Priscilla Sage's work expands or contracts, depending on how you look at it
Priscilla Sage's work expands or contracts, depending on how you look at it

All Over the Place

Miami is getting the vibe of a bigger city. April's bunch of openings was a good example, keeping many of us happily busy. And this time around it was Coral Gables that had some of the most interesting shows: Cuban veteran Flora Fong at Cernuda Arte; Neoexpressionist works by Carlos Quintana at Gary Nader Fine Arts; and, in particular, the attractive exhibition of paintings by José Iraola at Durban Segnini Gallery.

Iraola's Abstract manipulations reveal the organic possibilities of the painting process. He designs peculiar figurations within brownish-red zones, where the drawing recedes into the coloring amid overlapping textures and mixed painterly treatments. At times Iraola's formal reiterations sacrifice expressive possibilities, but overall the exhibition reveals a maturing artist not afraid of showing us what he thinks.

Away from the Gables, Mette Tommerup, an artist from Denmark now living and working in New York and Miami, opened "DigiCommons" at the Fredric Snitzer Gallery. For the project room, Tommerup fittingly portrayed human digital distortions of a post-Bachelor Duchampian kind on Alexander Calder-like sculptural mobiles, with a delicately precarious result. At times I wondered what would happen if the artist would also "digi" her living environments. Tommerup's art has been labeled Surrealist, but I think her work has the right psychedelic temperament to fit, attitude-wise, cool Velvet Underground B sides.


"Three Sculptors: By Helene Brandt, Donna Rosenthal, and Priscilla Sage"

Bernice Steinbaum Gallery, 3550 North Miami Ave.

Through May 12, 305-573-2700. Works by George Rush, Philip Smith and Yek. Through May 19 at Kevin Brok Gallery, 3930 NE 2nd Ave.

In the Design District, Kevin Bruk Gallery presented artists George Rush and Philip Smith. Rush's pop, soft-colored canvases expose the conspicuousness of 21st-century domestic life. Although his understated humor may suggest aloofness, Rush actually delivers laid-back moments of leisure within these high-end modern Miesian environments, moments set against high glass windows framing handsome outdoor vegetation. With very little Rush is able to suggest a mood of painful solitude, and that's a plus.

By drawing symbols on freshly painted canvas, Philip Smith produces ideogram saturations. As if taken from some children's book of illustrations, Smith ponders the phenomenon of modernity with simplicity. He takes different signs and lets overall meaning collide. With this new pictorial lexicon, he pits modern life against the clock. Smith carefully reminds us of what time it is: A hodgepodge of washing machines, microwaves, DNA spirals, cartoonlike animals, and us humans, of course, partakes in the miracle of a civilization of our own doing -- and undoing. It's better that Smith lets the viewer figure things out.

Along the North Miami Avenue strip openings took place at Bernice Steinbaum Gallery, Dorsch Gallery, and Locusts Projects. Steinbaum featured "Three Sculptors" by Donna Rosenthal, Priscilla Sage, and Helene Brandt, an interesting experiment in conceptual refraction -- of the malleable kind. It's too much to see in one evening, but it's worth a quick overview of these distinguished artists.

Rosenthal's quirky wedding-suit sculpture series represents a critique of social institutions, but it's not a cynical critique. The artist attacks entrenched habits and people's empty and hypocritical presumptions. She writes on the actual sculpture or next to it, providing us with all the stereotypical sayings about marriage: "He'll love me; I'll give him children." But she does so in a way that points to how preposterous these assumptions are in the actuality of our society. I like the fact that her mix of labor-intensive embroideries with poignantly succinct texts suggests a betrayal of reality.

Interest in the polyhedron goes back to Plato. And Helene Brandt's constructions explore the deconstruction, or unfolding, of these figures (imagine frames dilating and contracting before your eyes). Because of its strict formalist quality, the work expresses a certain poetic beauty, though at times Brandt can be overwhelmed by her topology. Her sculptures generally stand on the floor and consist of about a dozen polyhedrons, from flat to fully erect, which makes it seem that the viewer is witnessing the development of the figure. It would be great to see much larger versions of these sculptures -- as Brandt's presentation suggested -- a kind of Constructivist intrusion into an essential architectural frame.

Priscilla Sage's hanging, three-dimensional sculptures resemble an assortment of images: palm trees, DNA helixes, Eastern objects of worship. Twisting, expanding, and turning within a prescribed form, these weird, suspended multicolor pieces are enticing to touch. Sage's works throw you off and make you think.


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