Our critics recommend these shows.

Art Capsule Reviews 

Our critics recommend these shows.

Collect All Four How about if we collect two instead? Julie Farstad uses stark imagery to convey a nightmarish reality, placing painted toy baby dolls in compromising positions; the slightly grotesque, shiny baby fat in her paintings is indelible. In "Bad Bad Girls," one doll lifts the dress of the other for a spanking against an austere, glowing-red background. In "Stunt Girl's Sweet Reward," the girl doll has fallen down a model clay staircase as clay butterflies flit about and away from her in an empty, green world. Allie Rex's untitled works are a series of complex, delicate paper sculptures. One captures vague memories of a childhood visit to a theme park where boys and girls ride a twirling swing set; another uses colored pencils to create a paper version of a fireworks display. Linnea Spransy's cold, diagrammatic illustrations meander, though, and Kariann Fuqua's obtuse and almost impressionistic renderings of urban locales look straight out of Office Art, circa 1981. Through July 29 at the Byron C. Cohen Gallery for Contemporary Art, 2020 Baltimore, 816-421-5665. (R.T.B.)

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.)

Family Pack: Artists Exploring Parenthood In her exploration of parenthood, Betsey Schneider apparently discovered that her children are specimens to be examined through a camera lens like bacteria under a microscope. "Seven" is 350 images of what we assume is her 7-year-old daughter in basically the same pose at various stages of undress. (Though this isn't the focal point of the piece, we can't help but notice that the girl is completely disrobed in 25 of the snapshots.) Suzette Bross gives us a more humorous depiction of parenthood by photographing her child in-utero. The belly that eclipses her face in "Self-Portrait (obstructed)," which peeks out from the frame of another picture and duels with the toothbrush in still another, could be the character in a low-budget horror film titled The Belly. In "Day Before Daphne — 1 thru 4," Bross hits a more somber note, digitally engraving pictures of her hand-swaddled belly into four heavy crystals. Through July 29 at Society for Contemporary Photography, 816-471-2115. (A.E.F.)

Group Show Even though it's exquisitely presented, the work at Grothaus and Pearl Gallery could be propped haphazardly against the walls and still be successful. Matthew Krawcheck's oil paintings represent a hobbitlike quest through the artist's imagination — what he seeks isn't clear, but the journey is adorned with colorful East Indian motifs and a lot of self-referential humor that provoke repeated efforts to decode his meaning. (The titles of his paintings are long-winded, and Krawcheck doesn't break character in his artist's statement.) Shane Brown frames images of middle America that are devoid of human figures but rife with traces of their presence; in "Superior, Nebraska," an abandoned mechanical horse has a well-worn saddle, and a cigarette carton lies nearby. Sculptor John Northington embeds steel in concrete like hieroglyphics and uses glass to create something similar to amethyst crystals. Through June 25 at the Grothaus and Pearl Gallery of the Leedy-Volkous Art Center, 2012 Baltimore, 816-471-1015. (A.E.F.)

Marcie Miller Gross: Density In seven site-specific pieces at the Paragraph, Marcie Miller Gross continues the theme of repeated shapes, lines and textures evident in her Foldoverfold exhibit at the Kemper a few months back. It's more benign, though — there's nothing immediately compelling about the seven felt-and-wood works on display. "Cream (Section) #1" hangs like a beige flag representing an imaginary Martha Stewart nation, all soft, warm and fuzzy. "Cream (Vertical)" and "Cream (Horizontal) #2" are mild and passive — they nearly disappear on the gallery wall. More interesting is "Untitled #1," where the perfectly horizontal shape appears like a primitive piece of meat (made of industrial felt), with beautiful bass wood as the bone. "Untitled #2" continues the motif, altering the shape only slightly for a bump in the center. "Cream (Horizontal) #2" and "Cream (Horizontal) #1" are essentially flip-flopped versions of each other, with a barely discernable difference in the width of their felt strips. Gross works in an intentionally narrow landscape that sometimes doesn't leave room for the viewer. Through July 8 at the Paragraph, 23 E. 12th St., 816-221-5115. (R.T.B.)

Wounds and Romances Rob Tapley has been betrayed by his heart, and beautiful women have ripped it out and stomped on it. He might have known some of them intimately; others, he only fantasized about from afar. His most recent paintings tell us as much, recalling '60s-era Playboy with their bright and colorful paint drops and feelings of overwhelming insecurity. A few of the titles read like romance-novel rejects: "Sugar-coated Love," "Player," "Misplaced Desire." Recurring images of ideal, naked women fill the frames, and choruses of tiny ghoul heads predict doom. In "Many Men," a nude woman with pink, candylike nipples lies prostrate on a soft, frilly pillow. The fantasy is undercut by a cursive observation in the background: "Many men filled her holes ... never really filled her soul." Most humorous and playfully graphic is "Funbags," which cuts to the sexual chase: a close-up of two big boobs. Through June 30 at the Opie Gallery, 2012 Baltimore, 816-474-1919. (R.T.B.)

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