Roadside Attraction

The stolid stone faces on Easter Island as rendered by German artist Wilhelm Moser remind viewers of one eternal truth: Nature will always reclaim even the most noble monuments built by human hands. The moment of creation also is the moment of gradual disintegration. On display at ArtCenter/South Florida in the exhibit "Second Nature," Moser's work provides insight that might serve as a parable for the progress of the arts on Lincoln Road. The Road's evolution has followed along the same lines as did New York City's SoHo, once upon a time. As ArtCenter executive director Gary Knight relates, "artists' studios came into a depressed, down-and-out area. Then came galleries, then restaurants, then retail." The critical difference for the 99 emerging artists nurtured by ArtCenter is that the nonprofit institution had the savvy to buy its buildings outright, a hedge against the rising rents urban renewal inevitably brings.

Billed as an "exploration and response to the natural world," "Second Nature" opens as part of Arts on the Road, a revamping of Lincoln Road's customary gallery walk. Knight says the new gallery night, now held on the second Thursday of each month, is "really about reminding people that there's still a vital arts scene on Lincoln Road." According to Knight: "Gallery walks began in the early Nineties, a time when there were many more artists' studios here."

In addition to ArtCenter, a handful of commercial galleries have endured the relentless Pottery Barnization of the formerly funky outdoor mall. Knight sees the transformation as an opportunity for the artists who remain: "In season you can easily have 15,000 people walk down Lincoln Road on a single night, with 20,000 to 30,000 people in any given week." Knight believes this increase in traffic demands that arts institutions be "clever at marketing, at presenting people with the arts." ArtCenter eschews outright sales in favor of providing artists with workspace, teaching opportunities, and exposure to a massive public through storefront exhibits and events, such as a curator's discussion that will include the four artists featured in "Second Nature": Wilhelm, Jens Diercks, Robert Flynn, and Jorge Aguereverre.

Further away from ArtCenter but also on Lincoln Road, Howard Austin Feld Digital Photographic Art explores another age-old truth: Sex sells. A highly successful advertising photographer, Feld does a brisk business with his computer-generated soft-core portraits. For Arts on the Road, Feld will treat voyeurs to a photographic shoot, with live! girls! posing for computer enhancement. Seems the cross between commerce and culture can take many forms.