Museums: Get a Little Culture

May Is Miami Museum Month — What Are You Waiting For?

Keen-minded Miamians know all about our world-class museums, and the even keener-minded among us know they only begin with MAM and MOCA.

Indeed, in addition to downtown’s flagship Miami Art Museum (soon to take its place alongside Biscayne Bay) and North Miami’s Museum of Contemporary Art (which has become a bona fide beacon to the North Side), we’ve got institutions as diverse and robust as the Bass and the Wolf (both on the Beach), the Lowe and the Frost (Coral Gables and Kendall, respectively), the Miami Children’s Museum (MacArthur Causeway) and the Miami Science Museum (Coconut Grove). Furthermore, we’re blessed with a plethora of smaller yet no less important venues, be it Wynwood’s Bakehouse Art Complex or Overtown’s Black Police Precinct and Courthouse Museum, and each is as unique as the facility in which it stands.

May is Miami Museum Month. That means for the next few weeks you can become a member of all of our beloved cultural institutions for the price of a single membership. “Join one and join them all” runs the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau tagline. And GMCVB should know; after all, they’re the folks who started this program last year and continue to help steer the hordes that make it such a swingin’ success.

SunPost went out and got the lowdown on some of the high-profile action taking place during May. Now you’ve no excuse not to get a little culture too.

Bass Museum of Art, 2121 Park Ave., Miami Beach; 305-673-7530; web

Hard to say what’s more enviable — that Bass Executive Director and Chief Curator Silvia Karman Cubiñá gets to freely rummage around and exhibit one of the most robust collections in the world, or that one day, while picking through the wonders, the museum chief came across “a Polychrome Wood Inner Sarcophagus and Mummy from 25th or 26th Dynasty (808 – 518 B.C.).” How many folks do you know who work in a place that has a mummy in the attic?

Thank Ra we’ve got the Bass, a place where attic mummies become the inspiration for an entire Egyptian Gallery of their own. And the mysterious mummy and its attendant sarcophagus are just two of the 15 ancient items on display in the museum’s newly appointed permanent space, and the age of the hieroglyph is but one of the many wondrous eras available to everyone who enters these hallowed halls. Also on display is the just extended “Where Do We Go from Here? Selections from La Colección Jumex,” which, according to the press release, “explores one of the most important collections of contemporary art in Latin America” for the first time in the United States.

The Jumex is not your daddy’s collection. Using Mexico City as a geographical hotspot, the first grouping includes works from a divergent array of artists, including Francis Alÿs and Carlos Amorales, as well as Jenny Holzer, On Kawara and Andy Warhol. A second textual grouping features everyone from Monica Bonvicini and Joseph Kosuth to Ed Ruscha and Lawrence Weiner. Then there’s a gang of artstars whose works “have been acquired since the beginning of their careers,” among them, Fischli & Weiss, Louise Lawler, Paul McCarthy, Gabriel Orozco and Rudolf Stingel.

And if that’s not enough to sate your cultural palate, there’s the Salon of Western Art, which houses historical pieces from the likes of Albrecht Dürer, Sandro Botticelli, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Peter Paul Rubens, Gerard Seghers and Ferdinand Bol. Or you can take in the environment created by Mika Tajima, who uses Robert Propst’s Action Office and Donald Cammell and Nicolas Roeg’s Performance as a sorta springboard to structurally comment on the way we work and live now. Then mosey on over to see what the French collective Kolkoz has done to free the frame from its inherent restrictions.

Oh yeah, don’t forget that on May 6 the Bass is hosting a concert called “A Pilgrim’s Progress,” which features pieces by Francis Poulenc and Bruce Saylor, and May 16 is Family Day (aka IDEA@thebass), where this month they mark the launch of the current exhibition catalog. Then again you’ll probably need no reminder because it may take you the 10 days between those two events just to get through all of the above, and you’ll still be in the building.

HistoryMiami, 101 W. Flagler St. Miami; 305-375-1492; web

When last we covered the Historical Museum of Southern Florida it was actually called the Historical Museum of Southern Florida, and it had been since we can remember. Not anymore though. And we couldn’t be more pleased.

Indeed, our most chronologically-obsessed institution is now known simply HistoryMiami. All one word; all encompassing. But don’t think for a second that this bastion of the past has in any way trimmed their devotion to keeping track of where we’ve come from. After all, what better way to puzzle out where we may go?

If you caught <a href=” http://issuu.com/sunpost/docs/2010.02.18/1 “>our HMSF cover story</a> then you’ll know that they’re currently putting on a show called “Crime in Miami.” As we (and they) said, it explores the facts and fictions that have given the Magic City such a bullet-riddled history, and  the show’s loaded with enough arcane to sate even the most savage criminologist among us. In fact, criminology will be the subject on May 20, when HM convenes a panel to discuss “CSI & Forensics.” If ever you wanted to unleash your inner Horatio Caine, this is your chance.

