Our critics recommend these shows.

Art Capsule Reviews 

Our critics recommend these shows.

America Starts Here Kate Ericson and Mel Ziegler, both graduates of the Kansas City Art Institute, collaborated for 10 years on the work exhibited here, until Ericson's death in 1995 at age 39. Their widely recognized work is conceptual — it's about ideas rather than experiences. Through mixed-media sculptures and installations, they explore the ironies of American life. "Squeaky Clean" is a 19th-century wooden chest halved between hundreds of bars of soap and a pile of dirt. The painting "Oldgloryredbleachedwhitenationalflagblue" combines the red, white and blue of the American flag into one amalgamated pinkish goop. Through Sept. 29 at the H&R Block Artspace, 16 E. 43rd St., 816-802-3426. (Santiago Ramos)

Judith Mackey: The Palette of the Prairie Painter Judith Mackey works within the regionalist tradition. This collection of oil-on-canvas landscapes exhibits the oranges, reds, purples and greens of all that land we see when we drive west on I-70. Quintessentially Kansan, Mackey paints the standard dawns and dusks; the eponymous (and large) "Palette of the Prairie" doesn't uncover any new mysteries within our horizon. Slightly more interesting is "Chase City Wall Cloud," depicting the titular dark and ominous gray cloud. Her vision becomes dramatic and unique only in a few striking paintings — "Lavender Smoke, "Burning at Dark" and "Prairie Burn III" — that beautifully capture the charred landscape remaining after a prairie fire. Through Aug. 31 at the Rice Gallery, 7060 W. 135th St. in Overland Park, 913-685-8889. (Santiago Ramos)

Phantasmania The Kemper's Phantasmania brings together works exploring the element of fear and morbidity in the collective conscious of 17 emerging artists. Wendell Gladstone's shiny textures and candy colors seem like the packaging on a new toy, but his cyclical scenes betray something much deeper — in "Resurrection Ritual," skeleton sailors and monkeys involved in urgent activities illustrate themes of evolution and rebirth. Israeli artist Shiri Mordechay's work is a festival of decay; she finds beauty in the colors and shapes of rotting flesh, often pairing female figures with images of fetid fish and rodents (a wall-sized untitled painting from 2005 threatens to tear away from the wall and disintegrate). Dan Attoe's painted landscapes are overlaid with deliberate, detailed compartments, like an intricately storyboarded movie scene. In one, a police search goes down in a winter forest reminiscent of imagery from Fargo, and a mountain panorama unearths memories both reassuring and ominous. Through Aug. 19 at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, 4420 Warwick, 816-753-5784. (Nadia Pflaum)

Kiki Smith: Constellation Kiki Smith's Constellation brings the night's sky from the heavens to our feet, with glass animals embodying the constellations that our ancestors once named the Bear, the Ram and the Crab. Pinpoint lighting from the ceiling causes each glass figure to glow from a bed of azure Nepal paper, surrounded by glass starbursts and bronze pellets spilled out on the ground like a handful of jacks. The toylike appearance of some of these pieces proved tempting for some children, so parents might want to keep a tight grip on their children as they round the corner toward Smith's work — lest some kid is busted trampling the scene a la the Buddhist monks' sand drawings at Union Station. Through Oct. 28 at the Bloch Building in the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, 45th St. and Oak, 816-571-1278. (Nadia Pflaum)

Summer Group Show This seasonal exhibit showcases multifarious techniques and media that characterize the range of the Sherry Leedy gallery. In his Native Commodity triptych, photographer Tom Jones captures surprisingly dramatic photos of roadside neon signs and attractions that deploy faux Native American imagery. "Native Commodity Soda Totem" is a large photo of an artless totem pole protruding from a rain-dampened cement slab, fronting a bank of soda machines. Keith Jacobshagen's "End of the Tornado Watch, Platte Valley" is a realist oil landscape that captures the transition from meteorological starkness to vivid sunlight over Nebraska's big-sky flatlands. From a distance, Mike Lyon's "Rick" is a near photo-real portrait of a young man; up close, the image resolves into a dense, controlled network of pen-and-ink scumble. The exhibit also features two pieces from Peter Feldstein's Oxford Project. The photographer took portraits of 670 residents of Oxford, Iowa, in 1984, then photographed many of the same subjects again 21 years later. With the help of writer Stephen G. Bloom, Feldstein combines his dual portraits with first-person biographical narratives. The result is truthful and deeply felt; his portrait of Pat Henkelman, a Christian divorcée, is the most moving piece of the exhibit. Through Aug. 18 at Sherry Leedy Contemporary Art, 2004 Baltimore, 816-221-2626. (Chris Packham)

Textile Group Exhibit In conjunction with the 2007 International Surface Design Association Conference, the Belger Arts Center exhibits work by five international textile artists. Kate Kretz's "Defense Mechanism Coat," on dramatic display under a spotlight at the end of a steel-tiled walkway, appears at a distance to be a lush, glam coat of animal fur. Up close, it's a work of velvet, thread, wool and roofing nails. Kretz also exhibits a series of pillows embroidered with her own hair: Remarkably delicate and fantastically detailed, this needlework depicts nightmare scenes of tornados in descent, framed by parted lips. Dutch artist Annet Couwenberg executes computer-designed, machine-embroidered imagery encoded with ideas of genetic perfection, stippled with a Nazi-era biometric matrix used for categorizing prisoners by appearance. Dorothy Caldwell finds unexpected richness in the lost art of darning, stitching simple shapes in white thread into the weave of a length of beautiful African cotton brocade. Kyoung Ae Cho, a former fiber-arts instructor at the Kansas City Art Institute, lists gardening as one of her media; her fiber works incorporate corn leaves into unexpectedly erotic (some might say Freudian) textile abstractions. The exhibit also includes works by Laura Bernard. Through Sept. 7 at the Belger Arts Center, 2100 Walnut, 816-474-3250. (Chris Packham)

Voilá! Sculpture by Judy Onofrio The circus-poster and sideshow iconography of Judy Onofrio's mixed-media sculpture evoke both a timeless era (sometime in the mid-19th century) and an indeterminate place (central Europe, maybe). Most of these pieces begin as impossibly smooth woodcarvings: stylized busts and torsos of circus performers; dancers; women who could be carnival psychics, whose elaborate headdresses are populated with carved, brightly painted birds. Onofrio elaborates on these foundations with tilework, glass collage and painted curlicues of decorative molding. Mostly, the childlike simplicity of the underlying figures keeps Onofrio's intricacies from overwhelming the pieces (or the viewer). Sometimes, though, the artist's ingenuousness can veer from whimsical into the realm of cuteness. She strikes a balance with "Act of Audacious Daring," a large-scale mixed-media work in which an acrobatic dancer strikes an impossible pose, held aloft by twin lions. Through Aug. 18 at Sherry Leedy Contemporary Art, 2004 Baltimore, 816-221-2626. (Chris Packham)

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