Our critics recommend these shows.

Art Capsule Reviews 

Our critics recommend these shows.

American Dream: In Question The second installment of the Belger's American Dream series, the one that questions the titular phenomenon (the first, American Dream: In Design, closed in early October), requires an open mind and an adventurous spirit. National artists such as Robert Rauschenberg, Jim Roche, Renee Stout, Robert Stackhouse and William T. Wiley, among many others, share space with local artists Archie Scott Gober and May Tveit, offering a variety of media with intriguing results. Rather than trying too hard to keep with the show's theme, it's probably best to just bask in the wide-open oddity on exhibit. Violence is a motif in many works, including Robert Arneson's "The Colonel" sculpture, in which a mushroom cloud adorns the hat of an officer with hollowed-out eyes and sharklike teeth. For a brutal examination of the South, William Christenberry's haunted lithographs offer a perspective on America that most people choose to ignore or forget. Through Feb. 2 at the Belger Arts Center, 2100 Walnut, 816-474-3250. (R.T.B.)

Cryptozoology: Out of Time Place Scale A cryptid is a creature like Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster — that is, lost, rumored or thought to be extinct. Cryptozoology is a science — or pseudoscience, depending on whom you ask — that studies such creatures. A real-life cryptozoologist named Loren Coleman joins 17 artists from around the world in a tribute to the human imagination and the seductive attraction of the unknown. Among the animals not to be missed in this surreal zoo: Rachel Berwick's 4-million-year-old Coelacanth and her extinct Australian thylacine, Walman Corrêa's Ondina mermaid and Mark Swanson's Yeti. The exhibit takes a turn for the tragic with Rosamund Purcell's images of conjoined and disfigured human twins. And the section devoted to Coleman's work goes beyond art: He claims to believe that a lot of these cryptids — including the Chupacabra of X-Files fame — really exist. Through Dec. 20 at the H&R Block Artspace, 16 E. 43rd St., 816-472-4852. (S.R.)

Haunted States A week and a half after Halloween, Grand Arts unveiled an exhibit of personal ruminations — through video, photography and other computer-based work — on the truly uncanny in contemporary culture. Laurel Nakadate's 9/11 footage is scored with Paris Hilton's single "Stars Are Blind"; Mathilde ter Heijne's video borrows from three French films made in the '80s and '90s, all featuring ill-fated heroines named Mathilde, to immortalize a fictional version of the artist and her dummy double. The notion of the doppelgänger reappears in CarianaCarianne's split-screen videos and again in Siebren Versteeg's "Neither There nor There," in which his image dissolves as it moves from one flat screen to another, one pixel at a time. Also included are Mariah Robertson's digitally unaltered, large-scale photographs, in which she employs special-effects filters to document invisible energy. Think creepy, not scary. Through Dec. 16 at Grand Arts, 1819 Grand, 816-421-6887. (A.F.)

Homecoming The Johnson County Community College Gallery of Art and Village Shalom¹s Epsten Gallery have teamed up to exhibit the work of 10 artists who used to call Kansas City home but now make their living — and their art — elsewhere. They¹ve returned from many different cities, and although they all share a preference for abstraction over realism, their sources of inspiration are varied. Andrzej Zielinksi paints bright and bowed ATM machines. Eric Sall steals imagery from skateboard culture. Sandy Winters makes innovative use of aluminum foil in a triptych of paintings. Rashawn Griffin¹s "Sculptures and Landscapes" collages have a brooding, introspective quality; one canvas whispers, "We¹re dying. Can you help?" Through Jan. 28 at the Village Shalom Epsten Gallery ( 5500 W. 123rd St. in Leawood, 913-266-8413) and JCCC Gallery of Art (12345 College Boulevard in Overland Park, 913-469-8500, ext. 3972). (S.R.)

The Naked and the Nude: Representations of the Body According to scientific estimates based on recently unearthed cave drawings in France, human beings have been drawing human bodies for around 27,000 years. Yet it wasn't until the 20th century that German painter Ernst Ludwig Kirchner categorically declared the nude to be "the basis of all fine art." Kirchner is among the artists in the Nelson's survey of drawings, lithographs and etchings depicting the naked (negative — unclothed, unsheltered, exposed) and the nude (positive — bold, at ease, free) by European artists from the 18th century onward. Themes are diverse: Apart from a pair of traditional free-standing nudes from Frenchmen Edgar Degas and Théodore Géricault, Greek myths inspire Pablo Picasso ("The Rehearsal") and Alexandre Jacovleff ("Theseus and the Minotaur"), and a scene from the Gospels is rendered in Emile Nolde's etching ("Christ and the Sinner"). Edouard Manet's aquatint Christ is beaten, vulnerable, naked — an ironic portryal of the man sent to restore the pre-fall nudity of Adam and Eve. Through April 27 at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, 4525 Oak, 816-751-1278. (S.R.)

Lisa Sanditz: Flyover Missourian and painter Lisa Sanditz lives in New York but hasn't forgotten where she came from. Her canvases portray the territory that her hip East Coast friends probably dismiss as flyover country. Closest to home is "Subtropolis," an imaginative depiction of the world's largest underground business complex, located in Kansas City. Her acrylics also cover Dollywood ("Dolly Parton's Peaks"), Siegfried and Roy's Mirage Hotel ("Pussy Den") and "Oklahoma City on New Year's Eve." Sanditz colors as wildly as Matisse and doesn't aim at representation; rather, she intensifies the essence of a place with abstraction and brightness. It's enough to prompt cross-country travelers to ask for more connecting flights. Through Jan. 7 at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, 4420 Warwick, 816-753-5784. (S.R.)

Michael Schonhoff: Ground Rules and Capsules A good show built around found objects is hard to pull off. We know that Michael Schonhoff is telling us a story with the hand cart in "Carry the Load," the treadmill in "Mill of Powerlessness" and the numerous gelatin capsules (filled with cocoa, soy, hemp, corn and sugar) spread on top of various components of this exhibition (a disheveled bed, a snowy television). We also know that that story has a moral to it — Schonhoff writes that his work "evolved from ideas about our relationship with energy" — and we're prompted to reflect about waste, excess and power. But the coy storyteller fails to lift his materials beyond banality. Where is the artist who owns all this stuff? Through Nov. 30 at the Thornhill Gallery, 11901 Wornall Rd. (S.R.)

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