The notion of “season” is starting to feel like old news in the local visual arts scene. We live in a year-round arts community; our museums and galleries try to pull in visitors from January through December. That being said, a horde of seasonal residents and tourists descend on Sarasota every fall. Our visual arts venues are fully aware of this fact — and schedule some of their most significant exhibits accordingly. Here are five of the most visionary art shows opening before the year’s end.
Yesterday’s battlefields become today’s neighborhoods. “Aftermath: The Fallout of War” reveals war’s lingering impact on the civilians of the Middle East, in this exhibition at The Ringling. Twelve international photographers confront you with 90 searing images. A Syrian refugee, waiting for a ride in a desert landscape scattered with flattened water bottles. Two women, strolling through Tripoli, Libya — a scene framed by a gaping bullet hole in a window of a Gaddafi-era domestic spy office. Against the background of a pulverized apartment block, a bright-eyed girl in a Barbie T-shirt extends her arms in a carefree gesture in Beirut, Lebanon. A flock of goats graze in the wastelands surrounding a devastated concrete building in Kabul, Afghanistan. Wars come and go, but human life stubbornly goes on. Organized by the Harn Museum of Art at the University of Florida, this powerful traveling exhibition reminds us of the cost. Oct. 15-Jan. 21 at The Ringling, 5401 Bay Shore Road, Sarasota; 941-359-5700; ringling.org.
“Warren Reinecker: General Motors Automotive Designer” offers a 42-year retrospective of the late graphic designer’s work for GM’s Graphic Design Studio. This traveling exhibit makes its first stop at Ringling College. Reinecker specialized in the small stuff: the tiny details of automotive visual identity. The exhibit gets into that, with a breakdown of his evolving emblems for the Oldsmobile Toronado and other examples. Practical, unromantic ephemera on a small scale. But Reinecker also dreamed big in the romantic realms of fantasy and science fiction. This exhibit gets into that, too. His masterfully rendered imaginary vehicles include a futuristic, three-wheeled Eldorado, Cadillac; a teardrop limousine on an alien world (admired by both humans and aliens); and a massive, two-wheeled probe in a lunar landscape. Reinecker’s extrapolations approach the technical sophistication of futurist Syd Mead. His cars of tomorrow are cool to look at, but you also get the feeling they’d actually work. Reception: Oct. 20, 5-7 p.m.; Oct. 17-Dec. 8 at Lois and David Stulberg Gallery, Ringling College, 2700 N. Tamiami Trail; 941-359-7563; ringling.edu/campus-galleries
“Slow Turbulence: Abhidnya Ghuge” raises a colorfully subversive protest against our throwaway consumer society at Art Center Sarasota. Ghuge will construct her site-specific installation with one of the most disposable products imaginable — the paper plate. Use it once — then lose it forever. That’s what it’s for! But this artist has other plans. She’ll use up to 6,000 paper plates to create her installation. Using her own woodcarving, she’ll turn these plates into unique woodblock prints — lovingly sealed with acrylic polymer. Once assembled together, the plates will become an organic form inviting viewer interaction. Beautiful to look at. And no longer disposable. Opening reception: Oct. 19, 5-7 p.m.; Continues through Dec. 1, at Art Center Sarasota, 707 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota; 941-365-2032; artsarasota.org
“Small is Beautiful: Miniatures and Microcosms” showcases small-scale paintings by significant contemporary artists at Allyn Gallup Contemporary Art. Some think small to begin with: Josette Urso’s intricate mandalas are designed to draw you into a pocket universe. Others, like Dolores Coe, Amer Kobaslija, Leslie Lerner, Bruce Marsh and Craig Rubadoux, prefer the sprawling possibilities of heroically sized expression. When one of these artists thinks small, it’s a lot like a long-distance novelist writing short stories. Downsizing art’s scale subtly changes its nature. Marsh’s meticulously observed landscapes take on a looser, in-the-moment quality; Lerner’s intricate parables resolve to crystal clarity. As every short story writer knows, when your words are few, each word has got to count. The same applies to brushstrokes. Opening reception: Nov. 3, 5.30-7.30 p.m.; Continues through Dec. 29 at Allyn Gallup Contemporary Art, 1288 N. Palm Ave, Sarasota; 941-366-2454; allyngallup.com
“Zimoun” features the creations of the acclaimed Swiss artist at Alfstad& Contemporary. That’s easy enough to say; describing his work isn’t. Zimoun colors outside the lines of visual art. His sound installations dance and sing. Literally. The artist assembles them from a hodgepodge of industrial detritus, including plastic bags, cardboard containers — and an audio-visual club’s worth of motors, wires, microphones and speakers. If that sounds whimsically random, I’m giving the wrong impression. Zimoun builds his work on a strong mathematical foundation: he arranges his consumer cast-offs in Cartesian grids and precisely ordered structures. For this exhibit, he’ll be creating a new, site-specific installation (employing a wall of 200 humming, vibrating, stacked boxes) and releasing two limited editions of first-time prints. Reception: Dec. 3, 5:30-8 p.m.; Nov. 3-Dec. 22, at Alfstad& Contemporary, 1419 Fifth St., Sarasota; 941-366-6400; alfstadand.com