By John Thomason
By Benjy Caplan
By Artburst Miami
By Carlos Suarez De Jesus
By Daniel Reskin
Outside the elevator, a startling entomological drawing by conceptual coconspirators Elsoca and Fabian rivets the viewer. The devilish duo, who might get their jollies by pulling the legs and wings off insects, creates poetically arresting imagery with the plundered body parts.
Snaking around the walls surrounding the elevator is the message "We were truly offensive and undesirable, but today we are redeemed, beautiful, and acceptable thanks to sacrifice done as an exercise. We are so proud of ourselves ... our wings ... our legs ... no blood smell" in a meandering cursive scrawl. The artists created the work by whipping bugs in a blender and gluing the luminous concoction to form words that delicately refract the gallery lights.
A drawing on canvas nearby showcases thousands of spindly housefly legs the amazing pair used to create an image that looks remarkably like a torn spider web or a bullet hole in a car window.
“Sweet Basil”: Through January 28. Bernice Steinbaum Gallery. 3550 North Miami Ave, Miami; 305-573-2700. www.berni cesteinbaumgallery.com.
As one marvels at their inventiveness and mordant wit, the sounds of shattering glass and crunching metal split the air.
Walking toward the source of the ruckus, one is greeted by a hail of gunfire from Peter Sarkisian's video sculpture, Drive, a sensational piece that evokes the muscle-car era with unrepentant mayhem.
The toy model-scale version of a sliced-in-half Seventies Cutlass, painted burgundy with a black vinyl top, pimps a video screen the width of a business card inside the driver's-side window and triggers associations with epic car chases in movies like Bullittor of a zany demolition derby. It features a middle-age man clenching a steering wheel with white-knuckle intensity as he wreaks havoc on city streets, destroying dozens of cars chased by the police, their sirens blaring.
Another of Sarkisian's savory pieces, titled Milk Bath Mermaid, resembles a pair of burnished metal salad bowls until one peers inside. A video is projected into the bowl's interior, and as the viewer watches a creamy swirl and hears the sound of splashing, a fetching nude brunette pops up. The woman rolls languidly in one bowl, submerges herself, and reappears in the other, where she floats on her back.
James Croak's Double Dirt Man is a crunchy sculpture created from dirt and resin that has a noirish vibe and stopped me dead in my tracks. The work depicts two life-size trench-coat-clad goons standing back-to-back and ready to duel. Their heads are bald, their shoulders are slumped, and their eye sockets are as black as a lump of coal. The dirt-caked figures grip Saturday night specials, their index fingers tightly frozen on the triggers in a gritty scenario that smacks of a hardboiled pulp novel. It left me craving more of Croak's work.
One of the most evocative pieces in the show is Elizabeth Cerejido's poignant For the Record, a color transparency mounted on a light box and accompanied by sound. In it the artist is wearing her mother's white long-sleeve blouse and full-length slate skirt as she stands on a winding asphalt path bracketed by towering rows of trees. Though the landscape and foliage are sharply clear, the image of the artist looks haggard and out of focus.
Cerejido's mom was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer's, and you can hear her voice on a scratchy recording capturing nearly 40 phone messages she left on the artist's answering machine one afternoon. "Liz, are you there?" Beep. "Lizzy, uhhh." Beep. The calls pile up, revealing the woman's frail condition, and one feels a discomfiting awkwardness, as if eavesdropping on a deeply complex psychological ritual between mother and daughter.
Contemplative in scope and isolated in a small room near the back of the gallery, Cerejido's work is a straightforward revelation in which the artist bares her reality. It will make a mark on anyone who has dealt with aging and ailing loved ones.
This show, featuring the work of 26 artists, including some of South Florida's most talented, seems holiday gift-wrapped and full of surprises.