Miami art this week: horses, cats, and poor art

"Gran Torino: Italian Contemporary Art"

Through April 17 at Frost Art Museum, 10975 SW 17th St., Miami; 305-348-2890; thefrost.fiu.edu. Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday noon to 5 p.m.

At first blush, the crumpled 55-gallon oil drum spilling its contents onto the gallery floor gives the impression that Frost Art Museum's new show might be a knock on the high price of gas or an ironic ode to car culture. "Gran Torino," however, is not a stab at America's love affair with the muscle car or a nod to the Clint Eastwood flick of the same name. Instead, it offers a revved up look at the work of artists hailing from Turin, Italy, that nation's version of Detroit and headquarters to automakers Lancia, Ferrari, Fiat, and Alfa Romeo. "Most people know us best as the home of the Shroud of Turin," says Paolo Facelli, who along with Francesco Poli curated the didactic sprawling group show. "But we're an international center of the contemporary arts and one of the birthplaces of arte povera." Their high-horsepower exhibit boasts 30 works by 30 artists created using a broad arsenal of materials and styles. It features artists that emerged during the '60s, '70s, and '80s, along with a newer generation that has surfaced over the past 15 years. The show — culled from private international galleries and collections, as well as from the collections of participant artists themselves — was more than a year in the making, and there are plans to take it across the U.S. and Europe after it leaves Frost. The show consists of paintings, sculpture, photography, video, and mixed-media installations. It includes big-name artists such as Michelangelo Pistoletto, Mario Merz, Nicola Bolla, Luigi Mainolfi, Filippo di Sambuy, Botto and Bruno, and Fabio Vaile. Those artists were influential in the development of arte povera (poor art)-style and contributed to an evolution of the Italian avant-garde over the past four decades.

"Bruce Weber: Haiti / Little Haiti"

Through February 13 at Museum of Contemporary Art, 770 NE 125th St., North Miami; 305-893-6211; mocanomi.org. Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Wednesday 1 to 9 p.m., Sunday noon to 5 p.m.

Bruce Weber: Haiti / Little Haiti" features a suite of 75 of the iconic fashion photographer's arresting images documenting members of the local Haitian community, many of whom have faced incarceration or risked deportation after arriving here. Weber focused his lens on Miami's Haitian community in Liberty City, Little Haiti, and other immigrant enclaves to capture the plight of those who have risked their lives crossing the Florida Straits fleeing political oppression or economic despair. Organized by MOCA's executive director and chief curator, Bonnie Clearwater, the images were snapped by Weber between 2003 and 2010. The exhibit features stunning portraits of individuals, groups, and families, as well as Miami's rising Haitian leaders, politicians, artists, and entertainers who have also posed for Weber over the past several years. " These images convey what he sees and admires in the Haitian children and adults he photographs — their strength, pride, resilience, elegance, and beauty," Clearwater says.

"Paper"

Through February 26 at Butter Gallery, 2301 NW Second Ave., Miami; 305-303-6254; buttergallery.com. Tuesday through Saturday noon to 6 p.m.

Feline-fixated Zheng Tianming is one of four emerging artists from China in a group show called "Paper" that also includes works by Guo Tiantian, Qi Yuan, and Su Xianpan, all making their U.S. debut. Curated by Inez Suen and sponsored by the International Fine Arts Council, the exhibit marks a departure for Butter Gallery where street photography and pop art works are more the norm. The pussy-addled Tianming is represented by more than a dozen colorful, small-format mixed-media works on paper that depict a young man swinging a pair of cats by their tails, and scrawny nude women, legs parted akimbo, squeezing kittens out of their birth canals. A mural painter by profession, Yuan produces works with ink on rice paper that are more delicate in nature without losing their edginess. One of her images depicts a demon's head belching forth an anthropomorphic female creature with spindly, spider-like legs. Yet another features a pair of breasts rising from a desolate landscape, one with the nipple erupting like a volcano, while the other lifts a dreary forest clearing populated by an eerie, buzzard-beaked apparition, and a giant worm with branches poking from its head. The most conceptual artist of the bunch is Xianpan, whose minimalist depictions of folded paper airplanes conjure a sense of whimsy and playfulness. In his youth, the artist dreamed of inventing toys, and that sensibility is reflected strongly in his work.

"Moving in Place"

Through March 6 at Miami Art Museum, 101 W. Flagler St., Miami; 305-375-3000; miamiartmuseum.org. Tuesday through Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday noon to 5 p.m.

Susan Rothenberg marks her South Florida debut by straddling the divide between the figural and abstract with enigmatic works depicting animals and humans rendered from odd perspectives, often in midstride. The artist's first museum exhibit in more than a decade features a compelling selection of 25 canvases spanning Rothenberg's 35-year career. They range from her early galloping wild horse paintings of the '70s to more recent works that explore how the artist reconstructs the world around her with an approach she calls "frozen motion." The exhibition explores the evolution of Rothenberg's spatial concepts from early paintings such as Cabin Fever (1976), which depicts the simple outline of a horse jumping into action, to spinning and turning figures in the 1980s and early 1990s such as in Folded Buddha (1987–88) and Pin Wheel (1988), both major works from MAM's permanent collection. The exhibition also includes action scenes that emerged shortly after she moved from New York to a ranch in New Mexico, such as Dogs Killing Rabbit (1991–92) and Accident #2 (1993–94), as well as her most recent series of disembodied hands and arms swinging around the space of paintings like dismembered marionettes.

 
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