Critic’s picks: The best visual arts shows this fall

South Florida Sun Sentinel

Oct 08, 2021 11:46 AM

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Flowers bloom, wither and decay in

Flowers bloom, wither and decay in “Universe of Water Particles, Transcending Boundaries” from Japan-based collective teamLab, one of seven interactive installations at Superblue Miami, a new experiential art museum. (Superblue Miami / Courtesy)

These are the best feasts for your eyes this fall.

Patrons stroll the Miami Beach Convention Center in this pre-pandemic photo at Art Basel Miami Beach, returning Dec. 2-4 to Miami-Dade County.

Patrons stroll the Miami Beach Convention Center in this pre-pandemic photo at Art Basel Miami Beach, returning Dec. 2-4 to Miami-Dade County. (scott rudd)

Remember when duct-taping bananas to walls cemented, for us South Floridians, the moment that Art Basel jumped the shark? We don’t either, because we know better. Art Basel really drove off the bridge of credibility two years earlier, when an adult bounce house debuted in the shape of Kanye West’s head. (Or was it the year Lenny Kravitz thought he was a singer AND a photographer?) Nonetheless, there’s something intoxicating, even bewildering, about a granddaddy art fair so massive it congests an entire city with white tents, tourists and big-ticket buyers and dares you to finish it all. It’s the contemporary-art OG, after all, and remains a must for any committed art lover. Art Basel Miami Beach marks its 19th edition at the Miami Beach Convention Center with more than 260 galleries, and roughly a dozen satellite art fairs will return to its orbit, fanning out to Wynwood, downtown Miami and Miami Beach. Bring sunscreen, and don’t get too distracted by the feeding frenzy of art collectors.

Visitors can capture disorienting images like this one in Es Devlin's

Visitors can capture disorienting images like this one in Es Devlin’s “Forest of Us,” a two-story mirror maze featured at Superblue Miami, a new experiential art museum that debuted in May. (Superblue Miami / Courtesy)

“Every Wall is a Door,” through December, Superblue Miami, 1101 NW 23rd St., Miami; 786-697-3414,

“Beyond the O.K. Corral: David Levinthal, Wilson J. Tang and YumeGo,” Nov. 20-Feb. 20, NSU Art Museum Fort Lauderdale, 1 E. Las Olas Blvd.; 954-525-5500,

So-called “experiential installations” are nothing new, of course, as anyone who van Goghed around Miami this spring can attest (or who’s ever jumped into a swimming pool of ice-cream sprinkles). But at Superblue, a 50,000-square-foot immersive digital museum that debuted in May across the street from the Rubell Museum in Allapattah, fair warning: This Instagrammers’ paradise isn’t cheap ($36), and your battery will drain super-fast. The opening show, “Every Wall is a Door,” consists of seven installations about birth, death and renewal, spanning a two-story mirror maze to a moving cloud sculpture of soap bubbles that visitors can walk through. Flowers bloom, wither and decay across the wall, engulfed in riots of color, in “Between Life and Non-Life” by Japan-based collective teamLab. More disorienting things happen in James Turrell’s “Ganzfeld,” in which a dim light is projected onto a blank wall, tinting the room gradually with color, an experience designed to make visitors feel off-balance.

Bonus art adventure: Across the street from Superblue is the breathtaking Rubell Museum, home to enthralling paintings by the late iconic Overtown painter Purvis Young. His paintings of urban decay – what he witnessed on the streets – show visions of oblong-faced angels, arms outstretched and wearing pained expressions and squinting eyes, who represent goodness in a degenerate world.

Still craving more immersive art after a year of pandemic-fueled sensory deprivation? The NSU Art Museum Fort Lauderdale dips a toe into augmented reality with “Beyond the O.K. Corral: David Levinthal, Wilson J. Tang and YumeGo.” The show lets visitors step inside the 2014 photograph “Gunfight at the O.K. Corral” by veteran photographer David Levinthal, who shoots toy figurines in staged dioramas of famous historical moments to blur the lines between memory and reality. Created with video-game designer Tang, visitors download an AR app, YumeGo, which turns the chaos of a Wild West shootout into a walkable landscape.

