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Anne Chu: This exhibition begins with a wide tabletop full of short human figures based on funerary guardians from China's T'ang Dynasty. Carved roughly from wood, the figures are then painted with casein in a style that seems to draw from Impressionist watercolors. Indeed Chu's nearby watercolor studies, executed with admirable economy and freshness, clearly informed the carved works. Despite the references to historical art sources, Chu's work has its own distinct personality. The stars of this show are her life-size marionettes, which dominate with their sizable physical and psychological presence. Many of them could be made to work, given a team of strong puppeteers at a high elevation. Chu's watercolor studies for them reflect the best traditions of both the Eastern and Western worlds. This dual-worldly existence that seems to transcend time animates her work with a courageous energy -- energy which makes this exhibit a tour de force. -- Franklin Einspruch Through July 3. Museum of Contemporary Art, 770 NE 125th St., North Miami; 305-893-6211.
The Art of Aggression: This timely and thoughtful exhibition refracts contemporary political art through a prism of global terrorism and conflict. Several artists journey to the heart of their work via detached, analytical paths reminiscent of the increasingly complex machinations that characterize global warfare today. Dominic McGill's The Zapruder Covert Waltz is an elaborate drawing that graphs the myriad theories surrounding the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Mark Lombardi's lyrical drawings play connect-the-dots, forming lacy constellations that link business transactions in the military-industrial complex. Josh On and Futurefarmers, a San Francisco-based new-media cooperative, presents Antiwargame and They Rule. These interactive Web-based works spoof war video games, inviting users to visualize the overlapping affiliations of corporate honchos who control the world's most powerful companies. The curators demonstrate that artists are the flies in the ointment of empire, the collective conscience and whistleblowers for the military and industrial powers that be, persistently knocking on the closed-door proceedings at the highest echelons of government and business. -- Michelle Weinberg Through July 1. The Moore Space, 4040 NE Second Ave., second floor, Miami; 305-438-1163.
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Good Titles from Bad Books: The Kevin Bruk Gallery, recently moved to a huge and handsome space in the heart of Wynwood, opened with a big two-exhibit splash. Among the many works (organized by Mathew Brannon) was Michael Phelan's Sunshine Daydream, suspended silver Mylar strips bunched together like plant tops; Carol Bove's What the Trees Said, an installation of an Eames shelf filled with books and objects (Nietzsche among them); Peter Coffin's Untitled (Orgy Photo, Diagram Colex), a clashing of magazines fun and serious; and a huge red banner by David Noonan. Liam Gillick added luster to the gallery floor with plenty of silvery glitter. The music touch was just right. -- Alfredo Triff Through June 11. Kevin Bruk Gallery, 2249 NW First Pl., Miami; 305-576-2000.
Robert Rauschenberg: Considered a central figure in late-twentieth-century art, Rauschenberg is also a long-time resident of Captiva Island, Florida. His recent work has begun to reflect distinctively local input: gators, punchy shadows, pink and green. His move to water-based media, inspired by safety and environmental concerns, forced his palette into a gentler range of intensity. This makes his new works more pleasant to look at than the saturated images he became known for, but the oomph has gone out of them as well. They're fun and lighthearted (the man is famous for being the same), but they seem to want for more resolution and gravitas. -- Franklin Einspruch Through July 3. Miami Art Museum, 101 W. Flagler St., Miami; 305-375-3000.
The Sky Is a Big Responsibility: New York artist John Bianchi lived at Placemaker Gallery for four months, producing all the works for his installation using materials scavenged from within and around his makeshift home. Bianchi's (Untitled) Tornado drawings in chalk pastel are smooth, pristine depictions of azure skies split by white tornadoes. On either side of his crudely constructed bachelor pad, accessible to viewers via two openings cut out of the wall, is a narrow crawlspace intended to impart a sinister feel. Also on display is Dennis Palazzolo's "The Quality of Life," featuring a wearying array of objects, photographs, videos, lanterns, collages, drawings, and constructions vying for attention. A third exhibit, "No Walls," showcases the collective works of Placemaker's home team and offers a welcome contrast to the clutter and chatter of the previous two exhibitions with its straightforward, back-to-basics agenda. Mining the conceptual art canon to distill potent vignettes, each artist limits himself or herself to a single gesture, making "No Walls" intelligent and concise. Of special note is Natalia Benedetti's A Whole Would Be Something, which transforms the stasis of a wall into something fluid and interactive. -- Michelle Weinberg Through June 11. Placemaker Gallery, 3852 N. Miami Ave., Miami; 305-576-6695.
Swamp Cabbage: Julie Kahn's exhibit is one of the best events I've seen lately at Locust Projects. The multimedia exhibit centers on cracker culture -- a group of people who have influenced Florida history and its customs for more than two centuries -- in a fast-food nation. Kahn, a Miami native, began studying Florida's cracker culture in 1999 in an effort to understand, as she puts it: "my own nomadic and urban lifestyle." The artist's photos are indeed in sync with the crackers' way of life. In Tombstone we perceive two graves, their marble slabs at eye level. The one closest to the camera has the name Brooks etched over the image of an alligator positioned next to an old fire engine. Mudhole shows a group of youngsters frolicking in mud close to a palm tree bordering a lake. Their behavior truly evinces a candid absorption in the moment, during which they're almost oblivious to Kahn's camera. -- Alfredo Triff Through June 29. Locust Projects, 105 NW 23rd St., Miami; 305-576-8570.