Miami art this week: horses, mermaids, and shantytowns

"The Visionary Eye"

Through January 15 at O. Ascanio Gallery, 2600 NW Second Ave., Miami; 305-571-9036; Thursday through Sunday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The Visionary Eye" features the work of eight contemporary and modern masters, including Jesus Soto, Carlos Cruz Diez, Alejandro Otero, Victor Lucena, Francisco Salazar, Carlos Cabeza, Victor Vasarely, and Bernar Venet. With the exception of Vasarely, who is Hungarian, and Venet, who is French, all artists in the show are Venezuelan and represent some of that country's biggest international names. The gallery also features an homage to Alfredo Boulton, a photographer, historian, and art critic who was an iconic figure in Venezuela and mentor to many of his compatriots who are exhibiting here. Some examples on view include Otero's refrigerator-sized Tablón 40 from 1987 confected from acrylic over Formica affixed to wood. The painted-tile mixed-media piece, with its bland blue, yellow, black, white, and brown hues resembles a Brady Bunch-era frumpy housewife's kitchen backsplash. More imposing is an early '60s dishtowel-sized work by Cruz Diez in which the artist covers the surface with bristling fissures and sundry nuts, bolts, and what appears to be a giant clothesline pin.

Miami International Art Fair

January 14 to 17 at the Miami Beach Convention Center, 1901 Convention Center Dr., Hall D, Miami Beach; 239-949-5411; Friday noon to 9 p.m., Saturday, Sunday, and Monday noon to 7 p.m. Tickets cost $10 to $20.

The organizers of MIA, the Magic City's newest arts confab, have suffered a sophomore meltdown this year. The midwinter showcase, boasting over a thousand artists represented by 65 galleries from 17 countries, was supposed to unveil a "Modern Ice Museum" housing dazzling ice paintings by Canada's Gordon Halloran. Unfortunately, his stunning frozen confections experienced a tropical meltdown due to lack of sponsorship and won't be making their Florida debut. But there are plenty of traditional canvases and sculptures, and contemporary photography, installations, performances, and video works to keep the cockles of the heart warmed instead. Now in its second edition, MIA is becoming a Miami-centric event, with more than a third of its roster made up of local galleries rubbing elbows with spaces representing the state of contemporary art from Beijing to Buenos Aires to New York. "Improvising Architecture," a sprawling shantytown of installations, reflects the problems of overcrowding and booming proliferation of precarious structures in the globalized world. Miami artists such as Christy Gast, Adler Guerrier, Nicolas Lobo, Ernesto Oroza, and Viking Funeral will create the creeping vision of shoulder-to-shoulder urban density alongside London's Graham Hudson, Bogota's Felipe Arturo and Heather Rowe, and New York's Carlos Sandoval de Leon.

"Global Caribbean II: Caribbean Trilogy"

Through January 31 at Little Haiti Cultural Center, 212 NE 59th Terr., Miami; 305-960-2969; Monday 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., Tuesday through Friday 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sunday 1 to 8 p.m.

There's magic afoot at Little Haiti Cultural Center these days. The once underused space has started attracting foot traffic on weekdays and is now open on weekends. Inside the gorgeous gallery space, a soaring mixed-media-on-aluminum painting by Edouard Duval-Carrié portrays the tragic moment that may have roused the center's newfound faith. Her Saving Grace La Sirene depicts a mermaid goddess rising from the ocean depths to cradle the ruins of the iconic Notre Dame Cathedral of Port-au-Prince. The cathedral was left smoldering with stained glass windows punched out following last January's devastating 7.0-magnitude earthquake. The mammoth pink church that symbolized Haiti's religious ardor tumbled onto parishioners, leaving many in the Caribbean nation feeling God and the spirits had abandoned them. Today Duval-Carrié credits the disaster for galvanizing community support behind Little Haiti Cultural Center. His representation of the powerful vodou deity who brings wealth, luck, success, and healing to those who call on her assistance, is symbolic of how the world rushed to his homeland's aid. Duval-Carrié's piece is on display as part of "Global Caribbean II: Caribbean Trilogy," an exhibit that also features works by Cuban artist José Bedia and Dominican Republic's José García Cordero. The compelling stuff reflects the rich spiritual traditions of the Greater Antilles and was curated by Amable López Meléndez of Santo Domingo's Museum of Modern Art.

"Bruce Weber: Haiti / Little Haiti"

Through February 13 at Museum of Contemporary Art, 770 NE 125th St., Miami; 305-893-6211; Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Wednesday 1 to 9 p.m., Sunday noon to 5 p.m.

Bruce Weber: Haiti / Little Haiti" features a suite of 75 of the iconic fashion photographer's arresting images documenting members of the local Haitian community, many of whom have faced incarceration or risked deportation after arriving here. Weber focused his lens on Miami's Haitian community in Liberty City, Little Haiti, and other immigrant enclaves to capture the plight of those who have risked their lives crossing the Florida Straits fleeing political oppression or economic despair. Organized by MOCA's executive director and chief curator, Bonnie Clearwater, the images were snapped by Weber between 2003 and 2010. The exhibit features stunning portraits of individuals, groups, and families, as well as Miami's rising Haitian leaders, politicians, artists, and entertainers who have also posed for Weber over the past several years. " These images convey what he sees and admires in the Haitian children and adults he photographs — their strength, pride, resilience, elegance, and beauty," Clearwater says.

"Moving in Place"

Through March 6 at Miami Art Museum, 101 W. Flagler St., Miami; 305-375-3000; Tuesday through Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday noon to 5 p.m.

Susan Rothenberg marks her South Florida debut by straddling the divide between the figural and abstract with enigmatic works depicting animals and humans rendered from odd perspectives, often in midstride. The artist's first museum exhibit in more than a decade features a compelling selection of 25 canvases spanning Rothenberg's 35-year career. They range from her early galloping wild horse paintings of the '70s to more recent works that explore how the artist reconstructs the world around her with an approach she calls "frozen motion." The exhibition explores the evolution of Rothenberg's spatial concepts from early paintings such as Cabin Fever (1976), which depicts the simple outline of a horse jumping into action, to spinning and turning figures in the 1980s and early 1990s such as in Folded Buddha (1987–88) and Pin Wheel (1988), both major works from MAM's permanent collection. The exhibition also includes action scenes that emerged shortly after she moved from New York to a ranch in New Mexico, such as Dogs Killing Rabbit (1991–92) and Accident #2 (1993–94), as well as her most recent series of disembodied hands and arms swinging around the space of paintings like dismembered marionettes.

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Carlos Suarez De Jesus