Our critics recommend these shows.

Art Capsule Reviews 

Our critics recommend these shows.

Charlotte Street Foundation The Charlotte Street Foundation awards show isn't your average group show, lumping together somewhat disparate artists with a theme or linking their work by period or subject. Instead, the CSF artists whose work hangs together at Johnson County Community College's Gallery of Art share something else: recognition and the funding that comes with it. This year's award winners include Craig Subler, who comments on the experience of viewing art by rendering works that question how people participate in museums and galleries; looking at his pieces makes us worry that we're in danger of becoming his next victim. Miles Neidinger's Maelstrom of Reflections is an enormous installation made from sheets of foil; in Neidinger's skillful hands, the lowly sandwich wrap evokes Frank Gehry's undulating architecture. Max Key thinks big, too, with wall-sized paintings that are dark, decorative and gothic. (Look closely for patterns that echo those of origami, silhouette portraits and botanical prints.) Sean Ward, on the other hand, doesn't do pretty. His paintings of Halloween masks and claws are pretty funny, though. And it's hard not to want to touch Callyann Casteel's soft sculptures, assemblages of hands, chains and horns — they're on display here, but they're meant to be worn. Through Dec. 20 at the Johnson County Community College Gallery of Art (inside the Carlsen Center), 12345 College Blvd. in Overland Park, 913-469-8500, ext. 3972. (R.B.)

Conclusion of the System of Things Nadine Robinson's gallery-sized installation is big and loud, like a Hollywood movie, and the fog machine that's turned on when visitors enter the gallery only reinforces the cinematic spirit of the piece. With a bold, climactic soundtrack pouring from round speakers installed along a wall to reference the positions of figures in Michaelangelo's "Last Judgment," however, the piece happens to be quite understated in spite of all the melodrama (not to mention the apocalyptic title). When viewers look at what can only be called a painting of sound, they see a minimal, functional, symmetrical tableau. That it feels like a movie is mere trickery. After all, it's missing cinema's most obvious components: moving images on a screen. There are no characters, and there is no plot. All that remains are special effects signifying that stakes are rising, a journey is ending and emotions are accelerating toward a spectacular conclusion. Viewers are left to envision their own high stakes, epic voyages and scantily clad performers — that is, of course, until they read the gallery's brochure explaining the artist's intended meaning. We recommend picking up the brochure on the way out rather than on the way in. The artist's personal associations, though interesting and valid, complicate a piece that resists explanation, working best (in fact, brilliantly) on a purely sensory level. Through Dec. 17 at Grand Arts, 1819 Grand, 816-421-6887. (G.K.)

Generations: Ceramic Sculpture and Photography The Graffiti Room hides at the intersection of 39th Street and Broadway, sharing a block with a Supercuts and a video-game repair shop. The gallery's name is literal, spray-painted onto aged, rusted metal. Inside is a senior-thesis exhibition by the Kansas City Art Institute's Teri Frame, who obviously delights in using her familial lineage for artistic purposes. Frame's show consists of nine clay pieces, all slip casts of a male body; mirrors positioned behind each piece reveal decals inside made from black-and-white family photos. In "Crush," a left forearm and a right hand dangle off a small wooden pedestal, resting like sleeping body parts, and the reflected image shows two people (Frame's great-grandparents?) caught in a moment of spontaneous celebration. The past imposes itself on the present in these works, implying that one's family, dead or living, is never far away. By appointment through Dec. 23 at the Graffiti Room, 3905 Broadway, 816-217-8819. (R.T.B.)

Married to Adventure Before loaded terms such as "multiculturalism" came along to institutionalize a basic desire to understand other people, Osa Johnson and her husband, Martin, just got in a plane and lived the idea, completely unself-consciously. The two Kansans traveled to parts of the world that scared the bejesus out of most Americans in the early part of the 20th century. Their still and moving footage of indigenous civilizations was later used in popular silent films — and in at least one instance, they returned to those locales to screen a film for the people who had appeared in it. The exhibit at the Kansas City Museum shows photographs and film reels as well as special editions of Osa Johnson's best-selling autobiography, I Married Adventure, printed with zebra-striped covers. Especially awe-inspiring is the photo, shot from a plane, of stampeding giraffes. Osa Johnson = total badass. Through Jan. 8 at the Kansas City Museum, 3218 Gladstone Blvd., 816-460-2020. (G.K.)

