Citrus trove

Here's another example of turning lemons into lemonade: Karen Carasik and Kim Sumner of Comma Gallery cast about for entries to an invitational citrus show months ago, and ended up turning the enterprise into a three-part marathon.

To appreciate the undertaking, it helps to understand that Celebrating Citrus: Florida Style refers to the entire deal, three shows coming in succession, about a month apart, and closing on June 5.

Part one, Celebrating Citrus: A Taste, debuted March 10 and continues through April 10. Then comes Celebrating Citrus: Still Lifes (reception 6 p.m.-9 p.m. April 10); and the finale, Celebrating Citrus: The Landscape (6 p.m.-9 p.m. May 12).

A visit to Comma last week proved A Taste to be a trove of local artists' interpretations in various media (paintings, collages, photographs), styles, sizes and prices. Releases from the gallery state the motivating statistics: "Florida citrus is a $9 billion industry and leads the world in grapefruit production," and "12,000 Florida citrus growers cultivate approximately 100 million citrus trees on more than 748,000 acres of land. More than 90,000 other people also work in the citrus industry or in related business."

Comma's space on Virginia Avenue is quite humble, and yet they typically turn out dazzling shows sans massive square footage, due in large part to the polished eye of the owners. A Taste, as a collection, isn't quite so finished, but it's easy to overlook if you know how many shows and special events have moved in and out of Comma since the beginning of the year. Still sharing the main gallery space is mixed-media tribal art by the accomplished Grady Kimsey, and evidence of Patrick McGrath's recent exhibit is still there, including a citrus-related crossover, "Filia e Transgénica (Children of Genetic Modification)."

With McGrath's blend of old-master style made contemporary by iconic skewering of corporate culture, Carasik considers it one of the edgier works on display, along with "Hard Times," a stark painting of a one-footed crow perched on an orange against a regal blue background, by John Wilton. The black-and-white ink drawing by Jennifer Myers-Kirton, "Picking Time," captures that exquisite moment when a ripe piece of fruit falls away from the tree with just a tug of the cultivator's hand. Carl Knickerbocker, self-identified "urban primitive" painter, rightfully makes his Comma debut with several pieces; as his fans know well, the artist's orange icons have filled his canvases for years.

The many different angles at which the artists come to the subject are interesting to study, and they all speak to life in Florida: people, places and things. The atmosphere is so laid-back at Comma, just drop by anytime and browse (call ahead to make sure someone's there) before April 10, when the next show arrives, so you can appreciate the evolution. And the work is priced to sell, really. (Don't leave until you've talked to Carasik yourself.)

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