Jaume Plensa: Human Landscape. Spanish sculptor Plensa is best known to Americans as the creator of the irreverent and popular Crown Fountain in Chicago’s Millennium Park, where 50-foot glass towers display videos of Chicagoans whose pursed lips spout water into a reflecting pool. Following the exhibition’s debut at the Cheekwood Botanical Garden and Museum of Art in Nashville, the largest U.S. survey to date of Plensa’s work travels to the Tampa Museum of Art. Made from metal and glass as well as sound, video, light and water, his sculptures and public art often take the shape of the human body, sometimes fashioned out of text and symbols. Look for dramatic, life-sized-and-larger figures to spill out of the museum and into the surrounding Curtis Hixon Park — no doubt inspiring many an art selfie. Inside the museum, installation, sculpture and works on paper offer additional insights into Plensa’s aesthetic. Jan. 24-May 15, Tampa Museum of Art, 120 W Gasparilla Plaza, Tampa, 813-274-8130, tampamuseum.org.
Ink, Silk and Gold: Islamic Art from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Just as the U.S. struggles more than ever with its relationship with Islam, at home and abroad, an exhibition celebrating one of the world’s richest aesthetic traditions debuts at the Ringling. On loan from Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, Ink, Silk and Gold features more than 100 objects dating from the 8th century — when Islamic culture flourished in the Middle East while Europe muddled through the “dark ages” — to the 21st century. Illuminated manuscripts, textiles, metalwork, ceramics and other items evidence the trademark complexity and elegance of Islamic art practices, both religious and secular. As well as offering an introduction to the global culture’s history, the exhibition dispels misconceptions about Islamic arts, e.g., that the figure is prohibited throughout. Feb. 5-May 1, John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, 5401 Bay Shore Road, Tampa, 941-359-5700, ringling.org.
Contemplating Character: Portrait Drawings and Oil Sketches from Jacques Louis David to Lucian Freud. This traveling exhibition features more than 150 portrait drawings, watercolors and oil sketches by artists including Edgar Degas, Aubrey Beardsley and R. Crumb, as well as David and Freud. Spanning the movements of 19th and 20th century art, the exhibition touches on neoclassical, realist, post-impressionist and surrealist styles; subjects range from the exalted to the everyday — and, in many cases, the artist him- or herself. Quiet masterpieces are hidden among the parade of personalities, from Dora Maar’s “Self-Portrait Cut in Two by a Razor” to Freud’s pastel rendition of his aging mother. All are drawn from the personal collection of retired curator Robert Flynn Johnson. Feb. 13-May 29, Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, 255 Beach Dr NE, St. Pete, 727-896-2667, fine-arts.org.
Also on the radar…
Tracy Midulla Reller: Second Seer. A solo exhibition for Reller, well-known to locals as the artistic director of Tempus Projects art space, features recent mixed media prints on themes of intimacy and anxiety. Through Jan. 29, HCC Ybor School of Visual and Performing Arts Gallery, Palm Ave at 15th St, Tampa, 813-253-7674, hccfl.edu/yc/art-gallery.aspx.
Gohar Dashti: Selected Works. Iranian photographer Dashti’s staged images invite viewers to consider the effects of decades of conflict in the Middle East on the human psyche. Through June 1, Florida Museum of Photographic Arts, 400 N Ashley Drive, Cube 200, Tampa, 813-221-2222, fmopa.org.
Kara Walker: Harper’s Pictorial History of the Civil War (Annotated). On loan from the Cornell Fine Arts Museum at Rollins College, this portfolio of prints by Walker injects a bracing critique of race relations into the historic pages of Harper’s Weekly. Jan. 19-Mar. 3, HCC Dale Mabry Gallery 221, 4001 W Tampa Bay Blvd, Tampa, 813-253-7386, hccfl.edu/gallery221.
Disney and Dalí: Architects of the Imagination. The Dalí Museum’s latest genius-duo exhibition juxtaposes the Spanish surrealist with the creator of Mickey Mouse. Born three years apart, the pair were real-life friends and aspiring collaborators. Guest curated by filmmaker Ted Nicolaou. Jan. 23-June 12, Dalí Museum, One Dalí Boulevard, St. Petersburg, 727-823-3767, thedali.org.
Samuel Bak: A Retrospective. Eighty-two-year-old Bak, who began making art as a child in the Vilna Ghetto during the Holocaust, infuses earthy surrealist paintings with existential gravity and hope. Feb. 20-July 10, Florida Holocaust Museum, 55 5th Street S, St. Petersburg, 727-820-0100, flholocaustmuseum.org.
Exquisite Porch. For a swampland twist on the historic surrealist game Exquisite Corpse — in which participants finish each other’s drawings without being able to see all of the original — artists from Florida and NYC team up to conjure visions of Florida wildlife. Mar. 12-May 1, Morean Arts Center, 719 Central Ave, St. Petersburg, 727-822-7872, moreanartscenter.org.