Straw turns to gold in the Gables.

Leave it to Virginia Miller to find the silver lining in an economic storm. Despite the tribulations of the art world in an increasingly stagnant sales environment, the Coral Gables dealer is putting on an eclectic summer group show. Just don't call it a clearance blowout, please. Where most dealers wouldn't dare exhibit the work of masters alongside that of relative unknowns, Miller welcomes the risk with aplomb in "Joyas Latinoamericanas," an exhibit including paintings by titans Wifredo Lam and José Clemente Orozco smack next to whippersnappers such as Marco Tulio and Sergio Garval. The show features mostly paintings, by more than a dozen Latin American artists, spanning nearly 80 years. It's presented in a cavalcade of styles that blend surprisingly well thanks to Miller's deft eye. Miller says that because of the recession, private owners are offloading long-cherished works, in some cases masterpieces, offering the general public a chance to see art previous off-limits. Among the highlights of the exhibition is a 1930 oil-on-canvas titled Dama Sofisticada (Sophisticated Dame), created with rough, slashing strokes by the late Mexican muralist Orozco. The hardcover-size work depicts a peasant woman whose face is seen from a side view and loosely rendered in thick, irregular red, orange, and turquoise daubs of paint. Her tangled raven tresses are suggested by a tarry black wash. Also on view is a handful of Lam paintings, including an unusual early gouache-on-cardboard from 1942. Lam, who freighted his paintings with rich Afro-Cuban symbolism, evokes a tenebrous penumbra of light and darkness in a 1970 three-foot oil-on-canvas — depicting a totemic, stylized bird — that exudes a mysterious, almost primitive veneer. While at the gallery, slip into the rear storage area for a glimpse of Marco Tulio's eerie, almost operatic vision of the consequences of a bullfight gone awry. In La Montera, the matador is nowhere to be seen, but a naked young woman, cocooned in a white shawl and sporting a sardonic grin, kneels in the ring. Behind her, two dastardly oafs, with malice dripping from their lips, leer at the clueless girl. One of the men hides a scythe behind his back as if contemplating severing her head. The self-taught Colombian artist, whose parents are both painters, has an incredibly gifted hand and quite an eye for heightening the sense of drama in his images. On the way out, don't miss Mexican master Gunther Gerzso's luminous abstract geometric painting, measuring slightly larger than your average postcard and dating from 1978. The rare and precious gem makes a compelling argument for visiting the gallery's trove — not to mention witnessing Miller's knack for turning a potentially straw proposition into gold.
Sat., June 20, 2009


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