden Rodriguez-Casanova, Victor Muñiz, Eddie Lopez, and Thomas Nolan. Catch Rodriguez-Casanova's Cornered, a kitchen cabinet tucked into a corner wall, and After Dark, an immaculately boxed window-to-nowhere you're likely to overlook if you don't keep your eyes peeled. Muñiz's room-swallowing mural is a kick-in-the-groin winner, and Lopez's war-themed drawings are charged with relevance. Nolan's magnetic micro-landscapes of urban skylines fashioned from duct tape, bolts and lug nuts, stacked staples, and toothbrush bristles made me grin, and I found Tachmes's choice digs a gem.

Let's hope that once Tachmes is settled, he can concentrate on upgrading his program and effectively promoting his talented stable of artists. If his goal is to strut with the big dogs, he should consider hiring a savvy gallery assistant to help him become more consistent.

Nomad curator Carol Jazzar has been organizing exhibits in Wynwood and the Design District the past few years, often suffering heartburn in reward. Exhibiting her small group of artists at home began making sense when weasel landlords at loaned spaces took nasty bites out of her hide by asking the dealer for large percentages of her sales commissions.

The overhead associated with running a commercial space made Jazzar queasy, so she transformed the four-car garage behind her El Portal house into a gallery. The peaceful nature-lover enjoys the best of both worlds with her quaint 800-square-foot space nestled in a lushly landscaped half-acre lot that appears quite the savory spot in which to show work and entertain clients.

During a recent visit, I felt transported by the hundreds of orchids and the scent of wild jasmine that perfumed her back yard. Squirrels romped across mango and avocado trees, and blue jays, cardinals, woodpeckers, and orioles seemed to be perched everywhere.

"El Portal is a bird sanctuary," she tells me while gesturing toward an iridescent cloud of fluttering butterflies. "I've had events here with DJ Le Spam and Suenalo Sound System. The neighbors fix finger food and support my openings," she mentions. "It's been wonderful."

Jazzar is currently exhibiting "Tapage," showcasing the work of Brad Kuhl and Monique Leyton. The fledgling conceptual team has created what appear to be Weegee-inspired crime scenes with brightly colored acrylic tape on paper. The riots, natural disasters, acts of terrorism, accidents, fires, and sundry snapshots of mayhem that pepper the artists' visual lexicon are culled from the violent supper-time television fodder on which American families are nurtured.

"They were big fans of Copsgrowing up and take their imagery from newscasts as well," Jazzar points out.

One piece, She Never Left Her Desk, depicts a young woman, perhaps a suicide victim, sprawled over a desk with a gun in her hand. The artists achieve almost a painterly effect with textured layers of tape; their loud blue, red, green, and yellow hues give the dark subject matter the veneer of a twisted fantasy.

Another work, One Scotch, One Bourbon, One Beer, named for one of John Lee Hooker's plaintive numbers, shows what might be a pair of derelicts bleeding from head wounds, perhaps as a result of a hit-and-run accident or a drive-by shooting. A gaggle of emergency personnel lingers in boredom as if wondering whose turn it is to make the next doughnut run.

Outside her gallery, mounted on the garage walls, are two pillowcase-size vinyl banners, each featuring a close-up photograph of a white cat posing in a garden. I ask Jazzar who the artist is.

"I took those photos," she muses wistfully. "That was my cat, and I found her dead in the yard, which was strange, because she was only six years old. I think she must have been licking one of those poisonous toads. At least I can still see her when I come out to the yard."

The cat is buried in a sculpturally marked grave under an avocado tree next to the gallery. "Her name was Soma, and she had been my panacea," the earthy dealer sighs.

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