By John Thomason
By Benjy Caplan
By Artburst Miami
By Carlos Suarez De Jesus
By Daniel Reskin
Astral Cumulo Uber Express: Kenny Scharf's exhibit at the Kevin Bruk Gallery harks back to the Fifties. During the era in which the Soviets sent Sputnik hurtling across the sky, America's obsession with space was limited to watching Annette Funicello fill out her bra on The Mickey Mouse Club an era when cool jazz and blue suede shoes rocked the airwaves and many believed the new superpower on the block reigned supreme. Scharf has tricked out a 1960 Cadillac coupe, one of the most iconic designs of the era, in a giddy fusion of modern design and contemporary art that pokes fun at duck-and-cover classroom drills, threats of atomic rain, fear of the Red Menace, and those rip-snorting drive-in movies like Teenagers from Outer Space. In a world where global ascendancy seems to revolve around the control of oil reserves, this clunker delivers a stinging reminder that though lofty dreams of yesteryear may have run out of gas, we still suffer from bozos in government itching to hog the steering wheel. Carlos Suarez De JesusThrough June 1. Kevin Bruk Gallery, 2249 NW First Pl., Miami; 305-576-2000, www.kevinbrukgallery.com.
Borrowed World: The exhibit is split into two distinct viewing spaces, with sculptural works on one side and Paredes's performance photo pieces on the other. One of the more interesting Cibachrome prints, Gnome, depicts the nude artist in a vibrantly hued emerald forest clearing. Her body, painted white, sprouts a pair of black-and-white wings. She squats under a tree covered in thick, ropey vines as sunlight filters like tiny needles through a dense canopy of leaves. It seems that in the deepest recesses of her mind, Paredes is navigating toward a space for reinvention, for liberating clarity, for disappearance; toward a place where she can magically change her world. Carlos Suarez De Jesus Through May 8. Diana Lowenstein Fine Arts, 2043 N. Miami Ave., Miami; 305-574-1804, www.dlfinearts.com.
Chandelier Mistaken for God: Civilizations crumble and others ascend in the wake, yet humanity must be suffering from a learning disability, considering the average Joe is still digging his own grave. This seems to be the conceptual furrow James Croak tills in his engrossing exhibit, which features a series of haunting, figurative sculptures that portray the human desire to connect with the universe in an increasingly volatile age where war, poverty, famine, and ecological disasters grind the myth of transcendence. Created mostly from his trademark material common dirt these gritty pieces evoke a moody presence. Initially hand-modeled in clay before being cast in a dirt-and-glue binder a technique Croak invented in 1985 they exude a heightened sense of the uncanny and a pathos that stands in bleak contrast to the unbridled building boom knocking optimistically against the sky. For all their down-at-the-heels squalor, these works possess an uplifting quality, reminding us that living in a disposable society can wither the human spirit. Carlos Suarez De JesusThrough May 13. Bernice Steinbaum Gallery, 3550 N. Miami Ave., Miami; 305-573-2700, www.bernicesteinbaumgallery.com.
James Rosenquist: Traveling at the Speed of Light: At the Miami Art Museum, the New Work Gallery is featuring eight paintings by James Rosenquist. The artist, a pioneer of the Sixties American Pop Art movement, is known for creating massive works influenced by an early stint painting commercial billboards in Times Square. The exhibit includes pieces from 1987 to 2004 and fluidly mixes obscure fragments of imagery in overlapping relationships between the abstract and real, creating a visual experience that toys with perception. This is Rosenquist's first U.S. museum show since his 40-year retrospective at New York's Guggenheim in 2003, and it showcases a pair of paintings that have never been exhibited in the U.S. Many of the works reflect the artist's examination of current issues and his interests in space, technology, and science. For those who haven't experienced Rosenquist's work up close and personal, these paintings, intimately packed into a cozy space, offer a rare view. Carlos Suarez De JesusThrough July 2. Miami Art Museum, 101 W. Flagler St., Miami; 305-375-3000, www.miamiartmuseum.org.
Natalia Benedetti: Luminosity: This exhibit is the artist's first solo museum show and comprises two videos on continuous loops projected onto nine-by-twelve-foot screens. One work depicts Benedetti skydiving; the other is a fluid study of sunlight as it ripples across the surface of a lake. Both videos are shown together, which creates an engulfing experience enhanced by a soundtrack of rushing wind. Sublimely thrilling, the sensory-seducing sounds and vast expanse of sun-dappled water on one screen next to the gorgeous blue sky and shimmering coastline on the other transport the spectator to a space somewhere between Heaven and Earth. Benedetti has parachuted into her first solo museum show with head-turning aplomb. Carlos Suarez De Jesus Through June 4. MoCA at Goldman Warehouse, 404 NW 26th St., Miami; 305-893-6211, www.mocanomi.org.
The Sleep of Reason Breeds Monsters: Gavin Perry's exhibit features half a dozen paintings that shorten the distance between fine art and lowbrow car culture, and also banks on America's love affair with the asphalt. His immaculately finished works will remind some viewers of LL Cool J's popular Nineties correlation between getting laid and driving a hot car, and leave them mulling over many a young male's scatterbrained reasoning that rolling out in the perfect wheels can lead to the perfect piece of pussy. However, not merely eye candy, Perry's paintings flex panty-dropping power, if only in the words of your average sex-preoccupied car junkie. Carlos Suarez De Jesus Through May 6. Fredric Snitzer Gallery, 2247 NW First Pl., Miami; 305-448-8976, www.snitzer.com.