Visual Arts

Louise Nevelson and a testament to genius cut short: An art-lover’s moveable feast

March art shows bear witness to common experiences, tragedy and the light that can sometimes follow.

IN PERPETUITY

LnS Gallery Carlos Alfonzo: “Witnessing Perpetuity” LnS Gallery 2610 SW 28 Lane, Miami; lnsgallery.com. Through April 18.

The artistic life of the influential Cuban painter Carlos Alfonzo makes such a fascinating, if tragic arc, encompassing the struggles of creativity under the thumb of authoritarianism, migration and integration, and the looming certainty of death at an early age. The gallery is devoting its space to 50 of his works spanning the years of 1976-1990, where one can see how Alfonzo’s style evolved as he mixed in bits of Cubism and Surrealism to his expressionist abstractions, then added Caribbean touches including Afro-Cuban deities and symbolism.

Just as the 30-year-old was discovering his voice, he decided to break free and leave for Miami on the Mariel boatlift in 1980, months before he was included in a seminal exhibition that announced Cuba’s new direction in contemporary art that became known as the “80s Generation.” The young artist would boost the local Miami art scene and become a well-known pan-American artist as much as a Cuban one.

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While Alfonzo’s works don’t tell distinct narratives, it’s hard to ignore the messages of darkness that are told throughout, especially as the late 1980s unfolded and AIDS became an unescapable reality. Alfonzo died at age 40 of complications from the disease, in 1990, shortly before he was to be exhibited in a show at the Whitney Museum. ARTnews called him one of 10 Artists to Watch in the 1990s. His short life in art is eminently worth witnessing.

DREAM WEAVER



Shinique Smith: “Dream Weaver,” at David Castillo Gallery, 420 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach; davidcastillogallery.com. Through March 28.

Smith has become a Castillo favorite. “Dream Weaver” marks her fourth solo show there, this time featuring textile paintings. Really, they are collages with painterly swirling additions, graffiti-like “diaries” of life and objects. Smith uses old jewelry, mirrors and clothing to accompany the painting, creating little tableaus of everyday optics. For instance the center piece, “Memories of my youth streak by on the 23” is described by the gallery notes as a snapshot of moving down a street as seen from the number 23 bus, which Smith rode as a high-schooler in her hometown of Baltimore. The work comprises seven panels with blurred images — of storefronts, facades and row houses? — as if they were passing by, while embedded mirrors reflect the visitor, pulling them into this snippet of time and place as well. These delightful works express “individual yet universalized experiences.” That’s par for the course for the Los Angeles-based artist, whose work can be found in major museums across the country including the Rubell Museum here.

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CARIBBEAN ISLES

“Dust Specks on the Sea: Sculpture from the French Caribbean and Haiti” at the Little Haiti Cultural Complex; 212-260 NE 59 th Terr., Miami; littlehaiticulturalcenter.com. Through April 25. [

The exhibition title is derived from a quote attributed to French president Charles de Gaulle as he described the country’s former colonies while flying over the Caribbean. The comment is multi-layered – dust specks can be tiny, and therefor peripheral to a bigger empire. Or perhaps they are spectacles, mysterious lands? The phrase may also reference the giant, destructive volcanic explosion on Martinique of the early 20th century and its huge dust plume, which was famously photographed. Organized by the Hunter East Harlem Gallery, this show wants to “de-mystify” that particular, quaint view of the French Caribbean and give voice to its current societies through sculptures from more than 25 artists, including locals such as Edouard Duval-Carrié and Adler Guerrier. Each addresses a complex and beautiful region in its own way, sometimes interacting with one another. It’s just the right fit for the Little Haiti venue, with a slight and different twist.

MATERIAL EVIDENCE

“Forensic Architecture: True to Scale,” at Miami Dade College’s Museum of Art & Design, 600 Biscayne Blvd. Freedom Tower, Miami; mdcmoad.org . Through Sept. 27.

Once again, Miami-Dade College’s museum presents a ground-breaking exhibit that pushes the boundaries of “art and design.” Forensic Architecture is an international agency that explores the actual structures that allow for human-rights violations, among other forms of organized violence. According to the group, “In a post-truth media environment, where Photo-shopped images, conspiracy theories, and unsubstantiated allegations flood the internet, Forensic Architecture posits that truth can, in fact, be verified by material evidence if we look to the built environment.”

The agency gathers evidence from advanced technologies, people — even cracks in walls — to re-create the offending environments. Its sights are focused on one nearby project: the child migrant detention center in Homestead. The agency’s new methods of analysis lets us “verify what is really happening in the world around us.” London-based Forensic Architecture has provided finds to courts and tribunals, as well as at museums such the Philadelphia Museum of Art during the 2019 Whitney Biennial; the collective was nominated for the London’s premier art award, the Turner Prize.

“True to Scale” is a lot to wrap your head around, so it would have been nice to hear founder Eyal Weizman talk about it all when this exhibition – the first survey in the United States — opened in February. Unforunately, he was denied a U.S entry visa for having visitedquestionable places (you know, the ones that tend to have questionable human rights records.) So you will have to learn about the through the video screenings, installations, seminars and workshops with journalists, activists and architects, which aim to involve the public in social architecture.

BLACK ON BLACK

Louise Nevelson, at the Institute of Contemporary Art - Miami, 61 NE 41 st St., Miami Design District; icamiami.org. Through April 19.

It’s hard not to become completely engulfed in Nevelson’s world, the one made of wood and large shards of baseball bats, chairs, headboards — found on her New York streets, all painted black. The sculptures — some hanging on the wall, some free-standing — are framed within rectangular blocks that are of average human height, so that moving though them feels like strolling a strange dark garden made of urban refuse. The experience is a singular one, as was the woman herself. Born in 1899 in Kiev, Ukraine, Nevelson thrived and died in her adopted home of New York. Inspired by a 1978 work from the ICA’s permanent collection, this exhibit features monochromatic, abstract assemblages from the 1970s, and wonderfully showcases her trailblazing contributions to contemporary art.

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