‘The Secret Garden of Lily LaPalma’

Maggie Steber's

Maggie Steber’s “Man and Flowers” is part of her surreal photo exhibit “The Secret Garden of Lily LaPalma,” on view through Dec. 5 at MAD Arts in Dania Beach. (Maggie Steber / Courtesy)

Through Dec. 5, MAD Arts, 481 S. Federal Highway, Dania Beach; 754-206-2243

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For Miami documentary photographer Maggie Steber, self-isolation is a secret garden where dreams and memories can bloom in psychologically dark ways. In Steber’s new photo series, on display inside MAD (formerly the Gallery of Amazing Things), the two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist and Guggenheim fellow (New York Times, National Geographic) reveals her fears and private memories through her alter-ego, Lily LaPalma. The result is surreal photos blending film noir, magical realism and pulp fiction, showing Steber’s lifelong fear of knives, men surrounded by flowers and women floating dreamlike in a pond. The personal project is a big departure from her 40-year photojournalism career capturing Haiti’s history, natural disasters, science and the African slave trade. Steber will discuss her work in person at 6 p.m. Oct. 29 and Dec. 3.

‘Machu Picchu and the Golden Empires of Peru’

This copper funerary mask with applications of shell and stone, circa 1 AD - 800 AD, is one of 192 gilded artifacts featured in the blockbuster exhibition

This copper funerary mask with applications of shell and stone, circa 1 AD – 800 AD, is one of 192 gilded artifacts featured in the blockbuster exhibition “Machu Picchu and the Golden Empires of Peru” opening this October at the Boca Raton Museum of Art. (Boca Raton Museum of Art / Courtesy)

Oct. 16-March 6, Boca Raton Museum of Art, 501 Plaza Real; 561-392-2500,

Last year, as the Incan city of Machu Picchu stood eerily silent, emptied of tourists in the pandemic, virtual-reality drones captured majestic views of the sprawling citadel from above. This VR video is one of 193 reasons to visit “Machu Picchu,” a new blockbuster show having its world premiere on both floors of the Boca Raton Museum of Art before it embarks on an international tour. Arguably the most gilded collection of artifacts in a local museum since King Tut’s tomb treasures toured Fort Lauderdale, the show features 192 rare pieces from royal tombs and objects that belonged to noble Andean lords. Highlights include the the gold attire of a Chimú emperor from 1300 AD, and 14-karat gold alloy Andean headdress. Most artifacts have never left Peru: the exhibit is on loan from Museo Larco in Lima, Peru, and Museo de Sitio Manuel Chávez Ballón in Aguas Calientes, Peru.

‘Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera and Mexican Modernism from the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection’

Frida Kahlo's

Frida Kahlo’s “Self-Portrait with Monkeys” is among 70 paintings and photographs featured in “Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera from the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection,” opening Oct. 23 at Norton Museum of Art. (Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection/Courtesy)

Oct. 23-Feb. 6, Norton Museum of Art, 1450 S. Dixie Highway, West Palm Beach; 561-832-5196,

Frida Kahlo, as the story goes, kept spider monkeys as pets in the garden of her Casa Azul in Coyoacán to symbolize the children she could never bear. But the pop-culture icon’s “Self Portrait with Monkeys” barely scratches the scope of this well-traveled display visiting the Norton. The bulk of these 70-plus works were owned by Jacques and Natasha Gellman, two European ex-pats who married in 1941 and befriended Kahlo and her husband, muralist Diego Rivera, while soaking up the post-Mexican Revolution renaissance of art. Here are Kahlo’s portraits, her somber face etched with isolation and physical suffering, but also those of Rivera, popular for his folk-art paintings of working-class Mexicans. The rest of the collection spotlights Rivera and Kahlo’s contemporaries (Carlos Mérida, José Clemente Orozco, María Izquierdo), who, emboldened by the revolution, each experimented with new themes of Mexican identity.

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