(Karen Tucker Kuykendall's "Pursuit")
Every year, the Boca Raton Museum of Art’s annual All Florida exhibition is intended to showcase a wide swath of Florida’s emerging artists, capturing the variety of the current artistic zeitgeist in the Sunshine State. The best All Floridas do this, but mostly, the exhibition is a reflection of the particular juror’s taste, which doesn’t always translate into a whiz-bang display of eclecticism; a show may be overly abstract, for instance, or too focused on photographic realism, or otherwise too conservative or hidebound in the juror’s selection process.
With that in mind, I’d like to propose the idea that this year’s juror, Nashville curator Mark Scala, be named permanent All Florida juror. The 62nd annual exhibition, which opened at the Boca Museum last week, showcases the edgiest and most exciting crop of work in the seven or eight years I’ve been reviewing All Florida. It is all-encompassing in its breadth, with enough abstracts, landscapes, figural paintings and photography to titillate traditionalists, while forging ahead with enough non-traditional found-object installations, jarring sculptures, provocative video work and rough-hewn outsider art to assert Florida’s stature as a vanguard state. Sprawling across three galleries and divided eloquently by themes and styles, this All Florida is a triumph – for the museum, Scala and the artists he selected.
But enough general praise. Onto the specifics: Scala saw trends in the works he chose, finding personal messages and “startling considerations of identity.” The sense of personal history and cultural identity is perhaps the greatest overriding theme in this variegated show. It manifests itself in works as direct as Alejandro Valencia’s realistic and loving painting, indebted to Vermeer, of his grandmother sewing (pictured above); and as abstract as Marina Font’s “A Sense of Home.” This selection, one of three by the Argentine émigré Font, includes approximately 50 hazy photographs framed above an actual open suitcase, suggesting the transience of her identity and the way a “home” can be remembered in fragments, not entire pictures. I was also taken with West Palm Beach artist Tom Whitten’s “Untitled (What They Want),” in which the artist found a productive use for the endless stream of bills, credit-card offers and bank statements clogging up the USPS. He turned his recent history of junk mail into a collage, the torn envelopes tacked every which way into a tapestry – a surprising, recycled paean to the letters we hate to receive.
Histories of abuse and subjugation among women seems to be a theme within the theme of personal identity. Boca Raton artist Misoo Filan received a well-earned merit prize for “Monster and Me,” a disturbing, vulnerable and deliberately drippy self-portrait of the artist sharing a sofa with a hideous monster seemingly borne of a sci-fi writer’s darkest imagination. This monster is the way Filan views her sexual abuser, and how she deals with this tragedy through the art. Plantation sculptor Judy Polstra’s “Mixed Memories” (pictured) works along the same emotional lines, depicting youthful innocence corrupted by physical abuse: A faceless sculpture is festooned with doll faces, tiny dresses and children’s toys, under which a pile of discarded belts represents beatings from authority figures (visitors to the museum are encouraged to drop their own belts onto the pile).
Boynton Beach artist Choon-Yi’s digital photographs “Frustrated 1” and “Being” are haunted explorations about the oppression of women, with shadowy female figures stifled and cocooned. But the two examples from Gabrielle Wood’s “Disrupted Pleasure” series take the cake – and the Grand Jury Prize. The videos show the artist tantalizing us with her body before subverting our expectations in moves that are equally provocative, hilarious and extraordinarily crafted.
You’ll hear more from Wood here on Bocamag.com, as my coverage of All Florida will continue. Each week until the end of the exhibition’s run, I will interview a different All Florida artist, so check back early and often.
The 62nd Annual All Florida Juried Competition and Exhibition runs through July 14 at Boca Raton Museum of Art, 501 Plaza Real, Boca Raton. Admission is $5 to $8. Call 561/392-2500 or visit www.bocamuseum.org.