From "Spiritual Healing: Shamans of the Northwest Coast" at the Frost Art Museum.
From "Spiritual Healing: Shamans of the Northwest Coast" at the Frost Art Museum.

Current art shows

"Summer Exhibition"

Through August 1. Cremata Gallery, 1646 SW Eighth St., Miami; 305-644-3315; Tuesday through Saturday noon to 7 p.m.

Not all the fighting cocks peppering Little Havana's folksy gallery scene are wretch-inducing boils on the landscape. Beyond the lurid fiberglass monstrosities masquerading as public art in front of restaurants and cigar shops on Calle Ocho — some of the fowls garishly clad in chef toques and rainbow-bright aprons, others pimping spats and straw boaters — exists an occasional interesting study of the ubiquitous subject that, for baffling reasons, remains the rage with tourists and collectors. A fine example is Bruno Venier's Gallo Urbano (Urban Cock), on view at the Cremata Gallery's "Summer Exhibition," featuring 40 works from the space's Latin American roster. Venier's rooster, rendered in a slashing expressionistic style, boasts a prickly pink crest and chalk-white, brick-red, and flesh-toned feathers as its stands amid a roughly executed waterfront scene that recalls the gritty docks ringing Argentina's Mar del Plata. The turgid cock rears up from the center of the seedy landscape, leveling an ominous gaze at the spectator. More than just your typical summer fire sale, the Cremata Gallery's group show has some compelling works on display mixed in with the seaside landscapes and sundry offerings hung to pay the bills.

"Spiritual Healing: Shamans of the Northwest Coast"

Through October 3. Frost Art Museum, 10975 SW 17th St., Miami; 305-348-2890; Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday noon to 5 p.m.

Way back before the advent of HMOs and over-the-counter cure-alls, the native peoples of Alaska, British Columbia, and the Yukon Territory typically sought the services of a shaman when they needed to treat a toothache, infection, or bad case of indigestion. The tribal shaman was considered a messenger between the human and spirit worlds and performed a variety of functions including healing. By helping alleviate spiritual traumas, shamans were thought to restore balance to the physical body and eliminate the source of sickness. That is until Europeans brought smallpox and other diseases that defied the traditional healer's powers and relegated the shaman's role to history. "Spiritual Healing: Shamans of the Northwest," an intriguing new show at the Frost Art Museum, lifts the veil on the ritual practices of animistic tribes such as the Tlingit, Tsimshian, and Haida, all of which believed nature is endowed with spirits that manifest in the form of illness and disease. The exhibit features an enchanting array of historic tools shamans used to enter a trance, communicate with the spirit world, and cure their patients, along with more contemporary objects displayed together as works of art. On view are amulets, rattles, masks, drums, crowns, necklaces, and clan poles, each bearing carved or painted crests of animals — symbols and figures associated with clan lore and mythology.

Egyptian Gallery

Ongoing. Bass Museum of Art, 2121 Park Ave., Miami Beach; 305-673-7530; Wednesday through Sunday noon to 5 p.m.

When the ancient working stiff was preparing for his journey into the afterlife, little did he know he would spend decades gathering dust in a musty Wynwood warehouse. But that's exactly where the Egyptian craftsman dating back to the 25th or 26th Dynasty (808-518 B.C.) was found inside a polychrome wood inner sarcophagus. The liberated mummy is on view as part of the newly inaugurated Egyptian Gallery at the Bass, which also features a modest collection of rare artifacts in the permanent display that marks the only space of its kind in Florida. The exhibit also showcases the Bass mummy's outer sarcophagus, a child's sarcophagus, and several stellar examples of Egyptian statuary, canopic jars, stela fragments, and pottery. Unfortunately, some bling-craving pharaohphiles or Tut freaks might leave the Bass feeling a bit E-gypped after experiencing the modest exhibit. Don't expect sensational gold-covered coffins or regal masks of the ancient kings and queens of Egypt. Instead, these are the types of artifacts that continue inspiring the inner Indiana Jones or armchair archaeologist in most of us and have always fueled curiosity about an enigmatic lost culture. It's well worth a visit.

"Instruments of Torture Through the Ages"

Through August 29. Freedom Tower, 600 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; 305-237-7700; Monday through Friday noon to 5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

A guillotine looming menacingly outside the Freedom Tower evokes terrifying references ranging from the industrial-scale beheadings of the French Revolution to the U.S. government's recent reign of error in its war on terrorism. The diabolical device is on display at the historical landmark as part of "Instruments of Torture Through the Ages," a harrowing exhibit reflecting humanity's darkest nature and showcasing the evil implements of terror employed by the powerful to brutally control the masses. Inside the tower's chambers, many of the dreadful apparatuses on display make the guillotine appear a painless mode of execution. Earlier methods of capital punishment widely practiced throughout Europe included crucifixion, hanging, disembowelment, impalement, burning at the stake, dismemberment, drawing and quartering, flaying, or boiling in oil. The exhibit — coproduced by the Toscana Museum, in collaboration with Amnesty International, Centro Cultural Español, and the Dante Alighieri Society in Miami — brings these methods of torture and execution disturbingly alive.


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