By LENNIE BENNETT
Times Art Critic
In some ways, we can view the current climate in the area arts as the best of times and the worst of times. Three museums are in various stages of realization: The Tampa Museum of Art and the Salvador Dali Museum of Art, both existing institutions, are building bigger facilities, and the Chihuly Collection, an entirely new museum, will rise as part of the Arts Center expansion, the first devoted entirely to the glass artist.
But the economy is taking its toll on all arts organizations, most dramatically on the Gulf Coast Museum in Largo, which will close in January, only temporarily we hope, as it searches for a more viable and visible location.
Curators of all the museums here have planned many visual delights for us in the coming months, and a lovely balance permeates the lineup of exhibitions.
The Ringling Museum, for example, brings in a venerable cast of ancient Egyptian characters on loan from the equally venerable Brooklyn Museum, then follows that show with one by celebrated contemporary installation artist Janet Cardiff.
The Museum of Fine Arts' presentation of prints by Albrecht Durer, the great 16th century artist, will probably be the most visually beautiful and aesthetically important one around.
The Dali Museum continues a thematic exploration of its permanent collection but also gives us a long look at the late Wifredo Lam, a brilliant artist who is probably unfamiliar to many local viewers.
The Florida Museum of Photographic Arts is smaller than many galleries in other museums, yet it manages to mount compelling exhibitions that often extend dramatically our exposure to first-rate photography, such as examples by Chinese artists, one of the hottest markets in the art world right now.
The Leepa-Rattner Museum consistently makes meaningful connections between art and the times in which it was created with its thoughtfully organized exhibitions, along with having unapologetic fun with William Wegman's dogs.
The Contemporary Art Museum is the only one in our area dedicated to exhibiting important contemporary artists with shows that can challenge our notions of what art is, making us part of a national dialogue.
The Gulf Coast Museum of Art's final show is a retrospective of Christopher Still, affirming its founding mission, to showcase art by Florida artists, and he is one of our best.
Lennie Bennett can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8293.
. The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art
5401 Bay Shore Road, Sarasota (941) 359-5700; ringling.org
"Modern Masters of the Japanese Prints: Tradition and Transformation," through Jan. 4, 2009 These Japanese prints from the museum's collection date from the first half of the 20th century and feature major artists of the period.
"To Live Forever: Egyptian Treasures from the Brooklyn Museum," Oct. 18-Jan. 11, 2009 The show has more than 100 objects from the Brooklyn Museum, including mummies, coffins, stone sculpture, gold jewelry, precious amulets and sacred vessels.
"Fashioning Kimono: Art Deco and Modernism in Japan," Nov. 15-Feb. 8, 2009 Probably no other clothing earns the label "wearable work of art" than the kimono. This group comes from the renowned Montgomery Collection, accompanied by vintage photographs.
"Janet Cardiff," Jan. 31-April 5, 2009 Two of the best and best-known installations from the acclaimed audio-visual artist are The Forty-Part Motet and The Paradise Institute, which won a major prize at the 2000 Venice Biennale.
"Triumph of Marriage," Feb. 14-April 14, 2009 There is no better way to understand how past people lived than through their possessions: for example, a collection of painted chests from Tuscany made to celebrate marriages during the Renaissance.
"Treasures Rediscovered: Chinese Stone Sculpture from the Sackler Collections at Columbia University," Feb. 21-April 19, 2009 Stone devotional objects and architectural fragments represent major developments in Chinese religion and mortuary culture in the Han and Tang dynasties, about three centuries beginning in 2000 B.C.
"Picturing Eden: Photograph," May 9-Aug. 2, 2009 More than 150 photographs by national and international contemporary artists interpret paradise as a metaphor for disparate human conditions such as alienation and reconciliation.
"Language of the Nude, Four Centuries of Drawing the Human Body," May 3-July 26, 2009 Works from the Crocker Art Museum illustrate the nude's place in the artistic process and its role in physically linking ideas of the real and ideal in European art.
. Salvador Dali Museum
1000 Third St. S, St. Petersburg (727) 823-3767; salvadordalimuseum.org
"Women: Dali's View," through Wednesday Works from the permanent collection interpret Dali's use of the female image.
"Wifredo Lam in North America," Oct. 3-Jan. 10, 2009 A retrospective organized by the Haggerty Museum of Art, this exhibition features more than 60 works by the late, internationally celebrated Cuban-born artist on loan from major museums, galleries and private collections. Above, Lam's Femme aux cheveux longs, I (Woman with Long Hair, I), 1938.
