Copyright Vladimir Kagan March 27, 2012
The Vero Beach Museum of Art
Vero Beach is hotbed of addicted golfers, tennis jocks and ferocious bridge players. It is located along a strip of the Atlantic Ocean half way between Palm Beach and Orlando (whichever airport you prefer). Politically conservative, extremely rich, aloof and in love with itself, its residents are mostly snowbirds, (a moniker given by Floridians to Northern refugees escaping the winter cold.) It is a bastion of gated communities. Within the walls you will find luxurious golf clubs, beach clubs and Condos and discreet residences. The little town of Vero Beach boasts a few quiet eateries, one or two art galleries and the usual tourist trappings. What you don't expect to find is a gem of a regional museum. Some twenty years ago, a group reprobate golfers opted for culture and financed the building of this enchanting museum.
Since its inception in 1991, the Vero Beach Museum of Art - a neo-modern building of elegant proportions, has been acclaimed as the principal art facility of its kind on the Treasure Coast. The museum features traveling national exhibits, lectures on humanities and the arts and live performances of all kind. In recent years an impressive sculpture garden has been added. Exhibits and events always draw a faithful crowd… The entire community has jumped on the bandwagon: the walls of the museum, (those not hung with art), are covered floor to ceiling with neat black plaques engrave with the names of hundreds of donors. (Trying to find your host’s name is akin to scouring the walls of the Vietnam Monument in Washington. D.C.) But if you're “gonna” be an upstanding member of Vero Beach society, your name had better be up there!
The Sculpted Tree made of wires sprouts a permanent spray of mist - in the Sculpture Garden
I was dragged (reluctantly), by my hostess to see this pride of Vero Beach’s culture scene. While I was fully prepared for a quick sprint through the exhibits and exit with a proverbial wrist-stamp, I was mesmerized and needed to be dragged out two hours later for a luncheon date.
There were three gallery exhibits, each featuring a unique art concept
The first: BEYOND REALITY Hyperrealism & American Culture - An assemblage of 17 paintings and sculptures, each depicting reality with more intensity than a photograph. You cannot help but marvel at the details that each work entails – compared to the slap-dash of modernist art, these works show the excruciating detail that the artist put into their work - it is mind boggling. The sculptures needed to be touched (not permitted) to assure that they were not real people. As a practical joke, the guard on duty took the same pose as Marc Sejan’s sculpture and was indistinguishable from the works on display. A few minutes later he walked over jovially to assure me that he was the real thing. The concept of super-realism is not new and many of the works date back to the 70’s and 80’s, though the origin go back as far as the 16th century. The exhibit gives you an awareness of the synergy between photography and art – the hidden beauty of everyday objects as seen through the artist’s eye.
In an adjacent gallery CYCLE OF CHANGE Treepile Paintings are the works of Tom Nakashima, nephew of George Nakashima the iconic furniture maker. The thread of continuity is evident as both artists use trees as their common denominator. However, while George carved and manipulated the raw material into elegant furniture, Tom replicates it with intricate details of snippets of newspaper, thousands of them, to recreate the forest as he sees it. What captivated him most were the piles of fallen trees, whether uprooted to make room in an orchard or for swaths of new Track Houses to be developed on the site. The message was clear to him and he painstakingly depicted these transitions in his work. (Not a bad evolution for an abstract artist!)
Tom Nakashima - Steward's Sticks, 1999, a collage of newspaper, ink and acrylic chalkline on canvas
Another of Nakashima's amazing collages
The third gallery features LIGHTPAINTINGS the creations of Stephen Knapp, an artist who has turned from brush and canvas to light and glass. It is a fascinating display of prismatic color shards projected on a wall from a single pinpoint spotlight. Mr. Knapp became fascinated with the reflections of stained glass windows in Gothic cathedrals and proceeded to interpret these with precision engineered, metallic coated glass mounted into meticulously located stainless steel brackets. The effect is magical… These amazing projections are best seen in a darkened room.
Stephen Knapp - Sarenata 2003 - 2008 - a huge wall to wall installation of prismatic color reflections
Viewers in the darkened gallery admiring the Stephen Knapp ligh refractions
A close-up detail of the meticulous placement of the shards of glass creating Knapp's light paintings
All three exhibits show the astute imprimatur of Jay Williams, the museum’s Curator of Collections and Exhibitions. All the artists represented are skilled interpreters of their crafts regardless of their media.
I am sending you all over South Florida to enjoy the treasures that await the curious visitor.
The Vero Beach Museum of Art
3001 River Park Drive
Vero Beach, Florida