Art this week: Fanged demons and fried pork rinds

"Self, Symbol & the Spirit"

Through April 30. ArtRouge Gallery, 46 NW 36th St., Miami; 305-448-2060; Monday through Friday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

"Self, Symbol & the Spirit" features photography, mixed-media works, and paintings by Sergio Garcia, Evelyn Valdirio, Nicolas Leiva, Mariano Costa Peuser, and Lili(ana). Garcia's large canvas Bed-Man is a self-portrait of the artist paralyzed on a cot under a menacing cloud of dark gray pencil-scribbled dashes, loops, and slashes, suggesting the psychic carnage battering his brain. In the background floats a disembodied hand pierced by a dagger and dripping blood in a pan. Above it, a fanged demon snarls at the crudely rendered figure of the artist as if ready to gorge itself on his tortured soul. Garcia's raw, unself-conscious imagery exudes a toxic, gritty street vibe. Likewise, Leiva's sprawling, garage-door-size opus, Oscuro y Verde Ajeno, is a nightmarish version of Tim Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Smokestacks belch noxious fumes, blue glitter clouds float across the haunting twilight surfaces, and three gorgeously executed ceramic figures of bat-like creatures appear ready to guide the spectator to the depths of the netherworld.

"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.

John Brevard

Ongoing. Brevards Art Gallery, 2320 N. Miami Ave., Miami; 305-576-5747; Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

John Brevard is a man possessed. When cosmic forces revealed he was destined to become an artist, he didn't waste any time. He immediately began a series of skillfully executed black-and-white drawings titled The Death of the False Self, which are on display at his eponymous, freshly minted space in Wynwood. The puzzle-like compositions have a surrealist quality, with faces and labyrinths melting into each other in a muddled jumble at times reminiscent of Dali's loopier doodles. The globe-trotting artist — who has traveled all over Europe, Asia, and South America to study indigenous cultures — follows the principles of what he calls sacred geometry. He uses petrified wood that's millions of years old and has been mined by local extractors in Jakarta following ecologically strict guidelines. Brevard uses the prehistoric wood to forge his designs in a studio in Coral Gables. His sumptuous furniture pieces and distinctive sculptures are immaculately executed and are where Brevard's creative forte is most evident.

"Where Do We Go From Here?"

Through May 30. Bass Museum of Art, 2121 Park Ave., Miami Beach; 305-673-7530; Wednesday through Sunday noon to 5 p.m.

If you haven't visited the Bass Museum in a while, a new exhibit will likely leave you scratching your head. Gone are the typical old-fangled portraits or Baroque paintings for which the museum was once known. Instead you'll find a giant chicharrón. The institution's bleeding-edge transformation has come courtesy of new director Silvia Karman Cubiñá. No parvenu, she comes from the now-defunct Moore Space in the Design District, which was one of the most provocative art venues in town. The gargantuan fiberglass pork rind is on view as part of "Where Do We Go From Here?: Selections From La Colección Jumex," representing one of the largest and most important collections of contemporary art in Latin America and marking the Mexico-based collection's stateside debut.

"Taiwan Discovered: In Place and Time"

Through May 16. 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.

With his Mack truck-size opus on view at the Frost Art Museum, Yao Jui-cheng transports the spectator to the vertex where old Taiwan intersects the new. Heaven, Yao's photo and mixed-media installation, swallows most of the museum's center gallery. On the wall are 15 large black-and-white images treated with gold leaf and encased in hand-carved gold frames that recall the opulence of the past and the consumptive power of the present. The striking conglomeration of images includes mammoth crabs, Mandarin emperors, grappling dinosaurs, and a kowtowing baby with a sonic boom erupting from its ass. From these disparate pictures snakes a soaring sculptural mass of half-inch copper tubing attached to what looks like an old-fangled brass diving helmet. It floats at eye level and houses a small video monitor. Viewers are invited to slip their heads into the contraption, where the senses get sucked into a loopy realm that resembles a wormhole. Yao's installation is part of "Taiwan Discovered: In Place and Time," an intriguing exhibit featuring seven contemporary Taiwanese artists. Works range from video, sculpture, painting, multimedia installations, and rock art.

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Carlos Suarez De Jesus