Russian Dreams ...
Through February 8. Bass Museum of Art, 2121 Park Ave., Miami Beach; 305-673-7530, bassmuseum.org. Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
This selection of cutting-edge works by contemporary Russian artists explores the evolution of Russian art from pre-Glasnost times to the present. The exhibition is a tantalizing goulash of the work of modern Russian artists — a mix of icons and a generation of up-and-comers. The first group of artists came to prominence in the Eighties and Nineties, during the epoch of the Russian underground and Gorbachev's perestroika. At the time, "sots-art" — a satiric blend of socialist realism and pop art that parodied official state-produced art — was the dominant artistic mode. The fresh crop of artists — now between 20 and 30 years old — developed their work in a new, post-perestroika Russia when government bans on personal expression were lifted, which changed the scope of established artists' work. Among the many neck-craning pieces is Defile (2000-07), by the artists' collective AES+F. A collage of video and digital photography, it mixes images of unclaimed corpses in a morgue with shots of haute couture dresses. It pokes fun at the runway shows of Paris, Milan, and London by depicting anonymous stiffs decked out in high fashion while floating over an invisible catwalk.
Anri Sala: Purchase Not by Moonlight
Through March 1. Museum of Contemporary Art, 770 NE 125th St., North Miami; 305-893-6211, mocanomi.org. Tuesday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday noon to 5 p.m.
Anri Sala hijacks the language of cinema and video to create disorienting dreamscapes that gnaw at the senses like acid eating through cheap cement. Featuring seven films dating from the late Nineties to the present, the impressive exhibition marks the Albanian artist's first major U.S. museum show. It also includes photographs and sculptures that explore a dialogue about the interplay of space and time. Many of the works mine the artist's interest in films that create their own soundtracks and addle the skull with a sense of disconnect. In Mixed Behavior, a DJ appears on the roof of a building in Sala's native Tirana as fireworks pepper the sky and sheets of rain drench him on New Year's Eve. The artist blurs the line between the music and the pyrotechnics, hinting at the relationships between festive celebrations and acts of war. Sala's films are like jangled poetry in motion, at times both moving and banal yet hewing to the intriguingly ambiguous.
The Prisoner's Dilemma
Through March 1. CiFo, 1018 N. Miami Ave., Miami; 305-455-3380, cifo.org. Thursday through Sunday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
There is a fetid whiff of the Bush/Cheney reign of error emanating from a huge video projection on view at CiFo. Jimmie Durham's Smashing offers a stinging commentary on bureaucratic arrogance and ineptitude. It's rife with Kafkaesque undertones that seem ripped from recent headlines bemoaning the crushed American dream. The cranium-staving video is part of "The Prisoner's Dilemma," curated by Leanne Mella and featuring the work of 30 international artists whose videos, installations, photographs, and paintings confront and challenge institutions of power in contemporary society. Issues of marginalization, subversion, warfare, protest, and resistance are imaginatively tinkered with in this provocative show. An artist who reflects on the horrors of war is Paolo Canevari, whose video, Bouncing Skull, was shot outside the destroyed Serbian army headquarters in Belgrade. The ten-minute work depicts a solitary lad displaying some nifty soccer footwork with the rubber likeness of a human skull amid the bombed-out surroundings. As he passes the bouncing skull from foot to foot, it brings to mind the grisly scene at the end of Eli Roth's film Hostel II, in which young boys gleefully kick around a woman's severed head. Near the exit, Priscilla Monge's color photographs strangely evoke the 1968 Manson murders. The artist has scrawled six impeccably white doors with similar phrases in blood. One reads, "El arte es cosa de vida o muerte" ("Art is a matter of life and death"); another reads, "La guerra es cosa de vida o muerte" ("War is a matter of life and death"). It's impossible to argue with either sentiment, especially when confronted with a show that so potently mirrors these uneasy times.
Modern Masters from the Smithsonian
Andrew Reach: Full Circle
Through March 1. Through April 4. Frost Art Museum, Florida International University, 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.
Designed by Yann Weymouth, the new Frost Art Museum is a 46,000-square-foot work of art featuring 10,000-square-feet of gallery space, a soaring atrium, a floating stairwell, and a sparkling Chinese granite façade. Frost currently houses six exhibitions, including "Modern Masters from the Smithsonian," boasting 43 key paintings and sculptures by 31 of the most celebrated artists who came to maturity in the Fifties, and examines the complex and varied nature of American abstract art in the mid-20th Century. Artists in the show include Franz Kline, Michael Goldberg, Josef Albers, Louise Nevelson, Romare Bearden, Larry Rivers, and Jim Dine. A poignant homecoming of sorts at Frost is "Full Circle," by local artist Andrew Reach, who has played a role in the museum's rebirth. Reach was an architect working on the new building when a crippling spinal disease ended his career. He fought against the pain by refocusing his creativity on art. Reach couldn't paint because of physical limitations, so he turned to the computer and began creating large-format digital images fueled by his passion for Jackson Pollock and Larry Rivers along with Islamic art and African patterns. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Reach has come to roost in a breathtaking structure he helped design and make worthy of inspirational talent.
Through March 10. Carol Jazzar Gallery, 158 NW 91st St., El Portal; 305-490-6906, cjazzart.com. Saturday and Sunday 1 to 6 p.m. and by appointment.
Alain Guerra and Neraldo de la Paz are not the type to gingerly test the depths of mythology. Instead the Miami-based pair has plunged headfirst into the unknown, seeking to fathom the common lore that binds humanity in an Ariadne's thread across the globe. At the Carol Jazzar Gallery in El Portal, the conceptual duo has conjured a realm of enchantment by creating iconic imagery of fantastic creatures lost to time, yet which appeared very much alive to the bygone civilizations that venerated them. Their richly symbolic exhibit, "Otherworld," offers an imaginative portal through the ages. It deploys found objects and garments to evoke mystical beings that have transcended space and time. The Cuban artists, who have collaborated under the name Guerra de la Paz since 1996, share a studio in Little Haiti, where they have plumbed the neighborhood's streets and shops for the discarded materials that make up their art. To create the eye-popping mermaids, unicorns, witches, warlocks, and angels in their show, they play the role of back-yard archaeologists, dumpster-diving and rifling through piles of clothing at local shops that work in the rag trade shipping used garments in bulk to Haiti.
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