Our critics recommend these shows.

Art Capsule Reviews 

Our critics recommend these shows.

Blue Gallery Without a theme to hold together the works on display here, the thing that unifies this show is the taste of gallery owners Kelly and David Kuhn. We gravitate toward the work by Joe Ramiro Garcia and Rich Bowman. Ramiro Garcia's painting "Helpless" might have spoken more loudly to us than usual because of the fast-approaching tax season. In it, a painted page from a ledger book details one man's finances and is blotted out here and there by a beautiful, errant flower; subtly squeezed into the lower right-hand corner, in the same writing used to log expenses, is a note-to-self: Ask for help. Meanwhile, Bowman's orangey paintings somehow manage to convey that they are landscapes and cityscapes at sundown, in spite of the fact that they involve very few markings. They are so minimal that they verge on abstraction. Works by several other artists represented by the Blue Gallery are also on display at 9 W. 19th St., 816-527-0823. (G.K.)

From Bingham to Benton, Midwest as Muse Those of us who grew up around here have seen paintings by Thomas Hart Benton and company from such an early age, and on such abysmally boring field trips, that the artists' work constitutes -- for us -- the visual equivalent of white noise. Incredibly, this exhibit could change that. George Caleb Bingham's "The Jolly Flatboatmen" alone would be worth the visit. Created in 1847, the painting enraged New York art appreciators for two reasons. First, the boatmen on the river playing fiddles, drinking and dancing were viewed as lowly commoners unworthy of a portrait. Second, the tranquil float scene did not cater to New Yorkers' fantasies of life in the wild, wild West. It's kind of like how, when you head to the coasts, people feel gypped that the only Kansan they know can't milk a cow. On display through July 31 at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, 4525 Oak, 816-751-1278. (G.K.)

Meredith Burton: New Drawings Meredith Burton's adventures in magic-marker art continue, having debuted at the Telephone Booth last summer. Now her fruit-scented scenes (we don't know if she uses scented magic markers, but we like to pretend) are more elaborate and take greater advantage of the medium. Cityscapes are adorned with tattoolike wreath designs that yank the viewer's attention away from the scene itself. Looking at a drawing of a power line intersecting with a marquee or billboard, the viewer's eye will settle on that point of intersection, so Burton plops her decorative stylings on the middle of the power line itself, just where it begins to recede into the background. It seems she has started playing a lighthearted game of visual tug-of-war with her audience. And really, once you've chosen markers as your medium, why not? Now showing in the Cup and Saucer restaurant (not the bar next door) at 412 Delaware, 816-474-7375. (G.K.)

Teresa Hubbard and Alexander Birchler: Editing the Dark Not a lot transpires in these three video installations by Kemper visiting artists Teresa Hubbard and Alexander Birchler, but it's what doesn't happen that makes them so unsettling. In Eight, a little girl in a pink party frock surveys the remains of an outdoor gathering in the rain. Plates of half-eaten food turn soggy, and she cuts herself a slice of cake. Inside, she's dry, clad in the same dress and looking out a window. The video plays in a loop, so the viewer is left to wonder if she's crying about a ruined party or about something else. Single Wide raises another set of unanswered questions. A woman destroys a trailer by driving into it with her truck. As the camera pans through the trailer's rooms, the sounds -- a ringing phone, a ticking clock, the drip-drop of a leaky faucet, a nearby train -- have a haunting quality that's as eerie as Hubbard and Birchler's stories. Through May 15 at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, 4420 Warwick Blvd., 816-753-5784. (R.B.)

Matthias Soda Potter: Villa De Mutante The first time we saw Matthias Soda Potter's paintings, we felt as if we'd stumbled across pages torn from some weird, illuminated book. Reminiscent of biblical illustrations, infused with a little Hieronymus Bosch and Henry Darger, Potter's work tells the story of a mythical European town where genetic mutations are the norm. Certain motifs repeat throughout the show, such as the stylized rays of the sun and the Villa De Mutante "logo" that features a king with three eyes. The characters Potter paints may not be up for sainthood in any religion, but they definitely deserve a place in the church of oddities. There's Olgapus, a saucy pinup with tentacled arms, and Colonel Corke, a military officer with the head of a rooster. Even the Baron Von Shitbagh's silly moniker draws us into Potter's world, a place where we wouldn't want to live, but one we'd sure like to visit. Through May 6 at the open studio of Troy Swangstu and Alex Whitney, 516 East 18th St., 816-472-3559. (R.B.)

Jacob Sharp: Wallpaper About a year ago, Blue Ribbon promised us the world. The world! The bright-eyed young artists' collective had big plans to do all kinds of ambitious things, such as hold bike rodeos and carnivals, all for the sake of art (and getting laid). Well, these kids have participated in a lot of art events around town, but so far, no rodeo. No carnival. Luckily, one of the co-founders, Jacob Sharp, has made good on his promise to make wallpaper. Now on display in the north-facing window of the Dolphin Gallery, Sharp's wallpaper samples just plain rule. The day of the fleur-de-lis has come and gone. Say hello to bendy girls with ghetto blasters, printed in pink on a brown background. We'd like to point out that, just as the dastardly Urban Outfitters came out with its very, very, very tempting chic wallpaper, Sharp has provided us with a locally made alternative. And as for wallpaper as art and art as wallpaper ... well, now, that really cuts out the middle man, doesn't it? Sharp's wallpaper is viewable from the street at 1901 Baltimore. Call 816-842-5877. (G.K.)

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