Our critics recommend these shows.

Art Capsule Reviews 

Our critics recommend these shows.

Empty Thoughts, Lame Excuses, and Decorative Lies Ryan Humphrey's first solo museum exhibition consists of four pieces: "Vantasy," the driver's side of a tricked-out, 1971 C-10 Chevrolet van; "Honky Spaceship," a battery-powered installation panel that pumps out the beats of Public Enemy and Run DMC; "Rear Window," the tail section of a Ferrari mounted on plywood; and "Velocity of Transparent Aspiration," a BMW 7-Series hood painted in the distinctive slash pattern of Eddie Van Halen's guitar. The artist has taken the inherently gritty, masculine cultures of guitar rock, hip-hop and auto customization and melded them with the postmodern concept of ready-mades, a movement that playfully criticizes what was considered art by objectifying average items. But the products that result aren't average. And we suspect that Humphrey is trying to pay homage to that on some level, but by bringing it into a pristine white gallery, he looks self-indulgent at best, and pretentious at worst. We wonder if the show might succeed in a space that's as coarse as the work. That the exhibition is at the Kemper doesn't "shake up our connotations of class," as the accompanying essay promises; instead, it robs these worlds of their sex, one of their most fundamental dimensions. Through July 2 at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, 4420 Warwick, 816-753-5784. (A.F.)

Faith Culture Collection At Grand Arts, Welsh artist Neal Rock's gargantuan "Pingere Triptych" (pingere is Latin for paint, but also means depiction) straddles the line between sculpture, painting and installation. The three pieces — horizontally arranged and oddly fish-shaped — are constructed from Styrofoam and covered in pigmented silicon squeezed out of cake-icing bags. The results form interesting combinations of shapes that fall somewhere between the natural and synthetic worlds. (Rock claims the three pieces weigh in at 1 ton, and the wood frame holding the piece contributes to the immense quality of the work.) Bright and shiny, thick and decorative, the sculptures appear to float. Look for the much less daunting but equally intriguing "Discreet Lustre," a pine-cone, bud-shaped form delicately hanging vertically in the center of the smaller gallery. Through June 3 at Grand Arts, 1819 Grand, 816-421-6887. (R.T.B.)

The Fetti Show For the most part, the smattering of art on the walls of the aAlice Gallery is uninteresting and, in the case of Erika Wisdom's work, poorly crafted. Amid the chaos, however, Darwin Arevalo's work shines brightly. His paintings, "Untitled I" and "Untitled II," complement each other, but we're more intrigued by the apocalyptic "Untitled I," which is anchored by a dark and eerie half-formed figure. Arevalo fills the lower portion of the large canvas with interesting, predominantly red brush strokes of various hues. He creates depth with the minimal use of discernable forms, such as the orange outline of a circle in the background and a skillfully placed green band across the bottom. Through May 28 at aAlice Gallery, 2011 Tracy, 816-221-7529. (A.E.F.)

Benjie Heu Panamanian-born sculptor Benjie Heu's kids frequently use his studio as a playroom, and it shows. His eight bronzelike masks are assembled like an awkward after-school gang of wannabe superheroes, among them "Gung Gung with Spout" (who has a spout for a nose and noticeably deformed ear), "Baby Girl With Pigtails" and the freakish face of "Speed Boy." In this imagined menagerie, "Super Boy With Lobster Claws" might be the leader, with his mouth set in a grimace to reveal a row of small teeth ready to bite. A mask with pointed bat ears hides the upper half of his face, and his lobster hands hang wide in a curve at his sides, ready to attack. Another figure draws even closer inspiration from real life: the weary eyes, slumped shoulders and thinning hair of "Tired Daddy" reveal an artist's self-portrait exaggerated to comic proportions. Through June 1 at the Beth Allison Gallery, 816-474-5637. (R.T.B.)

Michael Sinclair: Photographs Michael Sinclair gives a new perspective to ordinary and mundane events and scenes. At first, his photographs look like mere snapshots that have been given a larger format and, therefore, more import, but the show as a whole dismisses that notion, and the individual images begin to take a different tone. In "Las Vegas, Nevada," strings of lights attached to a utility pole stretch like tentacles over what at first appears to be an empty lot; beneath the lights, however, stands a line of Christmas trees. Such subtlety is a central theme; it's further illuminated in, for example, the Mona Lisa smile of a painted horse in "Blue-Eyed Horse." Sinclair takes familiar, predominantly Midwestern scenes of picnics, fairs and backyards and makes them new. Through May 27 at the Dolphin, 816-842-4415. (A.E.F.)

Spaces Between Leigh Salgado and Susan White each may have a touch of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Both artists manipulate fire — in all of its dangerous glory — to create beautiful, detailed drawings. One misstep, and a piece that's been hours in the making is reduced to trash. In Salgado's mixed-media work, there's a provocative interplay between the destructive qualities of the medium and the delicate, feminine nature of the work it produces. In some instances, lacy flutters of paper create lively shadows on the gallery's walls; in others, the cavities that Salgado burns into her pieces are more substantial and symbolic. (If you feel like you're undergoing ink-blot tests when you look at her pieces, you aren't completely off. She used to be an art therapist.) White, on the other hand, uses a wood-burning tool to create her recurring patterns, listening to fast-paced electronic music as she does so. The tension in her work comes from an insistent repetition — not only in the product but also in the process. Through May 26 at Greenlease Gallery (Rockhurst University, 54th St. and Troost), 816-501-4407. (A.F.)

Mette Tommerup and Squeak Carnwath Inspired by the Victorian era, Danish-born artist Mette Tommerup's old-fashioned pieces bring to mind children's fairy tales as reflected and transformed through a fun-house mirror. Tommerup uses digital technology to create delicate, detailed renderings that require careful scrutiny. Characters reveal themselves after a time — a small, sad boy looking forlornly through a window, for example, or two mischievous skeletons. (We're most impressed by "Woman" and "Arc," both printed on uniquely textured Japanese Kinwashi paper.) In the back gallery, Bay Area artist Squeak Carnwath's colorful painted tapestries suggest memories, as represented by seemingly unrelated symbols. The standing bunnies and other random objects within the grid of "Everyday," the vinyl records in "Recorded History," and the "guilt free zones" of both, hint at visual explorations of the mind. Through May 27 at Byron C. Cohen Gallery for Contemporary Art, 2020 Baltimore, 816-421-5665. (R.T.B.)

Cara Walz: Superfluxable Cara Walz describes her work as "pre-modern cabinets of wonder" from a time "before collectors and curators began to seek explanations for the mysteries they came across." "Scribble Jars," then, is a series of small glass vessels containing ink-covered objects such as rubber bands, pipettes, hair, light bulbs and a finger puppet. The large, colorful drawing "Superfluxable" is three long sheets of drafting paper suspended from the ceiling and animated by an electric fan; it behaves like an installation, gently swaying visitors toward smaller drawings in other corners of the room. Most striking among those drawings is the triptych "Heaven and Earth," which juxtaposes three animals — frog, fly, mouse — with three mysterious mechanical objects. Walz places us in a position of openness toward objects, reality and mystery; her aim is noble, but most of these "cabinets of wonder" elicit only bewilderment. And bewilderment isn't exactly wonder. Through May 27 at the Back Room Gallery, Leedy-Voulkos Art Center, 2012 Baltimore, 816-474-1919. (S.R.)


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