Pastoral Barbarism In his paintings, Lawrence artist Aaron Marable blurs historical figures with fantasy to produce a confused, intriguing and complex narrative. Frequently, archetypes mingle with elements of pop culture to create a vibrant stew of color and violence. Many of the works feature bloodshed and brutality in a variety of contexts, as if such actions were inescapable. Typical is "...With God on Their Side," in which a soldier loads his musket as he stands in the mouth of a much larger soldier who is reclining, a week's worth of whiskers on his cheeks. On top of this enormous soldier stands a tiny George Washington reading from scrolled parchment. A woman tends to a nearby third soldier, who is wounded and dying. At least four or five realities occur at one time; one image fights for attention with the other, and characters overlap in a fever dream of surreal, mostly Americana-inspired images. Marable applies paint in thick brush strokes fueled by a generous supply of passion — the act of violence influencing the process of painting itself. Through Jan. 21 at the Leedy-Voulkos Art Center, 2012 Baltimore, 816-474-1919. (R.T.B.)

Parts In each of the 11 large-scale photographs that make up Parts, the latest exhibit to open at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, artist Nikki S. Lee adopts a distinct persona — and a boyfriend to complement it. Staged in snapshot form, the glossy images feature Lee interacting with tattooed muscle men and pale drug addicts, on playgrounds and in bars; however, each of the guys has been cut out of the picture, suggesting truncated relationships. (After viewing 11 presumably failed attempts at relationships, one starts to feel a little discouraged.) Her diverse identities are certainly driven by stereotypes, but we empathize with the desire to be someone else every so often. In "Part 18," she's in morning-after mode, drinking coffee on a fire escape, bedheaded and wearing boxers; "Part 13" has her barefoot and laughing on a bus. What's most striking is that it's not her face — where one usually looks for indications of mood or disposition — that gives her away; it's her body language. There does seem to be a direct correlation between the amount of makeup Lee wears and her level of misery, though. We'd better toss our eyeliner. Through Dec. 11 at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, 4420 Warwick, 816-753-5784. (A.F.)

Recent Paintings, Drawings and Prints by Michael Krueger and Don Ed Hardy Don Ed Hardy is a tattoo-art icon. We know multitudes of inked people who salivate at the mention of his name, so we had to check out his show. What we discovered: Each painting, displayed on archival scroll paper mounted on Chinese silk, looks like an elaborate tattoo big enough to cover the back of the world's fattest man. Even the iconography — lions, skulls, pirate ships and sexy women — is tattoo-inspired. But unlike skin, which provides a fleshy, monochromatic backdrop for tattoo art, the scroll paper and Chinese silk swatches have a flimsy and beautifully patterned texture that makes the art look exceptionally bright, dynamic and, in some cases, even metallic. And though Hardy is the superstar, don't ignore the simpler, smaller drawings by area artist Michael Krueger. With characters floating against a plain white background, these drawings are well-executed and possess a distinct narrative style. Our favorite is "Josephine," which depicts a young woman walking out of a patch of plants and rocks, naked except for some letters mysteriously but neatly etched on her skin. Through Dec. 23 at the Dennis Morgan Gallery, 2011 Tracy, 816-842-8755. (G.K.)

The Sesquicentennial Whitmaniacs Congress Ryan Kelly gets a little obsessive sometimes. After hearing that the poet Walt Whitman had made a list of the 21 famous people he'd met, Kelly decided to bring them back to life as oversized, papier-mâché heads. The heads hang from the ceiling on hooks, and Kelly encourages viewers to try them on and wander around for a bit as, say, Edgar Allan Poe or Andrew Jackson. Whitman himself doesn't hang from the ceiling, but he turns on a barbecue spit, surveying his noteworthy friends. Kelly, a graduate of the Kansas City Art Institute's ceramics department, hasn't abandoned his regular medium; there's a clay portrait of Whitman hanging on one wall and a delicately painted bowl on a table near a Whitman portrait station. Yes, portrait station: Sit down, fasten a beard to your face with ear hooks, put on a hat and a woolly cardigan and get a Polaroid snapped. There's a copy of the Whitman photograph you'll be aping, but First Friday gallerygoers found it more fun to pose as Whitman doing things he probably wouldn't want caught on film. Through Jan. 6, at the Belger Arts Center, 2100 Walnut, 816-474-3250. (R.B.)

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