Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Art Abloom @ Orlando

Patriarchy, 2015. Oil on Linen. Farley Aguilar, artist. Collection of Beth Rudin DeWoody. The Orlando Museum of Art's 2015 Florida Prize for Contemporary Art was recently awarded to Farley Aguilar, a Nicaragua-born Miami artist whose work is described as a combination of "the bizarre and the familiar in nightmarish scenes filled with anxiety and dread."
By Augustus Mayhew

Florida's regional art museums do not generate the same popular enthusiasm as the state's sport's teams or shopping malls. Too often, these cultural sites are perceived as civic obligations or rainy-day requisites for out-of-town visitors rather than primary destinations. And you would think, Orlando's Museum of Art (OMA) would have an especially daunting task cultivating and sustaining an audience for its exhibitions and programs, considering the countless theme parks and commercial distractions concentrated along Interstate-4's billboard corridor.

Although lacking the scenic splendor of Santa Fe's Museum Hill or the architectural awe of Herzog & de Meuron's Perez Art Museum Miami (PAMM), during a recent visit, my first, not only did I find an engaging exhibit curated from the ten finalists for its annual Florida Prize for Contemporary Art but also discovered a museum collection displaying a high regard for aesthetic standards. OMA offers a worthy complement to the nearby Morse Museum of American Art's incomparable collection of Louis Comfort Tiffany's jewelry, paintings, art glass, lamps and leaded-glass windows. Don't miss it!
Orlando Museum of Art, east elevation.
From OMA to the Polasek Museum and Sculpture Gardens is only a ten-minute drive but the aesthetic taste level of the two venues is separated by at least six centuries. I admit I cannot recall ever being exposed to Polasek's work in any of my US or European Art History courses. Czech-born Albin Polasek (1879-1965) studied woodcarving in Vienna before enrolling in the Pennsylvania Academy of Art. For three decades, he headed the Art Institute of Chicago's sculpture department. After a distinguished career of monumental works, he retired to Winter Park in 1950 where today a foundation administers his former home-turned-museum and sculpture gardens across the street from Rollins College. Because of the heat and humidity, I arrived in the early morning. Finding the museum closed, I toured the lakeside sculpture gardens.

Orlando Museum of Art – OMA
2416 North Mills Avenue, www.omart.org
Orlando Museum of Art, east elevation. Known as the Orlando Art Association before becoming the Loch Haven Art Center in 1968, the organization was rebranded as the Orlando Museum of Art in 1986 before undergoing an extensive renovation and expansion.
Orlando Museum of Art, west elevation. OMA's two-story colonnaded semi-rotunda entrance is situated in Loch Haven Park. For me, the 84,000 square-foot facility's distinctive rotunda feature is evocative of Arata Isozaka's Team Disney building (1989-1990) in nearby Lake Buena Vista. Foreground, Victory of the Winds sculpture fountain.
Martin & Gracia Andersen Rotunda. Martin Andersen was the former publisher of the Orlando Sentinel newspaper.
Hansen Mulford, curator, has been with the museum for more than three decades.
Council of 101 Grand Gallery Hall. Citron and Cobalt Tower, a 2004 Dale Chihuly glass sculpture serves as the hall's skylit centerpiece. Left, Delta Sigma, 1960, by Morris Louis.
2nd Annual Florida Prize in Contemporary Art – 2015

From more than 200 applicants, ten Florida-based artists were selected as finalists for the annual invitational three-month exhibition. Miami-based Farley Aguilar received the winning $20,000 award for his work, considered "the very best of today's emerging contemporary artists in Florida." Four of the other finalists were also from Miami, including Bhakti Baxter, Nicolas Lobo, Alex Trimino and Antonia Wright. The remaining artists featured in the exhibition were Cesar Cornejo and Michael Covello from Tampa, Rob Duarte (Tallahassee), Jennifer Kaczmarek (Pensacola), and Wanda Raimundi-Ortiz (Orlando).
The gallery is named for a group of 101 women organized as the Council of 101.
Robert E. Brooker Sr. Grand Hall.
Farley Aguilar, artist. Two River County, 2015. Oil on canvas. Lent by the artist and Spinello Projects, Miami.
Cesar Cornejo, artist. Museumorphosis: Whitney Museum of Art, 2014. Digital image, aluminum, ceramic, and wood. Courtesy of the artist and Lucia de la Puente Art Gallery, Lima.
Miami-based artist Alex Trimino's tubular neon light installation is augmented with textiles.
Bhakti Baxter, artist. Circle Spiral for OMA (Relax your Gaze).
Mr. Crawford was joined by his partner Anthony Tortora in donating the nine-painting collection valued at more than $8 million, including works by Robert Motherwell, Helen Frankenthaler and Richard Diebenkorn.
J. Hyde Crawford – Anthony Tortora Collection.
Richard Diebenkorn, artist. Woman with Flower, 1960. Oil on Canvas. J. Hyde Crawford – Anthony Tortora Collection. Donated in memory of J. Hyde Crawford, Anthony Tortora and Mrs. Nelda Crawford, 2014.
Among the Galleries
Lockheed Martin Gallery.
Chie Fueki, artist. Owl (Coat of Arms), 2008. Acrylic and mixed media on mulberry paper on wood.
Chie Fueki, artist. Hope, 2011. Acrylic and mixed-media on paper-laid on board. Long-term loan from Dr. Robert B. Feldman.
Red Grooms' Los Aficiandos, a three-dimensional lithograph construction in a Plexiglas case.
Hugh & Jeanette McKean Gallery.
Nick Cave's mixed-media assemblage Soundsuit, 2011 is one of the gallery's focal points. In 2012, Cave told the Orlando Weekly, "I was thinking about, looking at, trying to find that element – as a black man, what does it feel like to feel discarded, viewed as less than, dismissed, devalued? That's what inspires this work. I'm spending time at flea markets and secondhand stores. You know, my resources are things that are discarded … Working with things that are sort of insignificant, and reintroducing them back into society's structure, and renegotiating how we respond and subconsciously think about our surroundings."
Soundsuit, 2011. Detail.
OMA is focused on building its American Contemporary Art collection.
American contemporary graphics.
Briarpatch Restaurant
252 North Park Avenue – Winter Park
With summer temperatures hitting 100F heat index, the Briarpatch's cold case made for a refreshing refuge.
Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens
633 Osceola Avenue – Winter Park www.polasek.org
The Polasek's sculpture garden pathway loops around the lawn facing the lake.
Pilgrim at the Eternal Gate (Detail), 1924. Cast, 1977.
Polasek's work has a particular classical appeal.
Craftsmen were installing what appears to be one of Polasek's bas-reliefs.
Polasek's Sower sculpture was awarded an Hon­or­able Men­tion at the spring 1913 Paris Salon
In 2000, Polasek was named a "Great Florid­ian" by the state of Florida; four years later, Polasek was inducted into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame.
Photography by Augustus Mayhew.

Augustus Mayhew is the author of Lost in Wonderland – Reflections on Palm Beach.