Robert Huff has been working on his art for a long time, that is obvious. There is no funny business here, no conceptual conceits, no sloppy composition. The new works hanging at the Carol Jazzar Gallery are not just beautiful, they are so well crafted as to make so much other contemporary art around look, well, amateur.
Huff’s sculptural bent is clear in his art (he also has a large, welded bronze sculpture in the middle of the gallery, so this is no secret). He works with wood and acrylic to come up with the paintings that make up his latest exhibit, “Byways.” In the best piece in show, on the left wall, is such a painting, but with a wooden grid supporting it from behind, revealing the “structure” of the piece – it could be either a sculpture or a painting, your choice.
Huff collages bits of wood – of various origins such as plywood – with painted images, creating very textured pieces. The images, part of the lineage of his latest series, are evocative of coal mining in Appalachia. Black mounds are gouged out of the earth, with small, bright spots of paint signifying the lights on a coal-miners helmet, or of the rare spot of sun maybe glimpsed from the depths of the coal mine.
These are profound statements, without being heavy handed. The environmental destruction wreaked by these excavations is harsh and real, but Huff’s hand is still delicate, with small contrasts adding to the complexity of the whole. It’s no surprise that Huff divides his time between Miami (and the expanse of the Everglades) and the mountains of Virginia and Kentucky. In all those majestic landscapes, the prices they are paying for our extreme interventions are obvious, yet they are still not completely ruined. In these lovely pieces from Huff, all hope is not lost.
“Byways” by Robert Huff runs through Dec. 9 at the Carol Jazzar Gallery, 158 N.W. 91st St., Miami; 305-490-6906; www.cjazzart.com.