Miami art this week: Freedom Tower hangs world-leader punching bags

"Past Is History — Future Is Mystery"

Through November 6 at the Freedom Tower, 600 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; 305-237-7700; [email protected]. Tuesday through Friday noon to 5 p.m., Saturday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The horrors of war, totalitarian governments, and political dissent are the minefield of expression in this multimedia exhibit where more than a dozen artists tackle repressive regimes through imagery aspiring to a subversive wallop. Cuban artist Antuan Riguez's installation, Left, Right, features rows of heavy red punching bags hanging from the gallery's rafters; plastered across the bags are the leering mugs of democratically elected world leaders, tyrants, terrorists, and dictators. The familiar portraits depict figures ranging from George W. Bush to Fidel Castro, Hugo Chávez, Daniel Ortega, and Osama Bin Laden, presumably strung up as targets for the viewer to jab. Alejandro Mendoza's installation depicts a life-size sculpted wooden monkey perched on a soaring ladder. The primate dangles from a leafless tree branch next to a gray, bed-sheet-size Cuban flag. Both artists' works are among the most powerful on display in the tightly curated if somewhat regional show that also includes works by Pablo Trejo, Juan-Si González, Maritza Molina, Ramon Williams, Cesar Beltran, Mariano Costa-Peuser, Nelson Garrido, and others. Organizers would have made a stronger statement by casting a wider net for more international participation rather that hewing to a local lineup of the usual suspects.

"Little Red Riding Hood Visits the Grand Louvre"

Through October 30 at Black Square Gallery, 2248 NW First Pl., Miami; 305-424-5002; Tuesday through Saturday 11a.m. to 7 p.m.

Turning from the brush and easel to the camera, Anton Solomoukha has more recently become known for his sweeping, operatic photographs based on famous canvases by Caravaggio, Ingres, Botticelli, Delacroix, and other masters. Solomoukha's stunning series of surreal images titled "Little Red Riding Hood Visits the Grand Louvre" and "Little Red Riding Hood Visits Chernobyl" are making their stateside debut at the freshly minted Black Square Gallery in Wynwood. At first blush, Solomoukha's pictures appear more paintings than photographs. He typically arranges his cast of characters — men, women, and children — in elaborately staged settings based on a drawing he first executes, at times using Photoshop to tweak the composition. He then photographs his clothed and nude models against a tarry black background to diffuse the light in his erotically and psychologically freighted scenes. The results are both seductive and discomfiting. In these arresting works, the artist, who was born during Stalin's reign, tears a page from the dictator's penchant for historical revisionism and places the popular fairy-tale figure of Little Red Riding as his heroine romping through well-known masterpieces, altering their meanings. The girl gets to play dressup, revel in erotic fantasies, or engage in stinging cultural critiques at the artist's twisted whims. In a tribute to Velázquez's Meninas, half-naked go-go girls lounge in the background while a leather-clad biker tinkers with his Harley and a businessman strikes a pose sporting an Indian chief's war bonnet. The artist's pictures referencing Chernobyl are equally corrosive and dripping with irony. One photo based on Tintoretto's Mercury and the Three Graces depicts three nude women trussed like Thanksgiving turkeys and suspended over a motorcycle in an empty swimming pool. The scene looks like something lifted straight from a porn mag devoted to kinbaku, the art of Japanese bondage.

"Constructed Reliefs"

Through October 30 at Leila Mordoch Gallery, 2300 N. Miami Ave., Miami; 786-431-1506; Wednesday through Saturday noon to 6 p.m.

At the Leila Mordoch Gallery, New York-based artist Keith Long evokes the inexorable tides of history with primal beauty, executing sprawling wall-relief sculptures from found natural elements and the discards of contemporary culture. In works such as Wind 1, he combines parts of a rocking chair with what appear to be bullet-riddled planks of weathered wood or a ship's rudder to create a fluid, minimalist opus that captures the notion of time's passage and the uneasy balance between man and his natural environment. With an expansive wingspan that exceeds the California condor's, another work, titled Angel 3, is rendered with subtle lines that convey flight in motion while echoing the sense of decay and raw, totemic power typical of many of Long's pieces reflecting his interest in paleontology and the natural sciences. His legerdemain for animating found wood into timeless, lyrical forms and energetic constructions is perhaps reflected best in a whimsical mermaid that from a distance resembles both a fish hook to snare the viewer or an inverted, thought-provoking question mark.

Egyptian Gallery

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

When the ancient working stiff was preparing for his journey into the afterlife, little did he know he would spend decades gathering dust in a musty Wynwood warehouse. But that's exactly where the Egyptian craftsman dating back to the 25th or 26th Dynasty (808-518 B.C.) was found inside a polychrome wood inner sarcophagus. The liberated mummy is on view as part of the newly inaugurated Egyptian Gallery at the Bass, which also features a modest collection of rare artifacts in the permanent display that marks the only space of its kind in Florida. The exhibit also showcases the Bass mummy's outer sarcophagus, a child's sarcophagus, and several stellar examples of Egyptian statuary, canopic jars, stela fragments, and pottery. Unfortunately, some bling-craving pharaohphiles or Tut freaks might leave the Bass feeling a bit E-gypped after experiencing the modest exhibit. Don't expect sensational gold-covered coffins or regal masks of the ancient kings and queens of Egypt. Instead, these are the types of artifacts that continue inspiring the inner Indiana Jones or armchair archaeologist in most of us and have always fueled curiosity about an enigmatic lost culture. It's well worth a visit.

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Carlos Suarez De Jesus