This week in art: From kaleidoscopes to sarcophagi

"New Work Miami 2010"

Through October 17. 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.

From shrimp sizzling in a skillet, to a walk-in kaleidoscope, to a bridge created from crushed cockroaches, this sprawling exhibit at MAM offers a wildly engaging snapshot of the creative forces shaping our city. "New Work Miami 2010" boasts 35 local artists and offers a stunning array of media — painting, sculpture, drawing, photography, video, environmental installation, performance, sound and fiber pieces — plus an ambitious lineup of performances, events, and screenings that will be presented concurrently during the show's run. Miami's multiculti undertow, the uncertainty spun by budding optimism amid the economic downturn, the creeping changes across our urban landscape, and the frenetic energy powering the city's cultural dynamism are all part of the Ariadne's thread thematically weaving the exhibition. "More than ever, the key to participating in global cultural conversations is to speak from within one's local conditions," says Rene Morales, MAM associate curator and co-organizer of the exhibit. Bouncing from one work on display to the next, you almost become intoxicated by the hothouse miasma of ingenuity creeping throughout the space like a tangle of wild vines overtaking a building.

"Boy, Oh Boy!"

Through August 25 at Fredric Snitzer Gallery, 2247 NW First Pl., Miami; 305-448-8976; Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Like men, not all summer group shows are equally endowed. Or so proves Fredric Snitzer with his new exhibit, "Boy, Oh Boy!" an exploration of diverse facets of masculinity. Snitzer features a group of 20 artists whose works include paintings, drawings, photos, video installations, and mixed-media pieces. The provocative show ploughs the fertile furrows of macho/male positioning in contemporary culture from sweeping perspectives, shifting seamlessly from macho-man swagger to female and childhood notions of manliness and the complex relationships between young boys and girls. The dealer has paired Miami artists with those from as far away as Germany and South Africa in this exhibit, which includes takes on the subject by women artists who typically don't necessarily mine the framework of masculinity in their oeuvre. Francie Bishop Good's poignant photograph The Man, for example, captures a toddler clutching a plush toy animal as his mother sits on a couch in the background, appearing to study for an exam. The almond-eyed child seems transfixed by the musclebound figures of wrestlers gaudily emblazoned across his baby-blue T-shirt. The work suggests that masculine conditioning begins early with brutish examples of archetypical male strength, readily available at big-box family outlets trafficking in the culturally mundane.

"Spiritual Healing: Shamans of the Northwest Coast"

Through October 3 at 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.

Way back before the advent of HMOs and over-the-counter cure-alls, the native peoples of Alaska, British Columbia, and the Yukon Territory typically sought the services of a shaman when they needed to treat a toothache, infection, or bad case of indigestion. The tribal shaman was considered a messenger between the human and spirit worlds and performed a variety of functions including healing. By helping alleviate spiritual traumas, shamans were thought to restore balance to the physical body and eliminate the source of sickness. That is until Europeans brought smallpox and other diseases that defied the traditional healer's powers and relegated the shaman's role to history. "Spiritual Healing: Shamans of the Northwest," an intriguing show at the Frost Art Museum, lifts the veil on the ritual practices of animistic tribes such as the Tlingit, Tsimshian, and Haida, all of which believed nature is endowed with spirits that manifest in the form of illness and disease. The exhibit features an enchanting array of historic tools shamans used to enter a trance, communicate with the spirit world, and cure their patients, along with more contemporary objects displayed together as works of art, such as amulets, rattles, masks, drums, crowns, necklaces, and clan poles.

"Instruments of Torture Through the Ages"

Through August 29 at the 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 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.

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

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