While the doldrums have set into the local gallery scene (many art dealers are on hiatus during summer), the opposite is true for the Magic City's major museums.
And that's great news for those of you packing a Bank of America or Merrill Lynch card in your purses or wallets. Even though a gallon of gas is at record prices and most families are coughing up next month's mortgage payment for back-to-school supplies, there's nothing better than a free dose of culture to cheer one up in a financial crunch.
That's why Bank of America's "Museums on Us" offers free access to local museums for Bank of America and Merrill Lynch cardholders during the first full weekend of each month. Yes, that's right now.
All you have to do is show up with a photo ID and valid Bank of America/Merrill Lynch credit card and receive a free general admission for each cardholder at participant institutions. Here's what's on tap at partnering museums this weekend.
Bass Museum of Art
"Charles LeDray: Bass Museum of Art" marks the artist's Florida debut and consists of just four works, each haunting in nature. From his hyper-real wheat shaft meticulously crafted from human bone to his seminal Men's Suits installation, LeDray's evocative works will linger on the imagination long after a visit. Best known for his Lilliputian sculptures of mundane items, he painstakingly created his vision of a down-at-the-heels thrift shop over a three year span in a bizarrely tiny scale that forces one to bend at the waist or kneel to take in the its incredible details and complexity. Divided in three distinct sections, one area features an itsy-bitsy outfit on a mannequin and a round table with dozens of brightly colored neckties fanned out in a circular pattern. A second section features racks full of teeny sports coats and shirts, while a third re-creates a secondhand-clothing sorting area replete with minuscule laundry bins, wooden pallets, a ladder, an ironing board, hangers, and assorted gloves, belts, and T-shirts. The miniature thrift shops go to the extreme to create a realistic vibe, including shoe-scuffed linoleum flooring and dingy, dust-covered drop ceilings with weak fluorescent lighting.
Bass Museum of Art, 2100 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach. Call 305-673-7062 or visit bassmuseum.org.
Miami Art Museum
Two shows at MAM whisk viewers across the planet while addressing issues of globalization and the wanderlust of the spirit. "Transcultural Pilgrim: Three Decades of Work by José Bedia," boasts 35 works, including large-scale figurative paintings, drawings, and installations marking a major career retrospective. Bedia's work explores his Afro-Caribbean roots, ancient African and Native American religions and symbols, and the myths of indigenous cultures across the globe. A member of Cuba's vaunted generation of the '80s, when young artists experimented with new forms of expression often critical of the government, Bedia won international recognition in the first and second Havana Biennials. During the early '80s, he was also initiated into the Regla de Congo, part of a religion that arrived on the island with West African slaves. His faith is the foundation of his art, and a trio of 1984 drawings on view at MAM shows that the nganga -- or cauldron, the central icon of his religion -- is a recurring theme in his work.
In "Kimsooja: A Needle Woman," the Korean artist poetically explores the relationship between oneself and one's surroundings at a crucial moment in history, when the unrestrained forces of globalization and urbanization appear to be shrinking the planet and challenging the role of the individual. Between 1999 and 2001, the artist visited Tokyo, Shanghai, Delhi, New York, Mexico City, Cairo, Lagos, and London, filming herself standing amid streaming throngs of strangers in some of the planet's most crowded metropolises. Watching her videos is a visceral reminder of how the world's unbridled information flow, changing political climates, cross-cultural pollination, and dwindling natural resources unite people of different creeds, races, and faiths in their shared concern for the future.
Miami Art Museum, 101 W. Flagler St., Miami, Call 305-375-3000 or visit miamiartmuseum.org.
Museum of Contemporary Art
At MoCA, this duo of offerings pairs an Icelandic warbler's operatic meanderings with one of America's most insatiable road trippers."Ragnar Kjartansson: Song" features Kjartansson's staged performances that straddle the line between playfulness and absurdist. They also reveal an innate sense of the operatic and combine haunting music, repetition, endurance and scenes of breathtaking natural grandeur. The sublime and subversive are also a hallmark of the Icelandic artist's works at MOCA boasting six epic videos and marking his first ever solo show in a U.S. Museum. But perhaps his most hypnotic opus is Song, which depicts Kjartansson's three nieces singing inside Carnegie Museum's Hall of Sculpture atop a circular platform covered in shimmering baby blue fabric as they gaze into hand-held mirrors and comb their flaxen locks not unlike otherworldly muses chirping seductive siren songs.
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In "Ed Ruscha: On The Road," the Pop art pioneer's love of the road trip has led to the influential Los Angeles talent's exploration of Jack Kerouac's Beat classic On The Road in which the writer chronicled his experiences tripping across the winding asphalt between the United States and Mexico during the 1940's. Both Kerouac and Ruscha revolutionized the use of words to document the rapidly changing nature of the American cultural landscape. In 2009 Ruscha created a limited edition artist book version of Kerouac's classic novel and has since created a new body of paintings and drawings inspired by its feverishly written passages. The exhibit brings the two legendary figures of art and language together, transporting viewers back to a time when you didn't need a GPS to discover a new road side attraction.
Museum of Contemporary Art. 770 NE 125th Street, North Miami. Call 305-893-6211 or visit mocanomi.org.
Miami Science Museum
Explore the inner workings of one of the earliest diesel-electric submarines and an interactive micro-exhibit that encourages families to learn about nanoscale science, engineering and technology. The museum is showcasing the S101, a sub that was built in England, tested by the Swedish navy and once owned by an environmental group that painted it like an orca to chase whales away from whalers. "Nano" presents hands-on exhibits exploring the basics of nanoscience and engineering, and sections questioning, Where can you find nano?, What happens when things get smaller?, What's new about nano?, What does nano mean for us?, Static vs. Gravity, and a reading area.
Miami Science Museum 3280 South Miami Avenue, Miami, Call 305-646-4200 or visit miamisci.org.
Miami Children's Museum
Celebrating the Olympian spirit, the museum has organized a sprawling show for families and the sandbox set to experience what it feels like to raise a torch or reach for the gold after a tumble on the balance beam. "MiChiMu's Summer Games," highlights the importance of diverse cultures striving to recognize the indomitable human spirit and includes multiple fitness challenges ranging from gymnastics to volleyball while championing a healthy lifestyle for children.
Miami Children's Museum 980 MacArthur Causeway, Miami. Call 305-373-5437 or visit Miamichildrensmuseum.org.