Our critics recommend these shows.

Art Capsule Reviews 

Our critics recommend these shows.

Composite Kansas City-based fiber artists Holly Swangstu and Mary Beth Yates create work that goes together like peanut butter goes with jelly -- they're both pretty tasty on their own, but they're even better combined. Swangstu layers thin, roughly textured strips of cloth like house siding. She frames many of her pieces with unfinished, splintered pieces of wood. Yates' work, on the other hand, seems inspired by a backyard swimming pool. The artist embroiders bubble shapes on top of translucent fabric dyed with wavy lines that resemble sunlight reflecting underwater. The coarse, rugged sensibility of Swangstu's work creates an interesting contrast to Yates' light and airy dying and embroidery. Both artists' palettes include summery hues of yellow, green, blue and magenta. Also available for purchase are neckties and scarves hand-dyed by the artists. Through July 31 at the Mixed Bag Gallery, 5 W. 19th St., 913-579-8514 or 913-908-0831. (T.B.)

Adam Hayes "You want it. You need it. For women and men" -- that's toilet paper, as described in an inscription by Adam Hayes, whose slogan-bearing paintings are on view at Coffee Girls and The Farm. Using an unlikely combination of materials, including latex house paint and pastels, Hayes creates seductively simple, comic-book-style portraits of pretty people. Thin, light-peach-colored outlines of figures assuming variations on the pose fill the rest of the frame, creating the impression of stances being rehearsed and perfected. The figures are accompanied by slogans such as "Indecision is the must-have accessory of the season"; "Consequences!!! So tasty you won't want to share"; and "White lies. Giving you style wherever you go." At The Farm, don't miss photos depicting local seamstress Susan Wiegand's fashions (as modeled by the artist), with catalog-style text detailing political contexts for each ensemble (what to wear to a hearing in the new McCarthyism, for example). You can try on the clothing in the back of the gallery. We'll be heading back for the "Vote With Your Whole Body" T-shirt, which Wiegand assures customers "pulls off easily should political sparring turn flirtatious." Through July 31 at Coffee Girls (310 Southwest Boulevard) and The Farm (500 East 18th Street). (G.K.)

Reflection on the Bush Years When Elaine Mills gets pissed off, she paints. Watching the election debacle of 2000 got her blood boiling, and making art was one way to release her frustrations. "I would go down in my studio every night when I got home from work, and I would do a new drawing," Mills says. Her artwork fills the second floor of the Pi Gallery, beginning with a collection of 11 ink-brush drawings on sketchbook paper created in response to that infamous election, followed by watercolors inspired by snapshots of the World Trade Center that Mills took while traveling in New York City the weekend before 9/11. The show culminates with a series of eight acrylic paintings based on her reactions to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, accompanied by an entry from the journal she kept before painting. But Mills never intended for this cathartic artwork to end up in a gallery, and the show's most intimate moments aren't in Mills' paintings. Visually, her square canvases covered with abstract smears and drips lack originality: Splattered red paint stands for bloodshed; a large, flatly painted black rectangle represents oil. In her journal entries, though, the artist responds more personally to what she sees and hears of the war coverage. Through July 31 at the Pi Gallery, 419 E. 18th St. (T.B.)

Mary Ann Strandell: The Polygot Series and Nina Bovasso: New Paintings and Works on Paper Although St. Louis-based Mary Ann Strandell describes her own work as a "post-conceptual celebration of hyperspace," it looks like the kind of thing that Crown Center's Bloom would display if that store carried fine art. Strandell's prints blend vibrantly colored flowers, bubbles, birds and waterfalls with Asian-inspired prints and hard-edged geometric shapes. She uses 3-D lenticular printing, which produces an optical illusion: When viewers walk by, her images appear to be moving. This makes a good match for New York artist Nina Bovasso's acrylic paintings composed of small, multicolored circles and squares surrounded by tiny, looping lines. (Her palette includes everything from fluorescents to metallics to earth tones.) The graphic masses of wiry marks seem to swell with a nervous potential energy, as if they were about to bounce across the composition. Through July 31 at the Byron C. Cohen Gallery for Contemporary Art, 2020 Baltimore, 816-421-5665. (T.B.)

Sun Spots The Dolphin Gallery has been a place of mystery lately. It hasn't been putting out brochures for shows, and its windows have demanded only that we vote right by voting left -- good advice, but not very helpful as far as letting the passer-by know what's on display inside. The current art could change at any time without warning, on a whim, with the exception of the Sun Spots display by Don Kottman. This is a wall of painted newspaper pages, most of which appear to be taken from The Calgary Sun. Colorful spots with various degrees of opacity cover the reported text, with ominous bits and pieces legible here and there -- the usual daily-paper stuff about oil companies, parental responsibility and real estate markets. Trying to read the newspaper information really is like looking at the sun -- the recognizable pieces of reality wouldn't be discernible if you didn't already know what was there. One of these pieces probably wouldn't look like much on its own, but a whole wall plastered in them leaves quite an impression. The Dolphin Gallery, 1901 Baltimore, 816-842-5877. (G.K.)

Ungood Despite its title, Ungood is a very good show. (The name comes from George Orwell's 1984, but it's used here not as a qualitative adjective but as a sort of descriptive noun for the complex subjective and metaphorical realm in which artists work.) In what sounds like the makings of a reality-TV-show plot, curator James Brinsfield gathers 16 local artists of varying ages and experience levels and allows each to select his or her own pieces, then decide as a group where to display the work within the offices of architecture firm Shaw-Hofstra and Associates. Visually, Ungood is a mixed bag, everything from Miles Neidinger's garland of white plastic ties, to Karen Nease's geometric collages of pattern papers, to Marcus Cain's grid-covered figure drawings. Through September 10 at Shaw-Hofstra and Associates, 1717 Oak, 816-421-0505. (T.B.)

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