Monday, September 25, 2023

“All Florida” — But Mostly South

(Photo by Sandra Canning)

We know that Florida houses an endless supply of masterful artists rivaling the talent of any other city in the country (not to mention masterful actors, directors, dancers, singers, et al). But the success of the All Florida Juried Competition and Exhibition, the summer’s always-anticipated offering at the Boca Raton Museum of Art, falls largely on the shoulder of one person: the juror. A juror with questionable taste can wind up selecting pieces that bore rather than provoke or amaze, and that was the problem with last year’s All Florida: By and large, it lacked both luster and fun.

I’m pleased to report that under the eye of juror Valerie Cassel Oliver, this year’s All Florida is a fine return to form, showcasing a vivid cross-section of paintings, photographs, sculptures, videos, audio clips and mixed-media assemblages from across the state, but mostly from here in South Florida. All Florida is not a competition between regions, but it’s still heartening to walk through the exhibition and see so many familiar home cities of the artists – Boca Raton, Boynton Beach, Tamarac, Coconut Creek and Coral Springs among them – alongside so few representatives from north and central Florida. This year’s exhibition is such an inspiring collection that it’s a shame it only runs for about six weeks (last year’s All Florida ran all the way through mid-September).

Frequent visitors of previous All Florida shows will recognize a number of returning favorites, such as Noelle Mason, Byron Keith Byrd and Melanie Hurwitz, none of whom disappoint (and all of whom, incidentally, have been interviewed here on this blog).

But this year, the differences resound louder than the similarities to previous shows. One of the ways Oliver breaks with tradition is her selection of more than one artwork by many of the artists in the show. Oliver offers multiple pieces by a whopping 17 artists, including three from impressionistic Boca photographer Gary Clow. Though it comes at the exclusion of single pieces by other artists, I like the decision, because it provides the opportunity to understand the artists a little better, to probe their oeuvres a little deeper, to appreciate them in a broader context.

Another trend this year is the amount of nontraditional mediums that made it into the show. You’ll see art created on neon tubes (Alexandra Trimino’s “Binocular Disparity”), a tower of bricks (Ruben Ubiera’s “The Community”), an infant’s bed (Marina Font’s “Oneiric Memory”), a recycled atlas (Amanda Serrano’s “Historical Atlas of the United States”) and the exhibition’s Best in Show winner, “The Offering,” an enigmatic contraption of repurposed furniture from Boynton Beach’s Vanessa Diaz.
If there is any criticism of the show, it’s that it feels heavily slanted toward photography. As a lover of the medium, I didn’t mind it, but the bias makes itself most known in an overly cluttered wall of black-and-white photos at the end of the exhibition. It’s difficult for any of the pieces to stand out amid such a monochromatic jumble. But lovers of painting and sculpture will find plenty to appreciate, especially in Mark Forman’s pair of Rothkoesque crimson canvases, Stephanie Jaffe Werner’s humorous ceramic elephant sculpture and Karen Tucker Kuykendall’s ambitious collage, with its board games, road signs, myths and fairy tales overlaying a painting of foliage.

Our coverage doesn’t end here. Kuykendall is one of a handful of stunning artists we hope to interview over the next several weeks; check out this blog every Friday over the next month for an exclusive All Florida artist interview.

“All Florida” is at the Boca Raton Museum of Art, 501 Plaza Real, Boca Raton, through July 8. Admission is $4 to $8. Call 561/392-2500 or visit

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