"Myth in Dali's Art," Oct. 3-Jan. 10, 2009 Works from the permanent collection illustrate how Dali's fascination with symbols and mythic structures were worked into his paintings.
"Dali, Freud and Surrealism," Feb. 20-June 7, 2009 Dali, greatly influenced by the writings of Sigmund Freud, translated those theories into a visual language.
"VisualKulture.cat," February-August 2009 This exhibition features artists' books produced in Catalonia or involving Catalan collaborators, from Dali to Miro to contemporary artists.
. Tampa Museum of Art
2306 N Howard Ave., Tampa (813) 274-8130; tampamuseum.com
"It's Not Easy Being Green," through Sept. 28 The exhibition explores Earth-friendly, aesthetically pleasing utilitarian products and fine art with an environmental message.
"Site Matters: Proposed Installations for the New TMA," Oct. 4-Jan 3, 2009 An exhibition of the finalists in a program to create a site-specific work for the new Tampa Museum of Art, which is scheduled to open in about a year. The participating artists are Leslie Fry, Joe Griffith, and Robert Stackhouse and Carol Mickett, all based in Florida, and Maine sculptor Michael Shaughnessy. One or more of the designs will be commissioned for the new facility in 2010. At left, a drawing for Joe Griffith's proposed installation.
"Drawing in Space: The Peninsula Project, Sculpture by John Henry," Jan. 17-April 4, 2009 The ambitious project involves seven cities and museums, including the Tampa Museum of Art, as Henry creates a monumental sculpture for each. An exhibition documenting the entire project, in conjunction with the installation of Tampa's sculpture, consists of small-scale models of all seven sculptures, models of other work, drawings, photographs and a film.
"Bit, Byte, Dot, Spot: Post-digital Art," April 18-July 11, 2009 This student exhibition shows art created using digital technology.
. Florida Museum of Photographic Arts
200 N Tampa St., Tampa (813) 221-2222; fmopa.org
"Graciela Iturbide: The Spirits of the Earth," opens today, through Nov. 8 Mexican artist Graciela Iturbide is an influential Latin American photographer who captures the spirit of her subjects while documenting the reality of their lives. Iturbide's Mujer Angel, a photogravure, is shown below.
"Just Suppose: Works by Jerry Uelsmann & Maggie Taylor," opens today, through Oct. 24 Working with a similar aesthetic of collaging images to produce a single print, Jerry Uelsmann and Maggie Taylor's photographs produce very different results. This is a portion of the "Just Suppose" exhibition; a larger component will be on view at Hillsborough Community College's Ybor City campus art gallery.
"Twice Exposed: Photographic & Print Works from the Permanent Collection of the USF Contemporary Art Museum," Nov. 20-Jan. 10, 2009 (tentative) Over the years, Graphicstudio has amassed a formidable portfolio of collaborations between distinguished artists and master printers. This show comprises explorations in photographic prints.
"NFL History from Getty Images," Jan. 22-Feb. 28, 2009 More than 30 historic photographs from the Getty Images archives will celebrate the Feb. 1 Super Bowl in Tampa.
"Contemporary Chinese Photography," March 12-May 9, 2009 Contemporary Chinese art is the current darling of the art market, so this showing of photographer and architect Chen Jiagang's work is especially timely.
"The North American Indian from the Drapkin Collection," May 21-July 25, 2009 The North American Indian by Edward S. Curtis was issued in a limited edition from 1907-30, controversial then and now for its depictions, often fictionalized, of the American Indian. But its influence on our perceptions of that culture through the decades, and the fineness of the work itself, is undeniable.
. Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art
600 Klosterman Road, Tarpon Springs (727) 712-5762; spcollege.edu/museum
"Mel Finkelstein: Playing a Hunch," through Oct. 19 The New York photographer documented high and low city life from the 1950s through the 1980s for several newspapers.
"Color Woodblock Prints: Selections from the Two Red Roses Foundation," Nov. 2-Jan 4, 2009 Color woodblock prints from the early decades of the 20th century by artists such as Arthur Wesley Dow, Margaret Jordan Patterson and Edna Boies Hopkins link the old process to the Arts and Crafts movement with new use of design and color.
