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)

Flexion Friezes As pure compositions, Kathleen Shanahan's paintings have much to recommend them: An edgy, expressionist style that comes close to justifying a vivid, almost straight-from-the-tube color palette; and surprising motifs, such as an incorporation of objects and pieces of furniture into flowing, organic tableaux that include beautifully rendered human forms. Shanahan was commissioned by Ballet Wichita to paint an image for its new season. "While working on that," she tells the Pitch, "I recalled how inspiring the human form was." The result is this collection of pieces relating to dance. And therein lies the rub: Rather than imparting any unique ideas about human form and body movement, the works rely, at least partially, on the viewer's preconceptions about the magic and beauty of dance. Shanahan's technical mastery and seeming spontaneity keep these pieces aloft; "Dorwati I" and "Dorwati II," with their deeper and more subtle color schemes and their density of visual information, are two particularly rich examples of her themes. Through August 25 at the Pi Gallery, 419 E. 18th St., 816-210-6534. (Chris Packham)

Meccanismo It's difficult to overstate the significance of Kansas City's The Late Show Gallery for emerging local artists. Owner Tom Deatherage has an unerring eye for talent and technical excellence, and the work of these young artists is usually moderately priced. The current exhibit is a typically diverse showcase of styles and media. Stan Fernald's projected pieces are magnifications of insects and cellular structures. The projectors themselves are cantilevered from the bottoms of the rigid screens on which they cast their images. As physical objects, the pieces are surprisingly elegant, and it is fitting that Fernald's art, like microscopic objects, can only be seen via an arrangement of lenses. Nora Goddard's mixed-media works are fluid, simple evocations of femininity. Combining etching, drawing and watercolor, her work perplexes; she seems to be exploring her themes, rather than making a statement. The organic flow of her pieces contrasts nicely with John Warnick's juxtapositions of female forms with engine blocks and chainsaws — graphite and ink drawings that are surprisingly delicate and literally multilayered, built up from superimposed sheets of translucent paper. Through August 31 at the Late Show Gallery, 1600 Cherry, 816-474-1300. (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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