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Culture 2 Go

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Chad Oppenheim’s COR condo complex, Miami

The Johns/Motherwell show, when we first visited, actually felt a bit underwhelming: When we think of Johns, we think of the usual stuff: dynamic statement pieces that assault the senses with absurdity and color; in this show, though, the selected pieces are etchings and prints produced for publication with a series of essays by Samuel Beckett. The volume, called Foirades/Fizzles contains essays that are dark and brooding, in typical Beckett fashion, and the accompanying Johns pieces – a handful of colorful lithos and a series of etchings featuring numbers, one of Johns’ favorite subjects – rather reserved. But when was the last time you got up close and really looked at a Johns piece and really examined it? Probably never, because you didn’t have to – the larger-than-life image itself was overwhelming and active. You could appreciate from afar. These smaller number studies force you to examine all of the scratches and scrapes and lines and gradations, making you actually think about the process that went into creating them. The Motherwell pieces, likewise, correspond to a literary work, “El Negro Motherwell,” a poem by Spanish poet Rafael Alberti. By contrast to the Johns pieces on display in the first room, the Motherwell works feel a little heavy. But once you start reading the lines of poetry that accompany each work, they’re completely fascinating, dark and engrossing. It’s worth checking out, even if only to take your mind off of your frenzied holiday preparations for a little while. (through Dec. 23, Cornell Fine Arts Museum, Rollins College, Winter Park, $5, www.rollins.edu/cfam)

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