But crime’s not the only thing HM’s got going on, and if you’re a more civilized type you may wish to take in the permanent “Tropical Dreams:

A People’s History of South Florida.” A wide-angle look that nevertheless gets the nuance, this exhibit goes back before the Stone Age and brings us to right now. (Similarities between prehistoric peoples and some of South Beach rowdier crowds are only coincidental.)

Lowe Art Museum, 1301 Stanford Drive, Coral Gables; 305-284-3603; web

The Lowe is devoting its May slate to studio glass artist William Carlson, whose show “Aquila Non Capit Muscas (An Eagle Does Not Catch Flies)” will be up and running through June 6. Carlson also happens to be endowed chair and UM Art Department professor, but we won’t hold that against him. Especially considering that he’s reportedly done wonders for the university’s various art programs since he arrived in 2003. He’s also the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship Award, which leads us to believe he’s got chops enough to wow the whole wide world. And if you make it to the May 6 LOWEdown, Carlson will tell you all about it himself. But you don’t need to get face-to-face with the creator to appreciate his elegant use of light and space, nor do you need a guide to realize that the gentleman’s created a thing of great, good grace.

May Day marked the second anniversary of the Lowe’s Myrna and Sheldon Palley Pavilion for Contemporary Glass and Studio Arts, a sleek space that also boasts works by Dale Chihuly, Richard Jolley and Robert Arneson, among others. It’s one of those hidden gems Miamians are fond of keeping to themselves. But in this case you’ll have to forgive us, because this is the kinda secret that just can’t be kept.

Miami Art Museum, 101 W. Flagler St. Miami; phone: 305-375-3000; web

No need to wait for MAM to make its Herzog & de Meuron-designed move to Museum Park, not when the folks are putting on shows as robust as Carlos Cruz-Diez’s “The Embodied Experience of Color” (through June 20) and “BETWEEN HERE AND THERE: Modern and Contemporary Art from the Permanent Collection.” According to MAM’s site, the Cruz-Diez “exhibition will feature Cromosaturación (Chromosaturation), a site-specific environment designed by the artist that focuses on the relationship between color and perception.” The work was “Initially conceived in 1965 and presented for the first time in 1968 in the Ostwald Museum in Dortmund, Germany,” but we’re thinkin’ its time has come right now. Add the Venezuelan’s Showers of Chromatic Induction, Chromo-interferent Environment, and Aleatory Interactive Chromatic Experience, and all that right now might just blow your mind.

“BETWEEN HERE AND THERE,” in contrast, won’t close in June, and, with some exceptions, will stay showing until MAM’s 2013 move. Lucky for us it will too, because the amount of ultra vivid art that will be on display in that 9,000 square foot Upper Level Gallery will surely take some time to fully consider. “Among the artists represented are Carlos Alfonso, José Bedia, Adolph Gottlieb, Francesco Clemente, Chuck Close, Joseph Cornell, Marcel Duchamp, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Ann Hamilton, Alfredo Jaar, Wifredo Lam, Sol LeWitt, Morris Louis, Anna Maria Maiolino, Anna Mendieta, Vik Muniz, Ruben Ochoa, Damian Ortega, Robert Rauschenberg, Gerhard Richter, Regina Silveira, Lorna Simpson, Frank Stella, Rachel Whiteread and Kehinde Wile,” any one of which is worth at least a day of diligent viewing.

Also on tap for May will be “Assessing Miami Art 2010” with Associatre Curator René Morales on the 12th (part of MAM’s Morning Lecture Series), the MAM Contemporaries Social on the 13th, and “Transatlantic Encounters: Latin American Artists in Paris between the Wars,” with Dr. Michele Greet, who’s Assistant Professor, Department of History & Art History at George Mason University (5/20). Need we really say more?

Miami Children’s Museum, 980 MacArthur Causeway, Miami; phone: 305-373-5437; web

There’s not a soul among us who hasn’t crossed the Macarthur Causeway and considered pulling over to kid around at the Miami Children’s Museum. Heck, just looking at the place is enough to unlock your inner scamp. And if you’ve logged on to MCM’s site and taken the 3-D tour, well, chances are you went out and got yourself a child of your own so you wouldn’t have to go it alone.

MCM’s a local treasure, a place of fun and wonder. It’s big and bold and more colorful than any dozen rainbows. It boasts a hodgepodge of daily programs that are both entertaining and educational. And its 14 different galleries run the gamut from sand (Castle of Dreams) to swamp (Everglades Park) to the deep, blue sea (The Sea and Me, Ocean Odyssey). There’s a cruise ship, a world music studio and a rock wall called Mt. MiChiMu, not to mention an exhibit entitled “Meet Miami” that takes a tot from ‘hood to ‘hood without missing a beat.

