For the past dozen years, the Art and Culture Center of Hollywood’s “Exposed” group exhibition has been a staple each spring, inviting dozens of Florida artists to contribute an original piece which is raffled off to a buyer at the exhibit’s end, all to raise funds for this vitally important art gallery and incubator.
When COVID happened, the Center had little choice but to postpone “Exposed” until it could properly reopen, and so here we are. Works from more than 80 artists are finally available for view in the capacious, light-filled gallery and, by the next of week, they will leave in the hands of their new owners. I have always liked “Exposed” in part because it does just that—it exposes me to new and exciting South Florida creatives. It also typically offers a concise survey of trend lines in the local contemporary art world—what subjects are occupying artists’ minds, what mediums are sparking their imaginations.
The 2020 “Exposed” offers some of these insights but falls short of fully capturing the zeitgeist. I didn’t expect a raft of 2020-centered works, especially since the artworks were largely selected prior to the pandemic, but I’m surprised more of the contributors didn’t resubmit new pieces that speak to this monumental, helter-skelter moment in one way or another. Aside from letterpress artist Tom Virgin, who contributed a 2020 triptych of text-art statements representing the Black American experience in this year of change, most of these submissions were completed in 2019 or earlier.
Yet there are works, even years old, that seem to prophesy the reckonings, loneliness and morbidity of this plague year through their content, their vision, their choice of materials. There’s something viral and sinister in Gamaliel Herrera’s “Artificial Heart,” depicting a figure in full PPE using a tool on … something, or someone. The fact that its medium is Xerox paper lends it a degraded, dystopian patina. I loved Cheryl Maeder’s “Cloud Nine IV,” a deliberately blurry photograph of beachgoers enjoying themselves on the sand. As if shown from the point of view of a visually impaired person, it’s a fading frolic from a more carefree time—a post-COVID vision at a pre-COVID world.
It is perhaps appropriate that humor is in short supply in this year’s “Exposed,” sans the subversive sparkle of Jill Weisberg’s “She Comes First,” a photograph of that double-entendre phrase emblazoned on a building in glittery pink font. There are far more abstract artworks than figural or literal ones, and many of them emerge from darkness or uncertainty.
Patricia Schnall Gutierrez’s “Dream Recall” is a compelling charcoal dervish of black squiggles atop a smoke cloud that drew me to its mysteries like a magnet. Brandon Opalka’s “Uncertainty Principle,” with its fraying fabric covering an old wooden container, presents as a receptacle for eerie enigmas, a Pandora’s box we’d best not open. And Gustavo Oviedo’s “Stiltsville’s Bottles” is a stirring resin sculpture of detritus collected on the titular Miami sand bank. A raw, jagged reminder of our careless attitude toward the environment, it’s a scathing transformation of garbage into art; so is an untitled portrait from David Rohn, a marvel of repurposed materials such as a broken gin bottle, plastic bags and reclaimed driftwood.
There are escapes from darker themes, however. Karla Kantorovich’s golden semi-abstract painting “Let it Shine” is brilliant light on a canvas, a timeless, eye-catching centerpiece in any room in which it is lucky enough to hang. Carla Fache’s “Unity” is another calming standout, a suite of 40 paintings, merging color field and landscapes, completed on cigar boxes.
And there are, as always, works that slipped my grasp, that would have been aided by wall text about their origins. I didn’t quite know what to make of Nina Surel’s “Gravidia” photo series of women caked in muddy paint, or Violenta Flores’ “Shifting Nature,” a sculpture of an old iPod under a bell jar, the plugged-in device showing a list of butterfly videos contained inside it. None were playing, however, suggesting a conceptual merger of nature and technology that seemed tantalizingly out of reach.
And yet, in the juxtaposition of physical bell jar and digital insect, there exists a surreal friction—a state of reality that just about summarizes 2020. In that regard, “Shifting Nature” might just be the most potent statement piece of them all.
“Exposed” runs through Sept. 25 at Art and Culture Center, 1650 Harrison St., Hollywood. Admission is $7 general admission and $4 students. Tickets are still available for the raffle on Sept. 25 to take home one of the original artworks in “Exposed;” raffle tickets are $375 for one artwork to be determined on Sept. 25; $725 for two artworks; and $1,000 for three artworks. The Art and Culture Center is also presenting “Rosa Naday Garmendia: Not So Far Away—No Tan Lejos” and “Open Dialogues: Stories From the LGBTQ Community,” both of which run through Oct. 25. For more of Boca magazine’s arts and entertainment coverage, click here.