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Dueling Art Lectures

Two notable figures in the art world, African-American painter Sam Gilliam and Julian Zugazagoitia, director of El Museo del Barrio, deliver separate lectures respectively at the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art and Tampa Museum of Art, at 2 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 17.

The conflicting lectures pertain directly to exhibits taking place at each museum.

Gilliam is among seven national artists who created work at Berghoff-Cowden Editions in Tampa between 1988 and 1997. Their prints are collected in the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art's exhibit Expanding Expressions: Contemporary Prints from the Dorothy Mitchell Collection. Gilliam, who's renowned for his paintings, discusses his creative process for these prints, from inspiration to technique.

Tampa Museum of Art currently hosts the national touring exhibit Voces y Visiones: Highlights from El Museo del Barrio's Permanent Collection. The show, culled from El Museo's rich holdings of more than 6,500 objects, totals 100 varied works, ranging from pre-Columbian artifacts to contemporary pieces by Latino artists and artists from Puerto Rico, the Caribbean, Mexico, and Central and South America. Zugazagoitia, who wrote the preface to the exhibit's catalogue, discusses the show in detail.

The decision of which lecture to attend isn't made any easier by looking at the gentlemen's backgrounds.

Both have distinguished careers.

Gilliam first gained prominence in the late 1960s with the debut of his innovative drape paintings. These works — finished canvases gathered and tied as drapes — took paintings in a new direction toward sculpture. Long associated with Washington Color School (a group of 1950s abstract artists concentrated in the Washington, D.C. area), Gilliam also attracted attention for his use of vibrant colors. The recipient of numerous grants and awards, he has participated in group shows throughout the world. And his paintings are in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Art Institute of Chicago and all the major art museums in Washington, D.C.

Zugazagoitia, prior to his engagement with El Museo del Barrio, was the executive assistant to Thomas Krens, director of the Guggenheim museums worldwide. For the Guggenheim Museum in New York, he curated Brazil Body and Soul, and organized the presentations of exhibits by Miguel Rio Branco and Tunga, two leading Brazilian artists, at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice. And independently he's served as the cultural attaché to the Mexican delegation to UNESCO.

If there's an edge between the two events, it goes to the more impressive exhibit, Voces y Visiones. Decide for yourself, though. Go see both shows, since you can't attend both lectures.

Gilliam's lecture is free for museum members, $3 otherwise. The Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art is located on the Tarpon Springs campus of St. Petersburg College, 600 Klosterman Road, Palm Harbor (727-712-5762). Zugazagoitia's lecture is free with admission ($7, $6 for seniors, $3 for students). Tampa Museum of Art is located at 600 N. Ashley Drive, Tampa (813-274-8130).

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