Cakewalk: Aesthetic experience and erogenous pleasure have always been close relatives, to be sure. But rather than any genuine countercultural agenda, artists in 2004 are armed with a stylist's finely tuned eye for the retro, a fascination with the abject and unlovable, a salacious eye for soft porn, and an unquenchable nostalgia. The trend is apparent in this terrific group exhibition curated by artist Jen DeNike, who rounded up works by more than twenty artists from New York. The result is an accurate survey of the many modes of expression prevalent today. Swirling, kaleidoscopic color is esteemed highly; nature plays an intimate, romantic role; and there is more than a smattering of the usual pop culture references (Darth Vader appears twice!). The homely processes associated with craft are also present, and the inclusion of several examples of conventional photography is welcome. The prize for most subversive work goes to Sabrina Gschwandtner's Sundown Salon for its truly monumental appreciation of handcrafted knitwear. -- Michelle Weinberg Through July 3. Ambrosino Gallery, 769 NE 125th St, North Miami. 305-891-5577.
Definitive Juxt: Curated by Lissette Garcia and co-organized by José Carlos Diaz at the Odegard Building in the Design District, this show challenges viewers to accommodate highly personal visions of a group of Miami artists. Works by the Paper Dolls, Mauricio Espinosa, Sarah Murrie, Brian O'Dell, Jason/Opalka (FeCuOp's Jason Ferguson and Brandon Opalka), Bert Rodriguez, Gustavo Roman, and Eugenia Vargas all investigate levels of engagement with popular culture. Overall, the installation of this show is handsome and theatrical. The risk highlighted is whether artistic eccentricity necessarily yields a transcendent experience, or merely devolves into the formulaic, the obscure, and the confusing. The now-ubiquitous DJ's mashup produces a rush for citizens today that iconoclasts throughout history would marvel at. -- Michelle Weinberg Through July 8. Odegard Building, 47 NE 36th St; 305-205-8079 (by appointment only).
Love & Slavery in Miami: Willie Keddell is an artist who tills the fields of perception. The urban furrows of marginality are his seedbed of imagination. His work's soulful aesthetic is abundant with concrete decay, the graffiti of untrod spaces, and the plaintive lament of the dispossessed. With assistance from a crew of "at risk" teenage apprentices from the Troy Community Academy, Keddell has brought an artist's sensibility to the tangled history of two Miami landmarks -- the William English plantation slave house/Fort Dallas, and the Wagner homestead, now located in Lummus Park by the Miami River. "Love & Slavery in Miami" is a project exhibiting historical documentation and photography of the landmarks' pasts, as well as a performance piece based on the lives of the Wagner family. -- Carlos Suarez de Jesus Ongoing. Tours every Thursday between 9:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m.; Saturdays by appointment. Lummus Park, 404 NW Second St. 305-638-7008 (Keddell at Troy Community Academy).
Mariano Rodriguez: An Homage: Rodriguez, a Cuban painter whose works can be found in America's best museums, was a rebel and an autodidact. This retrospective (collected in America) provides a context in which to study how Latin America appropriated and morphed European aesthetics during the first half of the Twentieth Century. There's plenty of the early Picasso in Rodriguez, but who in America at the time didn't borrow from Picasso? The work is luscious in color and themes, reflective of an epoch before political discourses destroyed our innocence. The book Mariano 1912-1990 (available at the gallery) is an indispensable document. -- Alfredo Triff Through June 19. Cernuda Arte, 3155 Ponce de Leon Blvd., Coral Gables. 305-461-1050.
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New Works: Kenneth Cohen, Eddy Lopez, Erika Morales, Jeroen Nelemans, and Thomas Nolan, recent Florida International University grads, sink their teeth into the multivalent role played by images harnessed to science, technology, and genetic and social engineering. Their collective fervor is contagious. Cohen's use of the boring talk show in his video Celebrating the Celebrity is an acute burlesque of bohemian self-criticism. Lopez's wallpaper made of teeny composite portraits of Iraqi war dead vibrates with intimacy and monumentality. Morales co-opts the dazed affirmations of infomercial spokespeople to launch Grow Your Own Vine, a charming project to market watermelon seeds to lost souls wishing to bind their intestinal tracts to greater Nature. These works' packaging and production definitely are precocious. -- Michelle Weinberg Through June 18. Leonard Tachmes Gallery, 817 NE 125th St., North Miami. 305-895-1030.
Rick Newton: Cul-De-Sac Utopia: An irksome perkiness radiates from Rick Newton's works, composed of sprinkler attachments, map pins, AstroTurf, sand, soil, oil paint, Plexiglas, and plastic. They apply a relentless formal theme and variating approach to the accouterments and artificiality of suburban lawn culture. Inventive and precision-crafted, these contraptions exude a benign energy, which provides much surface delight and entertainment, but doesn't inspire an ironic consideration of Utopia, as the curator's statement suggests. Isolating a few standout works, such as HOA and Sedative, would have concentrated the power of these pieces. This is the last presentation by Ingalls & Associates at its current location; look for the gallery at 125 NW 23rd St. in September. -- Michelle Weinberg Through June 26. Ingalls & Associates, 771 NE 125th St., North Miami. 305-981-7900.
Scream: 10 Artists x 10 Writers x 10 Scary Movies: Curated by Fernanda Arruda and Michael Clifton, "Scream" addresses a variety of horrors influencing contemporary art. In addition to the work in the exhibit, which traveled here from New York, the curators invited ten writers to contribute essays on the participating artists, published in a catalogue that also lists a horror film chosen by each artist. (The films are available for viewing.) David Altmejd's mangled-werewolf sculpture has grisly sex appeal enhanced by a glam coating of rhinestones, rotting stardust, and garish jewelry. Amy Sarkisian's Toy Skull Reconstructions, squalid busts with bad skin, bad teeth, and ridiculous hair pieces, are gruesome, repulsive, and despicable. -- Carlos Suarez de Jesus Through July 3. Moore Space, second floor, 4040 NE Second Ave. 305-438-1163.
We Could've Been Friends: This is, as Box's organizers put it, an attempt "to close the gap between young artists in other cities and Miami's own cultural renaissance." The show contains works by Sam Davis from Las Vegas, Lex Thompson from San Francisco, Rony Cinco from Berlin, Sara Padgett (a Miami newcomer) from Savannah, Perrine Wettstein and Stefan Lauper from Geneva, and Daniel Blochwitz from New York. The videos, photos, and sculptures in the show were seen and approved through cyberspace and then shipped to Miami. According to Manny Prieres and José Reyes, these connections create a ripple effect where "you end up knowing people who know other people who otherwise would never know you." -- Alfredo Triff Through June 19. Box, 70 NE Seventeenth St. 305-607-5527.