'Finds' make Harn hard to leave
Published: Thursday, January 8, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 7, 2009 at 12:04 p.m.
There is something to be said for having no plans at all, it leaves you very open to discovery. That was my situation Sunday morning. There are several new shows coming, but with none open as of yet, I found myself wandering back to a favorite haunt, the Harn Museum of Art.
Usually my trips are focused on reviewing a new exhibition so going footloose and fancy-free was rather liberating. The things you see when the blinders are off. For example, "River Styx III," by Dimitri Hadzi, a sculpture that graces the front entrance to the museum. The Harn regularly rotates its outdoor pieces and this was the first time I noticed this piece. Two questions came to mind: Why River Styx III? It looked to me like a stone mouth with a tongue protruding. And, just how big is the Stephen and Carol Shey's collection of sculpture? It seems that a third of the museum is full of pieces on loan from the couple. It is a wonderful thing to have generous patrons.
Once inside, it seemed I was finding new things in every corner. I stopped in the store and saw Ira Winarsky's iridescent ceramics sculptures on one shelf and his sister Babette Coffey Fisch's jewelry on another. Fisch uses pieces of Winarsky's ceramics linked with her own Chinese knotting to create some eye-catching pieces.
The Cofrin Pavilion's Momentum exhibit threw more fine ceramics at me. Fujimo Sachiko's "Sprouting Seed" is a nice meeting of vegetable and mineral. The basic shape is that of a flat-edged pill on one end with one edge opening up to reveal a passage inside. The opening suggested the fertile promise inside. The outside is textured as if of stone.
Across the hallway is Mishima Kimiyo's "Orange Box Filled with Newspaper and Red Teapot." The name says it all. I enjoyed the realism and detail Kimiyo put into this art-of-trash composition. The advertising on the side of the box is bright and bold, like Tokyo neon, but the subtle, worn edges of the cardboard add so much to the overall effect.
A bit farther in, Kehinde Wiley's "Simon George I," holds court. This oil on canvas portrait of a young, black man in stylish street garb uses juxtaposition as its main tool. The subject, holding a rose, looks out with a confident expression, in a style that is more often seen in paintings of royalty. Wiley plays that up by placing fleur-de-lis in the background and then overlaying the subject. The king of hip-hop. To push it farther, you should see the frame on this painting. The whole presentation screams rococo, but in silver rather than the usual gold.
The center of the pavilion is regularly used for video presentations. I spent seven minutes taking in "Declaration" by Yael Bartana. The video shows the journey of a young man as he rows out into Jaffa Port in Tel Aviv. Bartana uses some interesting effects. At one point a low-level sun seems to stalk the man on his journey. There is excellent use of unusual focal points throughout, and a rather odd treatment of light so that the main character always seems to be in a distorted spotlight. The man finally arrives at his destination, a lone rock in the harbor. I appreciated the gesture as the man respectfully replaced the flag of Israel with an Olive tree, the traditional symbol of peace, and yet could not ignore the fact that there was nowhere for the tree's root-ball to attach on that desolate rock, in the middle of the bay, surrounded by towers in the distance.
In the back of the gallery is Arnold Mesches's "Coming Attraction Wall." It is aptly named. My very unofficial estimate is that this digital print on vinyl is 10 feet tall and 66 feet wide. Mesches has created a black and white cartoon of an urban nightmare, a metropolis gone over the edge. Imagine running the L.A. freeway through the center of Times Square. There is nothing but garish congestion as far as the eye can see. You are overwhelmed by both the size and density of the piece. A much smaller companion piece, "Untitled 3," shows a small section of the same piece outside a wooden framed window, with green sheer drapes obscuring most of the image. If that was what was outside my window, I would be instantly agoraphobic.
There were so many other good finds throughout my afternoon that I found it hard to leave the museum at the end of the day. Sometimes the best plans are no plans.
Now we do have a few new shows on the books so let me give you a quick heads up. The Oak Hall School's Cofrin Gallery is opening "Re-Presenting Reality" on Friday. This exhibition features six local artists and has its public reception from 7-9 p.m. on opening night.
Ron Haase has a mixed media, sculpture and painting exhibit running through Jan. 23 at the gallery in UF's Reitz Union. The opening reception is 7-9 p.m. Jan. 15.
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