Once a year I make it a point to plop a friend (and art aficionado) into my car and drive north up the dreaded I-95 to Fort Lauderdale’s NSU Museum. Under the ultra capable guide of Director and Chief Curator Bonnie Clearwater (since 2013), this museum outpost has leaped into some serious deep waters of the thoughtful with ongoing selections of post World War II exhibitions. This year is no exception. Before you pack up your belongings to head up north for the summer, take a break for a day trip. It will not disappoint.
(If you have a short attention span: Don’t miss Bonnie Clearwater’s thoughts at end of article.)
I’m almost reticent to post photographs of the exhibition by Anselm Kiefer, the breadth of his work, the detail, the usage of materials, the sheer enormity of many pieces can easily get lost in the tiny images. Like most of life, you have to show up. Kickstarting the museum’s "Regeneration Series: Anselm Kiefer" from the Hall Collection will be on view until Sept. 10. An amalgam of fifty pieces ranging from artist books, works on paper, paintings, and sculptures (1969 -2013) explores the depth of WWII’s impact on the generation following the war. A contemporary artist of great renown, Kiefer dissects the “identity and the convergence of history and mythology,” the NSU museum informs.
It may be of some import to note that concurrently MASS MoCA (North Adams, Mass.) is exhibiting Kiefer (through 2025) as well. Together the two institutions house the most comprehensive showing of Kiefer’s work from the Hall Art Foundation collection.
On Thursday, April 20, 6 p.m. Kabbalah instructor and scholar Chaim Solomon will lecture on "Kabbalah, Principles in the Works of Anselm Kiefer." (RSVP HERE)
Closing on Sunday, April 23 is the exhibition of "Francesco Clemente: Dormiveglia." Concentrating on that contemplative state between dreams and reality, his pieces capturing a middle ground of the fantastic and factual that can make up greater moments of creative clarity. Often paired in exhibition with Anselm Kiefer (and other artists of the time), they reflect their generational pull on the post war artistic sense and sensibility. I found an in interesting article ("Pressure Points" by critic Kay Larson) from 1982 in New York Magazine discussing at length an early SoHo show including these now legendary creative souls, should you require background information: file:///.file/id=6571367.9973431
A head wrench away is L.A. contemporary photographer Catherine Opie, her images of Elizabeth Taylor’s worldly trappings and ephemera taken on site in Taylor’s home on 700 Nimes Road in Bel Air (on view until June 18). Opie distinguishes the possessions as a “relationship to what is human” rather than celebrity.
Switching gears yet again, wander into the world of Afro-Cuban traditions with Cuban/Miamian José Bedia. Spiritual beliefs are revisited from Bedia’s perspective and experiences. A first exhibition for drawings he created in Africa along with his stunning "Ogun (the spirit of iron) Series," large paintings on paper from 1992.
If you still have a few unabsorbed brain cells vacant, take in "David Levinthal: Recent Acquisitions," a commentary of American popular culture, the persuasiveness of myth in our current culture.
Wait. There’s more. "Samson Kambalu: Nyau Cinema" (until April 23). Kambalu is a Malawian artist living in London exhibiting his 12 most recent films. Snippets of moments capture our imagination as he “challenges canonical ideas about the history of ideas, art and religion while exploring issues of identity and freedom of expression” utilizing Malawian culture as a vehicle.
You have until Oct. 22 to round out the NSU experience with "William J. Glackens: A Modernist in the Making," paintings of every day life in Paris and New York during the nineteenth and twentieth century. The fluidity of his paintings in oil and watercolor gambol through the exhibition, leaving you with a fresh palette to re-enter the world outside a mind altering edifice.
The moment you enter a museum environment, one’s every day-ness melts away, opening up space to fill with bigger thoughts, other thoughts, larger vistas. All normal sensations are removed. Re-emerge to the sounds of vehicles, birds, loud voices, machines….you see and hear with with a fresh eye and refreshed senses.
Don't take my word for it. Curator/Director Bonnie Clearwater is more eloquent:
IS: Does your recent choice of exhibitions now seem more compelling than ever as our transmogrifying world plays out in an ever expanding loop of both forward and backward motion. History appears more poignant than ever, though history always needed to be referred to as relevant no matter how far in the past. Nature is made of pattern, is there a repetitive nature to chaos as you sift through post WWII art commentary?
BC:“As an art historian, my approach to art has always been based on studying works within the context of the time they were created and as they connect with our present. Our current exhibition “Regeneration Series: Anselm Kiefer from the Hall Collection," reinforces the timelessness and universal message of creation, destruction and recreation.
Exhibitions such as last fall's "Belief + Doubt," which focused on the influence of the Pictures Generation artists on the contemporary art in the collection of Francie Bishop Good and David Horvitz (promised gift to NSU Art Museum) and the Kiefer show, encourage viewers to critically analyze the underlying ideologies of all visual culture. The exhibition "Some Aesthetic Decisions: A Centennial Celebration of Marcel Duchamp's Fountain," (May - September, 2017), presents a compelling investigation into the very nature of art, while the exhibition of Malawi-born Samson Kambalu's "Nyau Cinema'" reveals how his world view was shaped by his childhood in a small African village.”
IS: How do the myriad current NSU exhibitions play off each other to form a thoughtful post museum experience?
BC: “From discussions with visitors, I have been delighted to discover how truly engaged they are with the exhibitions and stimulated to ponder the big issues underlying the exhibitions we are organizing. This includes the thousands of school children who participate in our Museum on the Move program. The students connect the works they are seeing with subjects they are studying, such as World War II, the Holocaust, and the Industrial Revolution and are truly moved with compassion and empathy as when they viewed films by Ana Mendieta we presented last year and other works that address the human condition. And, then there is the visceral response to the art itself that is not possible to experience on the Internet, such as turning a corner into a gallery and confronting an enormous Kiefer painting that stops both children and adults in their tracks, the immersion into a film exhibition, the juxtaposition of various works of art that sparks a conversation, and the intimacy of connecting with the mind and vision of artists through their art works. Through our public programs (many of which are filmed and accessible on the museum's website nsuartmuseum.org), we provide opportunities for cross disciplinary discussion based on the works on view. As part of Nova Southeastern University, one of the foremost research institutions in the nation, the museum emphasizes original research with its various research centers and publishes in-depth catalogues for its exhibitions that make a lasting contribution to art history.”
Find out more at: NSU Museum
One East Las Olas Boulevard, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301
954-525-5500 / nsuartmuseum.org/museum/about-the-museum/