Art Exhibitions 

Biographical Landscape: The Photography of Stephen Shore, 1969-1979 American photographer Stephen Shore's exhibition includes more than 150 images of '70s-era parking lots, motel rooms, restaurants, highways and other familiar road-trip images from across the country. Anyone who has been on a road trip knows these images by heart. The exterior photographs of filling stations, desolate dirt roads, billboards and other architectural features vibrate with color and ripple with texture. Shore is particularly adept at distilling the essence of light and its changeable nature; saturated colors give bricks a velvety feeling. His work conveys the wonder — and tedium — of ordinary scenes. "Trail's End Restaurant, Kanab, Utah, August 10, 1973" shows us a small stack of pancakes, half a cantaloupe, milk and water on a Western-themed place mat in a diner that could be anywhere in America. Seeing a Sambo's restaurant sign makes us wince, as does a Chevron sign with gas at 59.9 cents. Through May 18 at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, 4420 Warwick, 816-753-5784. (Dana Self)

Cursive New York artist Creighton Michael's definition of drawing is extremely elastic, encompassing traditional pencil-on-paper imagery, painting and sculpture. Gesture is key to understanding the pieces here; Michael is interested in the various ways in which physical movements create marks on a page or canvas. His pieces, arranged in series, make up a kind of dialogue, each responding to others in various ways. The exhibit's dominant piece may be "Rhapsody," a "three-dimensional drawing" made from graphite, paper and rope arranged on the floor; using a dense arrangement of curls and arcs, Michael explores similar ideas about gesture and line in 3-D. Oh, yeah — despite Michael's unapologetically cerebral approach, the work exhibited is really pretty. Through June 6 at the Belger Arts Center, 2100 Walnut, 816-474-3250. (Chris Packham)

Paint The large-scale works in Kevin McGraw's exhibition Paint were created expressly for the dramatic space of the Leedy-Volkous Art Center. They're extremely playful and spontaneous, their bold compositions maximally readable even at a distance. McGraw's focus is apparent in the relationships between the paintings, bright abstractions with the feel of comic page panels blown up to large dimensions. "Sail Around," an acrylic-on-canvas painting, is composed of fat, obvious brushstrokes and the emergent effects of paint drips, but it's cut through with deliberate geometrics. Judging by the gravity-defying direction of its paint drips, "Oh No" was painted at one orientation and displayed at another, a playful flourish that may have occurred during its hanging but seems absolutely correct in situ. "Swoop" is built up from curvilinear shapes in bright yellows and greens. McGraw also offers some acrylic-paint-on-paper works, which reveal another side of the medium. More than just a substrate, the matte, organic surface of the paper contrasts with the synthetic shininess of the paint, a relationship McGraw exploits with the gaudy, immediately attractive colors of "Open Jump" and "Reconfiguring." The exhibit includes "Barrel of Fun," a free-standing sculpture consisting of three gleaming barrels painted in the primary colors. With its appealing yet repelling brightness, it evokes some of the tastier Neo-pop sculpture of Jeff Koons. Through May 31 at the Leedy-Volkous Art Center, 2012 Baltimore, 816-474-1919. (Chris Packham)

Seven Deadly Sins If Joe Gregory, a self-taught painter of surreal landscapes, were a formally trained artist, some mortarboard-wearing academic type would have gotten around to telling him that a series of paintings based on the Seven Deadly Sins was a prosaic idea and that he should try something else. But then this great series would never have happened, which would be too bad, because Gregory uses the initial concept as an armature to hang his visual ideas, which are edgy, troubling and (pleasingly) affected. The paintings are well executed and slightly queasy — due in part to the strange translucence of the skin on Gregory's figures, but mostly due to his approach to the subject's mortal implications. "Wrath," beautifully composed, depicts a satisfied-looking woman in repose holding a pair of scissors, a beheaded teddy bear on the floor nearby. As in the rest of the exhibited works, the elements here are deliberately chosen and artfully arranged, creating an artificiality that speaks to the artist's ironic approach. In "Lust," a woman cuddles a cartoony stuffed rabbit between her thighs; the inspired "Envy" depicts a thin woman hungering after a slice of cake in the possession of her obese, nude couchmate. "Gluttony" ambiguously depicts a woman who has either dosed or overdosed herself with a nearby syringe. The exhibit's most controversial piece is obviously "Sloth," a splayed-out male figure too languorous to get up from the table on which he has collapsed — or to put on a pair of briefs. Indeed, the man in "Sloth" is undeniably well rendered in all his anatomical detail. Through May 31 at the Late Show Gallery, 1600 Cherry, 816-474-1300. (Chris Packham)

Hong Chun Zhang and Chong Siew Ying Hong Chun Zhang and Chong Siew Ying join the many contemporary artists who use hair and images of hair to examine social difference, mortality, fetishism, gender and other cultural issues. Zhang, who was born and reared in China but received her MA and MFA degrees in the States and now lives in Lawrence, makes drawings in which delicate pencil lines mimic hair in a tactile way. "Split Ends," "Soft Cut," "Cheers" and "Recording" are also clever visual puns on the relationships between language and image. Also on display here are four paintings in which Zhang incorporates hair into everyday imagery, substituting it for such things as running water. Ying, meanwhile, paints images of beautiful, happy or smiling monochromatic faces floating inside groupings of flowers and butterflies, often superimposing the faces with serene clouds or mountains. These paintings are pleasing but facile, lacking the weight of experience or commentary. Through May 24 at Byron C. Cohen Gallery for Contemporary Art, 2020 Baltimore, 816-421-5665. (Dana Self)

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