The Best Visual Art Exhibits Coming to the Sarasota Area This Year

The visual arts festival has started again. Did you miss your invitation? No sweating. The party continues.

Art museums and art groups across the region are once again exhibiting in the real world – and not just virtually. They started this spring and plan to keep it going for as long as possible. Here’s a look at what they have planned for the rest of 2021. Visit these exhibits while you can and don’t procrastinate.

The Ringling

“Hard Bodies: Contemporary Japanese Lacquer Sculpture.” Lacquer is an all-natural polymer. East Asian artists have been creating with it since Neolithic times, and western minds tend to classify their works in the “traditional Asian art” folder. This traveling exhibit from the Minneapolis Institute of Art breaks that cliché. It features 16 contemporary Japanese artists playing post-modern tricks with this ancient medium. You’ll see 30 lacquer sculptures – and you’ve never seen anything like it. Human and animal figures merge into abstract jet-black spots. Realistic snails crawl on stylized vases. A glittering, bejeweled idol depicts a cute, cartoony bear. It is the art of the wild imagination. That’s all you’ll see here. With no tradition in sight. Oct. 15-Jan. 21; Art Museum, Burning Wing. 5401 Bay Shore Rd., Sarasota; 359-5700;

“Rhodnie Désir: Conversations.” Désir is an African-American dancer and choreographer. His multimedia installation at the Ringling illustrates a cruel chapter in twisted history. She shows you that white slavers periodically forced their black captives to dance on the decks of their ships. Not for the slaves’ amusement, of course. The dance was the slavers’ cynical ploy to keep their human cargo healthy enough to sell. Dance as exploitation. Dance empty of joy. Désir uses video, light, paper sculpture and sound to reveal (and make people feel) the impact it had (and still has) on the culture of the African diaspora. 14 Nov-3 Apr; Art Museum, Monda Gallery. 5401 Bay Shore Rd., Sarasota; 359-5700;

Sarasota Center for the Arts

“Art Venti: Likely Realities.” Imagine, if you will, the Twilight Zone between abstraction and representation. Art Venti thrives in this artistic no man’s land. His paintings are abstract forms. They are also realistic representations of objects in space. (Trade secret: Venti crumples sheets of colored paper, arranges them over a light box, then paints what he sees.) These surreal, otherworldly views are the result. Venti lives in these “probable realities”. His paintings invite you to visit. Until October 2 at Sarasota Center for the Arts, 707 North Tamiami Trail, Sarasota; 365-2032;

Mike Zeck's cover art for Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars No. 1 is part of the

Ringling College of Art and Design

“POW! The comic art of Mike Zeck. Leonardo da Vinci painted Mona Lisa; Hans Holbein captured a portrait of King Henry VIII. Not too bad. But Mike Zeck’s artistic subjects include Captain America, The Hulk, The Punisher and Spider Man. In the world of comic book artists, Zeck is a certified maestro. (A Marvel maestro, currently. But he also worked for DC.) This exhibit features Zeck’s super-powered cover art. His work is bright and bold – without arty, arty gimmicks. This Ringling College graduate is the John Ford of comic book artists. Zeck serves the story first and doesn’t try to impress you. But he does it anyway. ‘Nuff said. Oct. 18-Dec. 10 at RCAD Stulberg Gallery, 1188 MLK Way, Sarasota; 359-7563;

A detail of

Selby Gardens / Historic Spanish Point

“See the invisible”. It sounds mystical, but it’s actually digital. We are talking about augmented reality (AR). In case you don’t know what I’m talking about, here’s a quick definition: virtual reality (VR) only exists in computer screens and glasses. It is a purely digital realm, separated from objective reality. AR is more of a marriage than a divorce. It overlays digital imagery on the real world – and that’s what you’ll see here. This augmented reality exhibition showcases the cutting-edge work of 12 major artists, including Ai Weiwei, Refik Anadol, El Anatsui and Pamela Rosenkranz. Their AR art will overlap with the reality of the historic Spanish Point campus (and 11 other botanical gardens around the planet). The experience is user-friendly. No computer degree required. Simply hold your smartphone or tablet. The screen becomes a magical window where dream and reality intertwine. Crystals wind around trees, bromeliads reveal doors to other dimensions. Using AR technology, you’ll see the artists’ inner visions. And that’s pretty cool. Sept. 25-Aug. 2022 at the historic Spanish Point Campus of the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, 337 North Tamiami Trail, Osprey;

Judith Linhares' 2010 work

Sarasota Museum of Art

Judith Linhares: The artist as curator. Indigenous cultures around the world see dreams as a doorway to creative ideas that the mind cannot grasp in the harsh light of day. Indigenous peoples of Australia speak of the power and revelations of “Dreamtime”. The art of Linhares taps into the same creative well. The archetypal visions in his paintings stem from his dream journals. These visions transcend mundane everyday experience – including the solitary sense of self. No man (or woman) is an island in Linhares’ paintings. His dreamlike art reveals the greatest continent of human connection. She paints a very clear picture of what unites us. Linhares’ artistic commitment is equally selfless – and extends far beyond his small island of ego. Linhares reached his artistic peak in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is a famous artist in this community. But Linhares is also famous for empowering other Bay Area artists. In addition to Linhares’ art, this exhibition will feature the work of five of the designers she has curated. They are also powerful dreamers. November 26 to April 2 at the Sarasota Art Museum, 1001 South Tamiami Trail, Sarasota;