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All in a Show

After a relatively tranquil summer, a plethora of openings tumbled out of the galleries over the last several weeks. In fact all of them can't be reviewed in this space, but we'll start with the all-woman show "Fourtell" (through October 4) at Casas Riegner Gallery, documenting the interplay among four...
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After a relatively tranquil summer, a plethora of openings tumbled out of the galleries over the last several weeks. In fact all of them can't be reviewed in this space, but we'll start with the all-woman show "Fourtell" (through October 4) at Casas Riegner Gallery, documenting the interplay among four established artists -- Maria Fernanda Cardoso, Matilde Marin, Liliana Porter, and Sandra Ramos -- who invited four lesser-known female artists to participate as well. We've seen Cardoso's work, her aesthetics motivated by recontextualizing everyday materials from flowers to guava paste candy. Here she presents a video with turkey, bat, and coral fish in the leading roles. It reminds us of our need to humanize so much of everything -- particularly such funny-looking living creatures. Cardoso in turn likes Gilda Mantilla's work, rendering "the beauty and poverty of Lima's Streets." Cardoso explains in the catalog for the exhibit that Mantilla's Lima/Peru postcards avoid the tourist stereotype, showing us an urban landscape of unfinished buildings and vacant lots.

I don't really "get" the poverty aspect, however, because Mantilla's photographs are pleasing to the eye and, in the context of a gallery in Miami (with the postcards placed in racks), they work more like souvenirs. I've seen more dramatic images of Lima's poor streets in the work of Peruvian female artists such as Susana Pastor, Mayu Mohanna, and Cecilia Larrabore.

In Matilde Marin's collages -- of her silhouetted against various backgrounds and some snapshots of her hands playing the old string game cat's cradle -- I didn't find much. The artist is attracted to Veronica Virasoro's black and white canvases of finger clusters, which Marin sees as "photographic." I see Virasoro's work more akin to computer-manipulated graphics.

Re-representation is in some sense Liliana Porter's take on art. Her intelligent work, familiar to many of us, turns the observer -- and the represented subject -- often into the observed. Her choice of Marguerite Day is understandable, as Day's work can come close to some of her own, though perhaps Day's Polaroid photographs dwell more in reverie and are less didactic.

Sandra Ramos's Alone in Bed is a mural of nine pillows on a hinted-at bed contour made up of pink feathers and set against a black wall. Ramos's piece is special in her use of materials, contrast, and balance and can suggest a narrative of loss. For her part Ramos is drawn to Geysell Capetillo's biomorphic sculptures. Vertebrae is a pole of repeated vertebra-like elements, which for Capetillo eliminates "any kind of reading concerning the making of the artist's personal footprint" and turns "the object into its representation ... isolating it from functionality."

"Fourtell" looks nice, but not all the work has the same quality. There are so many ways of linking stuff and feeling pulled by something (in a world of building fads on the premise of refractions) that I would've preferred, curatorially speaking, a clearer thread uniting all of it.

"Working Identity" (through November 18) is a show by Chilean artists Juan Castillo, Ismael Frigerio, and Victor Pavez at Marina Kessler Gallery, a newly opened, nice two-story space not far from the Design District. On opening night the sounds of live music and a relaxed atmosphere filled the place.

I'm fond of the mix of the political and the nostalgic found in the work of Juan Castillo. It revisits the era of dictatorship and its long-lasting social scars on Chilean society. His collages on painted handkerchiefs are repositories of meaningful personal moments. They look better than his soap bar series, with framed plaster sepia images treated with wax -- an easy and bland material already too impregnated with nostalgia.

Ismael Frigerio is an important artist from 1980s Chile. But I wasn't really impressed with his work here. His canvases of strident colors finished with details in charcoal were spontaneous but -- I can't find a better phrase -- poorly executed. The work of Victor Pavez uses serigraphy and acrylic on canvas, mixed in with textual references. I like when Pavez incorporates fractured aspects of Chilean history -- as recorded by Europeans -- of discovery and conquest, but differ with his execution. The hackneyed astrological symbols would have no force without those interesting texts -- they become ideal illustrations for a page, but not as works on a wall.

