Revisit the Golden Age of Havana
Exiles lost in a reverie of what once was may protest vigorously, but Cuba never looked as good as it does right now on the fifth floor of Miami Beach's Wolfsonian-FIU museum. Nestled in a small room, part of the larger area housing the permanent exhibition "Art and Design in the Modern Age: Selections from the Wolfsonian Collection," is a judicious selection from the 300 Cuban graphic materials that Vicki Gold Levi donated to the institution. Levi is a picture editor, photo curator, and co-author of books including, with Steven Heller, the recently released Cuba Style: Graphics from the Golden Age of Design.
The Golden Age on the island appears to be the years from 1910 to 1950. It was then that colorful postcards featured jovial rumberos or enticing scenes of landmarks such as the Morro Castle and the Malecón. Cleanly designed travel brochures promoted a tropical paradise with images of airplanes jetting south to a world of endless entertainment. Menus for "el exclusivo nite club-casino," the San Souci, and the Tropicana promised "enchanted evenings," portraying sophisticated fun with their modernly rendered martini glasses and abstract drawings of performers that pay homage to Alexander Calder mobiles. Intricately designed cigar-box labels, some of which depict faux wood grain, seem suffused with the smell of their one-time contents. Covers from Social magazine show off sleek Art Deco lines, and guides for department stores such as the renowned El Encanto make one wonder how much fabulous merchandise one modest building could house.
However, one image resonates: a vivid poster from the 1951 film Havana Rose featuring the Cuban actress Estelita in an alluring pose. Dubbed "the toast of Pan America," she starred in many an American (as in U.S.A.) film, a studio-invented rival to the previously popular Carmen Miranda. By 1966, the vital vamp met an early end from influenza and was buried in a Los Angeles cemetery.--NINA KORMAN
Cuban graphic materials can be seen through the summer at the Wolfsonian-FIU, 1001 Washington Ave, Miami Beach. Admission is $5. Call 305-531-1001.
The Dream Police
"Time does not exist as you imagine," says the press for the play The Dreamer who Unlocked the Secrets of the Universe, currently onstage at Dreamers Theatre (65 Almeria Ave., Coral Gables). Well, reality in Miami is just as weird as anyone's imaginings. Financial advisors want to be playwrights. Cops want to be actors. What the hell are we talking about? Money man Manuel Martinez wrote the aforementioned drama about a psychiatrist deemed a murderer who dies, gets to examine his life from a parallel dimension, and then prepares to come back in the 21st Century. But what for? See, according to Albert Einstein, past, present, and future happen simultaneously. So what in the world does it all mean? If anyone can explain it to us, it has to be Miami Police Department spokesman/sometime ventriloquist Lt. Bill Schwartz, who plays the lead. The play runs through Sunday, April 20. Performances are at 8:00 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 2:00 p.m. Sunday. Tickets cost $20. Call 305-445-2626. -- Nina Korman
Yellow: Love it or Hate It
Some people say, "If it's yellow, let it mellow." Not Gail Mitchell and Rocky Bridges. The artists and long-time friends have been locked in a passionate debate over the color yellow for fifteen years. "Yellow is the color of insanity," insists Bridges. "It brings a playful edge to my work," retorts Mitchell. Take sides or just be mellow and enjoy the show Saturday night from 7:00 to 10:00 when the artists engage in a visual repartee titled "Yellow vs. Yellow" at ArtCenter/South Florida's 800 Lincoln Road Gallery. Bridges, who lives in Tarpon Springs, and Mitchell, who resides in Brooklyn (they met and began their yellow standoff while studying at New York City's Cooper Union), will exhibit their multimedia assemblages of found objects they've discovered at garage sales and in garbage containers, including door frames, gas pump parts, wood scraps, and other castoffs. And, we assume, lots and lots of yellow paint. The show runs through Sunday, May 25. Call 305-674-8278.--JUDY CANTOR
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Lotta Loot And Miamiphiles Heaven
Eastern Airlines, U-Tote-M, La Vaquita, the Holsum Bread Bakery, the Castaways Lounge. If you're experiencing past-life regressions while reading this list, you most likely are a native Miamian, or at least a long-time (we mean decades) resident. If you are a recent transplant, you can bone up on the city's sordid past by mining a treasure-trove of tchotchkes, souvenirs, and business collectibles at The Miami Memorabilia Collector's Club's Annual Open House at the Central Christian Church (222 Menores Ave., Coral Gables). There you can talk with a pantheon of semihistoric Miamians while gathering unique mementos. Gossip with Mrs. Jane Wilson, scion of Holsum Bakery and namesake of Mrs. Wilson's Donuts. Chat with Seth Bramson, the official historian of the Florida East Coast Railway and author of its corporate biography, Speedway to Sunshine. The company happens to be responsible for, well, uh, Miami. Even club PR director Mike Hiscano has a claim to fame. He was one of the last babies born at Coral Gables's Doctors' Hospital. The open house begins at 7:00 p.m. Call 305-559-1378.--Juan Carlos Rodriguez