Our critics recommend these shows.

Art Capsule Reviews 

Our critics recommend these shows.

Celebrating a Grand Gift: The Hallmark Photographic Collection On January 12, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art announced that when its new Bloch Building opens in 2007, it will house the 6,500-piece Hallmark Photographic Collection. Keith Davis, director of Hallmark's fine-art programs, has spent 25 years assembling the collection — which, with its emphasis on the history of American work, is considered one of the best in the country. Davis has organized a 31-piece exhibit to tempt our palates. The show includes important works by such greats as Chuck Close, Alfred Stieglitz and Man Ray as well as two teasers from Hallmark's extensive daguerreotype collection and Harry Callahan's "Ireland," one of 320 Callahan holdings. Just try to take your eyes off Irving Penn's gorgeous subject in "Woman in Moroccan Palace, Marrakech," her face turned to confront the camera, the corners of her painted lips turned up oh so slightly. (Penn's a fashion photographer to the core.) Or Carrie Mae Weems' highly detailed prints of Ebos Landing, where, the legend goes, a number of West African slaves chose suicide as their freedom, drowning themselves in Dunbar Creek. (Some say that on quiet nights, their ghosts can be heard chanting in the marsh.) Our favorites include the film still of a 22-year-old Cindy Sherman, Ilse Bing's self-portrait and Barbara Morgan's 1939 photo montage "Hearst Over the People." Through April 30 in Gallery 208 at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, 4525 Oak, 816-561-4000. (A.F.)

Deanna Dikeman: Wardrobe We don't get out to thrift stores like we used to, but Columbia, Missouri, photographer Deanna Dikeman's recent show will suffice. According to her artist's statement, Dikeman's project began with photographs she took at a favorite secondhand shop called The Wardrobe. Like a yearbook of fashion and style over the past six decades — featuring the gaudy, the gauche, the luxurious and the regrettable — her photographs reveal how clothes appear without bodies to give them life. Images of blouses, robes, summer dresses and raincoats are vertically or horizontally spliced together as Dikeman rearranges the clothes. Once-popular accoutrements long relegated to darker regions of the closet are reborn here in crisp, vibrant detail — and rendered newly respectable because they are displayed in an art gallery and because of the high quality of the photographs. On the lower level of the gallery, Elaine Duigenan's intriguing Nylon: An Intimate Archeology re-contextualizes the familiar, 400-year-old synthetic. Through Feb. 18 at the Society for Contemporary Photography, 520 Avenida Cesar E. Chavez, 816-471-2115. (R.T.B.)

A Family Affair Nine artists collaborated with their own family members for this show, where we discovered the cool older sisters and brothers we wanted to be when we grew up — as well as the creepy uncles whose moist handshakes we wanted to avoid. In their unique "Family Portrait," Becky and Mary Ann Sullivan sew material onto a cloth canvas, reducing a family's identity to anonymous poses (a hand on the shoulder of a spouse, the outline of a baby propped onto the shoulder of her parent) — except for the clothing they wear, all of the other details are absent. Through a series of photographs, Greg and Lizzie Lamer's "Rich, Sandy, Lizzie and Greg" documents Greg's heart surgery from the intimate perspective of his sister. Michael, Richard and Saundra Stickrod's documentary shorts "Vacation Money" and "After the War" are engaging, odd perspectives in quick character sketches. Elsewhere, Meg and Marilyn Doll's "Fat Couch" depicts a clan whose members are separated from one another yet artificially joined on one long, digitally manipulated divan. The family members here (who aren't fat, by the way) are mostly smiles, save for the artist (Meg Doll, who co-curated the show with Brendan Meara), who is stuck in a stoic stare. Families can have that effect on a person. We thought the "Six Drawing Series" by Tim and Michael Dieterle and Julie, Fawn and Abby Scott-Cox was best saved for a personal journal rather than public exhibition. Part of the Urban Culture Project at The Bank, 11th St. and Baltimore, 816-221-5115. (R.T.B.)

Marvin Gates: Paintings Gates is a visual artist who delights in transforming the normal, mundane aspects of city life into odd, unfeeling reality. His work is remarkably consistent; many of the paintings show the same people and objects, all perfectly symmetrical and neatly arranged. The four-part series "On Things to Come, 2001-2004" contains two pieces ("Forwards" and "The Blue Bag") thrust up against each other on adjoining walls, near mirrors. Each depicts not only a familiar scene — a busy grid of taxis, faceless humans on sidewalks, cars and buses rushing by — but also decidedly less familiar things: strange forms with skulls for heads and oversized hands and feet. In "Head of the Driver," a hearse delivers humanity into the Great Unknown symbolized by a hanging black curtain while a skull watches from the left. This is a disjointed narrative of life in an alternate, anonymous and ultimately unforgiving world. Through Feb. 16 at the Dolphin, 1901 Baltimore, 816-842-5877. (R.T.B.)

Gimmicks: Peter Demos, Jordan Nickel and Ben Bertucci Jordan Nickel and Ben Bertucci combine authentic movie posters (they like '70s films) with ones they've manipulated for comic and dramatic effect. Both are partners in a design company they call We Are Supervision. (Not coincidentally, in the fake or doctored posters, the name "W.A. Supervision" frequently appears in the film's credits.) Rather than speculate about which ones are the real deal and which have been altered, it's more fun to take the titles of the movies — and their taglines — as personal narratives for the artists. We suspect both are recovering from broken relationships. To wit: "The Bed's Too Big Without You" hangs next to the raunchy "Everybody's Girl" ("She used to be your girl ..."), followed by "Just for Tonight" ("Make it last forever"), then "Stay Hungry" and "Breaking Away" ("Somewhere between growing up and settling down"). Be sure to make it to the women's restroom, where there's an ad for "Teenage Graffiti," a print the artists loved too much to keep entirely out of the show. Their fellow Kansas City Art Institute graduate Peter Demos supplies abstract, heavily dropped paintings for an interesting contrast. Part of the Urban Culture Project, at Paragraph, 23 E. 12th St., 816-221-5115. (R.T.B.)

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