Moving toward the Dorsch Gallery I was anticipating Jordan Massengale's show "Dumb Move" (through October 4), but left the exhibit wondering: How much can a show convey before losing its message? The problem here was consistency. For instance, the four pastels, two of them skeletal drawings, were disconnected from the other two. On the other hand Massengale's BBQ Remnant series was infused with an inspired frantic pulse, precision, and color subtlety. The little paintings were honest and brutal. I even thought his Coagulate, one of two big abstract paintings, was successful, if a little too obsessed with stuff. But the overall message was disparate in style and subject matter, as if this promising painter was trying to prove something -- and not even to us; maybe to his students.

Gavin Perry's exhibit, "Aftermath" (through October 18), at Ambrosino Gallery is not to be missed. We're used to Perry's métier of abstract shiny canvases with delicate zigzagging lines and luscious textures, all backed by sharp colors. This presentation lets us into the artist's vulnerability, to the boundary between perfection and imperfection. Perry is struggling to gain more freedom within the painstaking process that makes up his style. A minute scratch on a surface, a crease of color in the trace left by the spatula ... it all matters and takes you and him to that exceptional and uncertain moment when art happens.

Peter Barrett's "Permutation" at Ingalls & Associates (through October 31), curated by Jennifer Gray, is a cool show. Barrett presents canvases and a series of sculptures, the latter built with MDF, a wood fiber bonded with synthetic resin adhesive, which anyone would mistake for light plywood.

I like Barrett's optimism, his brightly colored soft sculptures with empty spaces, kind of like weird puzzles, or maps with a tactile and visual texture. The paintings are actually better pieces, but it all looks so colorful and busy with circles, stars, ovals, cells, pores, stigmas, and cones -- I didn't mind any of it. In the project room Gean Moreno, Cindy Bernard, and Jesse Bransford formed an interactive exhibit (with a title too long to mention) intersecting music, the visual arts, and the public space itself. Good idea but this cluttered room filled with CDs, e-mails projected on the wall, and a small TV with poor sound feels a little more like a student's dorm room before final exams. To convey the complexity of all these entwined networks of information from composers, architects, and artists, the team needs a bigger space, PC stations, and walls of sound blasting the audience. Do check out Bernard's Website at; it's really nice.

On a final note it was hard to believe that MoCA would have a Saturday-night opening -- that lasted from 6:00 to merely 8:00 p.m., in order to proceed to a (private) social dinner. Many, including this writer, therefore missed the show, which makes one ponder the true priorities of the organizers at the kickoff of a brand-new season.


Casa Juancho: Calle Ocho's arty restaurant opens "Latin Pop Art: An Explosion of Color," with artists Raymond Gems Adrian, Anna Balboa, Carlos A. Navarro, and George Rodez. But that's not all! There's body painting and whiskey cocktails and whatever. Opening Friday, September 26, at 7:00 p.m. at Casa Juancho, 2436 SW Eighth St.; 305-642-2452.

Diaspora Vibe Gallery: The gallery that tries to reflect our multiethnic makeup will highlight Jean Chaing, Gail Ruiz, and Marianna Valdez in "Spirit of the Diaspora." Opening on Saturday, September 27, at 7:30 p.m. in the Madonna Building, 3938 N. Miami Ave.; 305-573-4046.

•locust projects: The season premiere for the alt space will include Mark Leckey's "Dubplate" and in the project room Beatriz Monteavaro's "When You Wish Upon a Star." Opening on Thursday, September 25, at 8:00 p.m. at locust projects, 105 NW 23rd St; 305-576-8570.

Max Gallery: A group show from Christian Duran, Frank Garaitonandia, Pablo Gonzalez-Trejo, Yamel Molerio, and Robert Perez called "Blue Balls." Cool. Opening on Saturday, September 27, at whenever in the evening, Max Gallery, 7846 NW 57th St; 305-994-7909.

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