The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Jun 10, 2011

Steinbaum's "Greenhouse" effect

Posted by Anne Tschida

There is a lot to see in Bernice Steinbaum's latest group exhibit, "Greenhouse." As the title suggests, the work is related to the artificial atmosphere in which nature is nurtured, or as the gallery describes, "windowless, artificially lit, curated and temperature-controlled, in a sense, the gallery becomes a greenhouse as well." On the next level, the images of nature are, of course, artificial here, as artists, not the earth, have created them.

Two artists crafted outstanding environments: Mark Messersmith and Juan Carlos Zaldivar.

Messersmith's large paintings are outrageously colorful, with the flora and fauna of Florida all jumbled together. One of the most unique features of his paintings are the predella boxes that sit at the bottom of each. Once mostly associated with altars, his transparent boxes are filled with little cutout pictures of animals, plants and little oddities. Some also have birds or leaves jumping out from the paintings, giving them incredible scope. It's a crazy tropical world Messersmith depicts, and also one that is fast disappearing, like so much of our natural surroundings.

Zaldivar takes over a darkened room upstairs to create "Shifting Nature," a simply gorgeous combination of oval projections filled with blooming flowers, flitting butterflies, a hand with palm fronds and so on. It's accompanied by the sounds of chirping, a full, 3-D surround-sound effect as you walk through and around the projections. It's really worth spending some quality time with these fluctuating images, preferably when it is very quiet. Headphones for another part of the piece are available at the front desk. In fact, Zaldivar's piece has been up for a while and is not technically part of this exhibit, but it fits in nicely with the theme of this show.

On the wall across from his room are subtly blinking light works from Carol Prusa, which are lovely in white and gray, graphite and titanium. Also of note, the steel sculptures from Joe Walters — and the elevator video (you have to love those elevator videos) featuring another artist with a love of elevator videos.

Greenhouse opens Saturday, June 11 and runs through August, but "Shifting Nature" will close on June 30 at Bernice Steinbaum Gallery, 3550 N. Miami Ave.; 305-573-2700;


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