Museum of Florida Art turns a gloriously unsparing eye on our state

DeLand museum's fall season presents beautiful but grim work by Purvis Young, Barbara Neijna, Jim Jipson and Kyle

Detail of Kyle's "Cerulean Rain"
Detail of Kyle's "Cerulean Rain"

A sojourn to leafy, Stetsonian DeLand yields gravid visions, a welcome contrast to Orlando's vapid summer milieu. You can escape our city's hot asphalt and enjoy sidewalk life in this college town, while bracing for some serious contemplation at the Museum of Florida Art. The four artists exhibited in MOFA's fall season make beautiful work full of anger, decay and catastrophe. Purvis Young's paintings are deliciously earthy and primitive, contrasting with Barbara Neijna's slick color photographs of Florida. Upstairs, mononymic homeboy Kyle is the star of this show, his pretty canvases paired with Jim Jipson's chthonic photographs.

Before street artists were cool, Young was painting his native Liberty City on Masonite, cardboard and anything else he could get his hands on. Now highly regarded, his work is collected in museums from Miami to New York. The rows of quick, brushy figures in 1992's "Funeral Procession" allude to cave paintings, while "Pregnant Lady" recalls an Egyptian tomb painting. The sense of history lends an optimism and boundless energy to Young's work, despite the grim street narrative running through its core.

Not so with Miami photographer Neijna's Survival Series. These six gigantic photos of a horrific Florida are shiny, yet chilling beyond redemption: rotting animal carcasses; a landscape of muddy discarded bottles; pickers working through a trash pile; and the sickly green tint of much of our state's fresh water. Revulsion and pessimism may be the result, but Neijna's art does what art does best: document. It's hard work, looking at these, and only for the strong.

Upstairs, Maitland artist Kyle's bright, colorful paintings are a reward for the hard work downstairs … yet these too are catastrophes. But at least they're fictional, and it's a joyful chaos they convey. "Bedlam," the show's meticulously painted centerpiece, combines Apollo missions with Star Wars and a great manga "FBOOM" in a swirl of action cartoons. "Cammo," an excellent installation, is missing its hero; his camping equipment, arrayed under a vaguely military apparatus and surrounded by ersatz Southern literature, suggests a bubba on the run.

Paired with Kyle in the upstairs exhibition is Pensacola's Jim Jipson. His three black boxes house random items subjected to tiny forces. Some rotate slowly, others are blown by fans; visible through ground-glass windows, they were photographed as they moved. An onion's skin flays outward, captured once as innocuous wisps, then as a woman bending over the carcass of a man. A wraith-like silhouette is burned into translucent newspaper clippings. The ghostly otherness of these magnified, miniscule underworlds sends the viewer down a road of dark contemplation about what is real and what is imagined.

Josh Garrick, curator of Kyle and Jipson's Related Alternatives, suggests the theme of "mad science" for their work, and it fits; downstairs, drop the "science" and partake of the anger seething under Young's surface and blaring from Neijna's C-prints. If you need to jar a friend out of a heat-fevered stupor, bring them to DeLand to sober up fast.

From the Outside In: Purvis Young
Survival Series: Barbara Neijna
Related Alternatives: Kyle and Jim Jipson

through Nov. 25
Museum of Florida Art
600 N. Woodland Blvd., DeLand

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