And though we’re here to praise May, mention should be made of MCM’s upcoming “Dino Island,” a prehistoric adventure replete with a “periodically erupting volcano, a swamp with bubbling water, a cave with a ‘fireside’ reading nook area, and more.” If you hurry, though, you can still catch the interactive exhibit devoted to The Wizard of Oz, which closes on May 9.

Museum of Contemporary Art, 770 NE 125th St., North Miami; phone: 305-893-6211; web

MOCA’s two main shows are on view only until May 9, so if you wanna catch the modern magic of either Ceal Floyer (“Auto Focus”) or Cory Arcangel (“The Sharper Image”), you’d best get on your way. On view through the end of the month, however, is the work of Haitian artists Serge Jolimeau and Michee Ramil Remy, who craft some very clever contemporary artifacts.

Coming up in June will be the work of “Paris-based collective artist” Claire Fontaine, whose ready-made approach to 21st-century life seems to have left postmodernism in the proverbial dust — or at least delegated it to history’s dustbin. That’s not to say this dame has forsaken modernism, for her site goes directly to Walter Benjamin’s essay “The Destructive Character,” one of Theoria’s “documents in barbarism.” Benjamin was a pal of Brecht, and he’s perhaps most known for essaying about Baudelaire, but one gets the impression that Fontaine might be drawn to what he called “auratic perception,” which Wiki cites is “the aesthetic faculty through which civilization would recover a lost appreciation of myth.” Then again, what else can we cull from a chick who says she’s got the power to become “an existential terrorist in search of subjective emancipation”?

Miami Science Museum, 3280 S. Miami Ave., Miami; phone: 305-646-4200; web

Talk about whimsical! Up and running (literally) is something called “Cabaret Mechanical Theater,” a collection of more than 40 throwback sculptures known as “automata.” They’re delightful semi-beings of which both Dadaists and children would undoubtedly approve. And they can be seen (and in some cases operated) through September.

Also on tap in this landmark haven of knowing and exploration is the monthly Fabulous First Friday, which on May 7 can either send you to space or have you climbing trees. The former comes courtesy of MiaSci’s beloved planetarium and rooftop observatory, a place that has been wowing locals since 1966 (when it was called the Space Transit Planetarium). The latter will be a lecture from Fairchild Tropical Garden’s Dr. Richard J. Campbell entitled “Collecting Mayan Fruits for South Florida.” The good doctor has been head of Fairchild’s tropical fruit program for 19 years, so there’s no doubt he knows what he’s talkin’ about.

In addition, on May 9 moms get in free; May 15 is devoted to endangered species; and May 23 is “Nano Day,” when “real life scientists” will be on hand to help you deal with the scale of these tiny things.

The Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum, 10975 SW 17th St., Miami; phone: 305-348-2890;web

For more than three decades, the Frost (formerly the Art Museum of FIU) has given Miamians an excuse to head west and get themselves some culture. In 1981, it launched the Steven and Dorothea Green Lecture Series, which compounded that culture exponentially. Then back in November ’08, the Frost unveiled its soaring, 46,000-square-foot Yann Weymouth building, and the Miamians who arrived en masse came in conjunction with an onslaught of world travelers.

This year the Frost is throwing the Miami Museum Month closing party and celebrating the opening of four (count ‘em!) new shows. So if the streets of the east seemed deserted that night, you’ll know why.

It’s all part of Target Wednesday After Hours, a unique program that often allows art fans to meet and greet the artists themselves. The four shows featured are “TapTap: Celebrating the Art of Haiti,” “Spiritual Healing – Shamans of the Northwest Coast: Art and the Cultural Approach to Healing,” “Paul Strand in Mexico” and “Volf Roitman: From MADI to the Ludic Revolution.” Okay, so Strand won’t be on hand (he died in ’76), but it’s a bet there’ll be someone from either the Mexican Consulate or the Aperture Foundation (two of the show’s presenters) to expound about his vivid photographs. As for the rest, well, it’s anyone’s guess, yet there’s no doubt that what’s on display will speak the proverbial volumes.

The Wolfsonian – FIU, 1001 Washington Ave., Miami Beach; 305-535-1001; web

Hard to believe that South Beach boasts an institution that holds in its midst more than 120,000 of the best objects of art and design ever created, but it’s true. And while only a fraction of that collection is ever on display, there’s not a day when a visit to the Wolf doesn’t reveal an enlightening surprise.

With the current subject devoted to Art and Design in the Modern Age and covering everything from Advertising for Health to the American Physical Culture Movement, May promises to be all that and then some. On May 7 The Wolf Book Club digs into Aleksandar Hemon’s The Lazarus Project; on May 14 it’s “The Gifts of American Opera and Song,” which finds the Florida Grand Opera Young Artist Studio performing works by Kurt Weill, Samuel Barber, Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim and others. May 21 features the monthly Deco and Design Tour, which scours the ‘hood and then returns to indulge in The Wolf’s permanent collection, as well as a discussion with New York Times man Daniel Okrent about his Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition.

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