The Kansas City Artists Coalition's December exhibition tugs visitors through its three galleries in colliding currents of sensory appeal. Each of the four artists on display plays with different kinetic possibilities, moving us through scenes, swirls and symphonies.
Christopher Troutman's charcoal and ink drawings stage active figures in urban environments. The paper panels loom large in the Mallin Gallery, where street scenes of neighbors grilling meat and hoisting bicycles up stone steps play out as buildings converge claustrophobically in the distance.
In many of these drawings, Troutman directs our gaze with a cinematographer's eye for movement and mise-en-scène. "Watching Neighbors" captures an apartment staircase from a tenant's perspective, placing us in the drawing as an observer: We peer down, hands curled over the railing, as neighbors descend.
"Three Times" plays with narrative, capturing the same setting at three different moments. The progression is linear, pulling our eye down the paper to watch the scene change. Here, too, we're invited into the drawing as an observer, but the effect is much more unsettling. We view the scene from the perspective of a voyeur taking a cellphone pic of a woman in a coffee shop. In a later iteration, we leer down at her as she bends to retrieve a cup from the floor. In this frame, she stares back, challenging us.
"Three Times" is one of the more representational drawings on display, layering soft strokes of charcoal to craft detail in both content and texture. Troutman's work is varied, however, and hazier panels, such as "Night Walk," are no less affecting; black ink pools romantically on the paper, contrasting solid swaths of shadow with scratchy charcoal marks.
Down the hall, in the Charno Gallery, Michael Lasater's single-channel high-definition videos appeal to different senses. Though each composition uses an individual audio track, the cumulative effect is mesmerizing. Standing in front of one screen at a time allows you to temporarily isolate a solo voice, but what emerges is an atmospheric choral soundscape.
Lasater's "Tryst" unites modern figures and mythology. A sailor from a Walter Ruttmann film dances on the screen, his high leg kicks casting shadows on a brick wall behind him. Nearby, a traced nude — Iphigenia, Lasater suggests — blooms from the wall like neoclassical graffiti. On the audio track, a muffled drum sounds an ominous, martial tone over the drone of film ripping through a projector.
"Crossing, Berlin 1927" conducts images as if from a musical score. The screen features a tiled display, each broadcasting the same footage of a woman walking across a street. In each new iteration, however, Lasater toys with time — slowing the footage, skipping forward and excising parts of the movement, freezing her at different points in her journey. As you watch seconds tick by (a counter underlines each tile) and track the woman's pace, it's hard not to lose your own temporal footing. Identifying the virgin footage from Lasater's orchestra of alterations is harder still. The variations appear as real as the original theme.
Like much of Lasater's work in this exhibition, "Crossing" seems more attuned to sound and rhythm than to image. The varying tempos and repeating patterns of the woman's progress become a concerto of spatial arrangement that you want to conduct in the air.
In the Underground Gallery, Sarah Krawcheck's "Getting Fit With S&M" details her and her husband's journey through healthy eating and exercise. By way of introduction, three photos spell out "S&M" with dots of baked goods, a kind of muffin pointillism.
Krawcheck's "Dessert Substitutions" series offers food porn for hungry gallerygoers. In one photo, a supple, dewy hunk of cornbread rests near a crumb-flecked knife. She best captures the sensual allure of food with the dimpled, cream-swirled peak of ice cream in "Mountains of Insecurity." At odds with that interpretation, however, is her near-clinical lighting: Despite the photo's oceanic backgrounds and sensuous subjects, the colors often appear bleak here, washed out in a chilly glare.
Across the gallery, Cynthia Bjorn's oil paintings drip with abstract eddies of calligraphy. Rogue droplets and comets of color mar Bjorn's canvases, and the bubbles and imperfections within the paint create a sense of movement and play. Though the calligraphic flourishes can seem more like an overlay than a fully integrated element in some pieces, "Coming Home" coils Bjorn's colors effectively, sparkling on the canvas in effervescent swirls. "Job's Test" is among the most dramatic of Bjorn's works: Wet-look scarlet oils gleam like blood on the edges of the painting, and the emphasis on the center draws us in like a vortex.
The works on display in the December exhibition share little in subject or medium, but the artists' collective energy generates a natural sense of movement through the galleries. The Artists Coalition offers a variety show centered on motion, pushing us downstream on gentle waves of charcoal, calligraphy and chocolate cake.