Alternative Photographs: Samantha Salzinger might be able to find her way blindfolded around a sex shop. At least that is what her provocative pieces on display at ArtCenter/South Florida suggest. The exhibit, organized by indie curator Carol Jazzar, examines developing trends in photography. Salzinger's impeccably crafted dioramas, near the gallery entrance, are wickedly clever and pay off in spades. She creates pieces that remind me of those old View-Master toys that, with the push of a finger, allowed 3-D excursions to national parks such as Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons. The difference? In Salzinger's version, the monuments are what were once referred to as "marital aids." Perhaps the most subtle of her works depicts what appears to be a room in a cloistered monastery. Inside it a Bible and a chalice are propped on a lace-covered table. A pair of hands is cupped together as if in prayer it is actually a male masturbatory tool. Where the works of Salzinger, Mark Koven, and Leyden Rodriguez-Casanova gel, offering conceptual content that is rich in sexual undertones and exactingly executed, the rest of the pack appears flaccid by comparison. Carlos Suarez De Jesus Through June 18. ArtCenter/South Florida, 800 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach; 305-674-8278, www.artcentersf.org.
Enigmatic Figures: This exhibit touts Argentine Mateo Arguello Pitt's breakout appearance at ArtSpace/Virginia Miller Galleries. The show also features works by Aurora Cañero, Maria Gamundi, and José Benito, who provide little more than background noise to Pitt's quirky paintings. He, at least, has something to say. The female artists appear to have been included in this show as a snatch at the checkbooks. Benito might be considered bankable by the dealer, but he royally stinks up the joint with his polychrome-on-wood sculptures notable for their Precious Moments-like sappiness. In La Intranquilidad (Lack of Tranquility), Pitt weighs in with colorful, slashing brushstrokes to capture a depressed mope lying on a cot alone in his room. He is surrounded by what appear to be crowds of animated, irritated people pigeonholed into separate compartments seeping through the walls. The artist seems to be discouraging the viewer from connecting with them, while hinting their insanity is normal. Miller should keep her guard up and put together scrappier combinations; the veteran of South Florida's dog-eat-dog art scene should know it is lonely on the ropes. Carlos Suarez De Jesus Through June 30. ArtSpace/Virginia Miller Galleries, 169 Madeira Ave., Coral Gables; 305-444-4493, www.virginiamiller.com.
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