Le Chant des Oiseaux, an intriguing legal-pad-sized oil-on-panel by Carrington, one of the last living surrealists of her era, conjures the hostile dance between the life and death instincts. In it, the figures of a nude man and woman are portrayed locked in an uneasy embrace, each clutching the other's decapitated head. In 2005, Carrington set a record at auction for the highest price paid for the work of a living surrealist painter.

A large canvas by Lam depicts Leda and the swan at the time of their sexual consummation, as a terrifying horned spirit watches from a jungle clearing. The Cuban artist's opus flickers with an eerie feverish glow, as Lam's pendulous-breasted Leda surrenders to the passionate thrusts of Zeus disguised as a stylized swan. Lam re-envisions the classical myth as the mating between the Afro-Cuban deities of his tropical island and the unbridled forces of nature.

Wilfredo Lam's Leda and the Swan
Wilfredo Lam's Leda and the Swan


Through June 30, at Dorissa Building, 2751 N. Miami Ave., Miami; 305-576-2914; miamibiennale.org. Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Although the collection will strike some as conventional and the presentation as uneven, it does boast many works not typically seen here outside a museum, and several on display in the section on eroticism, despite being denied pride of place at the entrance of the space, alone are worth the trip.

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