“Bow Movement,” the new exhibition in the main gallery of the Art and Culture Center of Hollywood, may be the most uncluttered exhibition ever to hang in an arts center known for its spacious, comfortable aesthetic. All the better to showcase the exhibition’s centerpiece: a 60-foot-long sailboat monohull suspended from the ceiling, hanging 38 inches off the ground at its lowest point.
Titled “Monohull Monolith” by the artist, Miami’s Justin H. Long, it’s a titanic husk, skeletal and hollowed out. It has drawn comparisons to the famous life-size whale sculpture at the American Museum of Natural History, but I liken the piece to a full-size dinosaur skeleton because, like T-Rexes, monohulls are an extinct relic of another time, before multi-hull boats usurped them in the sailing world.
At any rate, it’s a work that was seemingly made for inclusion in a sailing history museum, and it’s an unusual piece to see in a museum known for its cutting-edge contemporary art. Like most of the sailing iconography that surrounds it – pieces either created or collected by Long – I’m not sure it even is art.
“His intention was to blur the boundary between art and his other passion, which is sailing,” says Jane Hart, curator of exhibitions at the Art and Culture Center. Thus, there are objects in “Bow Movement” that, divorced from their artistic context, are meaningless. There’s a well-worn tube of adhesive, the kind of thing that might be discovered in a janitor’s closet from 1985, and a bright-red Mount Gay Rum cap from 1998, an ordinary piece of headwear to most viewers that we might see selling at a Goodwill.
But there’s a reason both of these pieces are isolated under Lucite cases, like precious jewels – because to Long, these items are precious, and he writes about each with passion in his well-researched wall text. Both are important icons in sailing history, and his enthusiasm for these objects rubs off on us.
Similarly, the sail from a boat called the SHEERNESS is pinned to a wall, where it flows onto the gallery floor and bunches up in ribbons; another sail sits folded, like a sleeping bag, on a nearby pedestal. To the uninitiated onlooker, this might look like a curatorial mistake, a remnant left over from the exhibition’s work-in-progress. But there’s something powerful and almost melancholy about sails hanging limply without a boat, spurred on by Long’s description of them. He makes us care about these objects, and by extension the world they represent. It’s a wonderful feeling to immerse yourself in it.
The other exhibitions on display in the gallery are more “traditional” per the Art and Culture Center’s bread-and-butter of mystifying, contemporary installation art. Miami artist Alex Trimino’s “Luminous” is a series of abstract mixed-media sculptures created from unusual materials both high- and low-tech; neon appendages jut out from footstools, tree stumps, fruit baskets and other commonplace “roots,” creating a forest of crocheted, hand-woven light shows.
Unlike Justin H. Long’s work, we don’t need much wall text here; the burden is on us to draw conclusions about Trimino’s work. I want to defend it, because it’s the kind of installation that might prompt conservative Republicans to de-fund the National Endowment of the Arts, but it’s not my favorite exhibition at this venue.
Finally, Art and Culture Center visitors leave the museum by crossing Lori Nozick’s walkable sculpture titled, appropriately enough, “Walkabout.” Inspired by the “journey through the wilderness that takes place as an adolescent or young adult,” Nozick’s creaky, rickety bridge recalls Carl Andre’s interactive minimalism, which took spectators off their guards by encouraging them to walk across his art. The planks on the bridge are uneven, and its posts are rotted and eroded; the sculpture was patched together with lots of glue and love, somehow evoking a rustic childhood I never really had.
The work of Justin H. Long, Alex Trimino and Lori Nozick will be on display through Oct. 21 at the Art and Culture Center, 1650 Harrison St., Hollywood. Admission is $7 adults and $4 students, seniors and children. For information, call 954/921-3274 or visit artandculturecenter.org.