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Reference works

"Heart and Mind: The Art of Bo Breguet and Volf Roitman" at the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art has been set up as a show of contrasts, the spontaneous, emotional work of Breguet playing off the geometric cerebrations of Roitman.

But it's the similarities that seem more apparent: the use of bright colors, often set in relief against black backgrounds, and the love of simplified forms.

French-born Breguet is self-taught, and his paintings have a naivete that is part of that genre, along with a pop art sensibility that calls to mind Peter Max. Most of the works on view are acrylic paintings on handmade black Arches paper. His figures, flat with little concern for perspective or anatomical correctness, fit together like puzzle pieces with a cut-and-paste quality. Lined up along the wall, they look as if a fantastical circus train's doors have been opened, spilling out a panoply of animals and people. Except that the giraffe is pink and has the voluptuous curves of a nude woman, the man striding in boots has a dog's head.

In Magnifique, a man, whose torso is shaped like a big pink heart, is being snuggled by a giant dove, so overpowering as to look as if the fellow could be suffocated by this living feather bed. In Puzzazz, a purple elephant is the size of a terrier while a cat draped over a chair back is as big as a horse. So you have some cute anthropomorphic elments combined with a dose of something more sinister. Call it a good day on the island of Dr. Moreau.

Uruguayan artist Roitman is a member of MADI _ no one is quite sure what the letters stand for _ a small but enduring artistic movement founded in Argentina by Carmelo Arden Quin in the 1940s dedicated to nonrepresentational art. Roitman's geometric shapes that he fashions into mobiles, sculptures, paper collages and drawings call to mind the work of Alexander Calder, Joan Miro, Henri Matisse, Louise Nevelson and Piet Mondrian. They're supposed to be intellectual, but they're fun more than anything, his installations especially so, and without any emotional subtext.

What is MADI? is sculpture as rhetorical question. A large black circle mounted on the wall with a square mounted inside it comes to life, breaking apart, the square flapping open in primary-colored triangles to reveal colorful circles. Nearby, a large "flower" swoons and sways to New Age music.

He takes metal clippers to steel with the same ease that he applies scissors to paper in creating geometric shapes with punched-out embellishments. Roitman's large steel forms in bright colors, incidentally, are being used on the facade of a new museum in Dallas, opening in February, devoted to MADI.

Most of the way we process new experiences is by comparing them to experiences we've already had. Looking at art is similar _ we compare one painter or sculptor to another. Great art generates those references but is original enough, and complete enough, to transcend comparisons.

Viewers of this show will probably find themselves doing a lot of referencing to other art, which is why the work here is not groundbreaking. But both Breguet and Roitman are inventive, entertaining and accessible: not great stars, but good company.

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