"Works on Paper by Henry McBride," Nov. 2-Jan. 4, 2009 The Henry McBride Foundation, formed in 2001, honors the American art critic (1867-1962) who emerged after the 1913 Armory Show in New York as a champion of the modernist movement. He studied art but did not pursue it professionally. The exhibit includes a collection of drawings done when McBride was a young man along with photos and ephemera documenting his career and a modernist piece by dada artist Marcel Duchamp.
"It's a Dog's Life: Photographs by William Wegman," Jan. 18-April 12, 2009 The show features the artist's ever-popular documentations of his beloved pets.
"Sanctuary: Photographs by Anna Tomczak," Jan. 18-April 12, 2009 Tomczak uses a large-scale Polaroid camera to create lyrical, mysterious photographic images.
"Florida Artist Group: 59th Annual Exhibition," May 3-July 19, 2009
. Museum of Fine Arts
255 Beach Drive NE, St. Petersburg (727) 896-2667; fine-arts.org
"Theater in Ancient Art: The William Knight Zewadski Collection," through March 2009 Antiquities dating from the sixth century B.C. to the fourth century A.D. celebrate the theater tradition in Greek, Roman and Etruscan art and culture.
"Ansel Adams and the American West," through Nov. 30 The exhibit shows the American West as interpreted by a beloved and revered photographer.
"Art, Friendships, and the New York School: The Benjamin Gollay Collection," through Sept. 28 Attorney Benjamin Gollay assembled this collection of important artists of the mid-century New York School through his friendship with them.
"When Gold Blossoms: Indian Jewelry from the Susan L. Beningson Collection," through Dec. 28 The craftsmanship and beauty of Indian jewelry from the 17th through 19th centuries is seen in rings, anklets, earrings, hair pendants, jeweled crowns and ivory combs crafted from precious stones.
"Beauty in Common Things: American Arts & Crafts Pottery from the Two Red Roses Foundation," Oct. 4-Feb. 15, 2009 This important exhibition both showcases examples by Rookwood, Grueby, Newcomb College, Marblehead, Teco, Saturday Evening Girls and Overbeck and puts them in the context of social issues in the early 20th century.
"Albrecht Durer: Art in Transition, Masterpieces from the Graphic Collection of the Hessian State Museum," Jan. 17, 2009-April 12, 2009 Durer is perhaps the greatest artist of the northern Renaissance, known primarily for his prints, 100 of which are in this exhibition including the engraving Adam and Eve, above.
“More Than Words: Illustrated Letters from the Archives of American Art," May 9-July 19, 2009 Fifty-eight hand-illustrated letters include those from artists Alexander Calder, Thomas Eakins, Andy Warhol and Andrew Wyeth.
. University of South Florida Contemporary Art Museum
4202 E Fowler Ave., Tampa (813) 974-2849; usfcam.usf.edu
"Audience & Avatar," Oct. 24-Dec. 13 The exhibition includes multiple artists and a wide range of media — digital painting, digital photography, photography, video, custom self-running games and sculpture — to explore virtual vs. real space, games and art. At right, a digital work by Eva and Franco Mattes.
"Brody Condon: Modifications," Oct. 24-Dec. 13 The New York artist uses game development tools, online games, sculpture, live performers and found footage to blur the boundary between fantasy and reality. For Modifications he re-imagines late medieval religious paintings as self-running games simultaneously implying and denying interaction.
"Werner Reiterer: Raw Loop," Jan. 9-March 7, 2009 The first major U.S. exhibition of the works of the Austrian artist includes drawings and sculptures, many made for the exhibition.
"Faculty Focus: Florida Friendly," Jan. 9-March 7, 2009 Faculty Focus highlights three artists on the studio faculty from the USF School of Art & Art History: Neil Bender, Elisabeth Condon, Caesar Cornejo.
"Ninth Annual Members' Show," Aug. 2-Sept. 5, 2009
. Gulf Coast Museum of Art
12211 Walsingham Road, Largo (727) 518-6833; gulfcoastmuseum.org
"Victoria Block: Narrations," through Sept. 27 The show encompasses lyrical landscapes in paint and pastels, plus ceramics and handmade books.
"Christopher Still: Coming Home," Oct. 11-Jan. 25, 2009 Some of the artist's most well-known works — murals in the State House of Representatives, for example — couldn't be lent for this mid-career retrospective, but plenty of other gorgeous paintings will be here. Still is often called a Florida artist, but his technique is pure Renaissance.