Art Capsule Reviews

Beware All Stylebiters At first we were skeptical of the premise of this show: Thirty artists submit unfinished work to co-curators Jeremy McConnell and Beth Sarver, who then redistribute the already begun artwork so that each participant finishes someone else’s piece. But it turned out great. It’s energizing to see recognizable work by people such as McConnell, Lori Raye Erickson, Gear, Mott-ly, Michael Converse and David Ford take on new forms. A three-dimensional sculptural collage by Mott-ly spray-painted by Gear, for example, turns out to be unexpectedly appropriate because graffiti is usually made outside on surfaces that aren’t necessarily flat or clean but are industrial and gritty, decorated with metal scraps and whatnot. And though they’re not as recognizable as the established heavyweights in the show, emerging artists hold their own, frequently appearing to have helped one another complete thoughts or add a sense of depth. (We heard from at least one of these newer participants that the collaboration helped her out of a rut.) All of the art on display will be auctioned off to benefit community art classes for teens. On view through Aug. 31 at the Brick, 1727 McGee, 816-421-1634. (G.K.)

Boys Behaving Badly; Keith Kavanaugh: Local Color Impressions of the Missouri Landscape Anyone who has taken a road trip through the Midwest will feel some pang of recognition when viewing Keith Kavanaugh’s landscapes. And we know what you’re thinking — landscapes? They’re so art-you-buy-to-hang-above-the-sofa. But Kavanaugh’s work isn’t staid or provincial. There’s a softness to the paintings that’s appealing, whether they’re depicting the gray days of winter or the clear days of summer. Walk into the back room of the Late Show for a trip of a different kind, the group show Boys Behaving Badly. A man masturbating is embroidered on a delicate hanky, and a passed-out cat lies surrounded by its weapons of choice: a pack of cigarettes and a bottle of alcohol. This work, by David Gant, is incongruously rendered in the prissiest of mediums, pastels, but it couldn’t be tougher. Through Sept. 1 at the Late Show, 1660 Cherry, 816-474-1300. (R.B.)

Jesse Howard and Roger Brown: Now Read On It strikes us that Kansas City doesn’t frequently offer exhibitions of contemporary art by people who are dead. More often than not, we have the opportunity to meet the artists at the openings and, depending on wine intake, grill them about their creative process, subject matter and, um, relationship status. With Now Read On, a collaborative effort between the H&R Block Artspace, UMKC’s Center for Creative Studies and the Roger Brown Study Collection at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, we instead found an excited gaggle of experts who worked for two and a half years to bring to fruition this posthumous show of works by Jesse Howard, a self-taught artist from Fulton, Missouri, and Roger Brown, a member of the Chicago imagist movement. The final product echoes the substantial efforts of its multicity staff: The exhibit is arranged in ten extensive tableaux (in all, ten Roger Brown paintings and 58 Jesse Howard pieces, which combine word, image and object), and each grouping tackles separate issues in American social, political and religious culture. The more personal pieces, though not the strongest, are the ones we mulled over most — Howard’s “Our Family Record,” a headboard inscribed with touching, folksy wedding vows, and Brown’s “Down,” an infinite spiral infused with silhouettes of helpless, falling bodies. After all, time can diminish the significance of some themes, but love and disappointment will always be relevant. Through Sept. 17 at the H&R Block Artspace at the Kansas City Art Institute, 16 East 43rd Street, 816-561-5563. (A.F.)

Chunghie Lee, Pojagi and Beyond; Anne Lindberg, Silences; Wendy Lugg, Common Threads; Jason Pollen, Chrysalis Fiber fans, consider yourself warned. A sign accompanying these four exhibits (all in conjunction with June’s International Surface Design Conference) reads: “Please curb your textile urges and do not touch the fabric!” Duly noted. But we’d still like to put our paws on Anne Lindberg’s work. “Old Brain” looks like a pile of hair on the floor (it’s actually rayon thread), and all we want to do is dig through it. Other pieces incorporate wire that Lindberg has gently twisted into words — text from Terry Tempest Williams and Theodore Roethke — in an even, loopy script that recalls penmanship practice books. Chunghie Lee draws inspiration from pojagi, the traditional Korean wrapping cloth, crafting dramatic patchwork pieces screen-printed with images of her ancestors. Also on display: Jason Pollen’s mats with fused paint, thread and silk, and Wendy Lugg’s works incorporating Japanese textiles. Through Sept. 2 at the Belger Arts Center, 2100 Walnut, 816-474-3250. (R.B.)

Hector Olszewski The difference between really good and really bad is truly minuscule. In fact, really good and really bad have more in common than really good and pretty good. For proof, head over to the Arts Incubator, where wood sculpture by Kansas native Hector Olszewski is on display. Most of the work in this show is really good. Ornately sculpted taxidermy heads of extinct species sit alongside wooden monuments to sausage as well as carved likenesses of carousel horses. Individually, the pieces have a compelling, slightly off-kilter appeal that recalls the sentimentally familiar (the circus, bratwurst). Combined, they are weirder — animal portraits that are more similar than our social conscience might want them to be. In the same gallery space sits a lovely, cartoonish, carved-wood sign that says “Fuck!” The piece is titled “Bad Day,” and its squiggly inscription notes the date: 09/11/01. (In that flowery lettering, the numbers take awhile to decipher.) The simplicity of this instinctive need to react — apolitically, with expletives — is refreshing. However, nearby sit trite references to alter egos and abstract, two-dimensional wood carvings that — though not unlike the really good things on display here in terms of craftsmanship — are actually really bad. So the next time you go to your therapist, remember: When you are being very bad, you might be just a stone’s throw from being awesome. On view at the Arts Incubator, 115 West 18th Street, through August. For information or to schedule a viewing, call 816-421-2292. (G.K.)

Past in Reverse We like contemporary Asian pop art as much as anyone else. But we think it’s a bit sad that, to many people, contemporary Asian pop art is the only kind of contemporary Asian art that exists (especially now that the style is — understandably — being imitated and appropriated worldwide). Enter Past in Reverse, a traveling exhibit from the San Diego Museum of Art that offers works from China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea. Among the most notable works are a landscape created by fireworks’ gunpowder holes on a painting’s surface, and video of a mirrored dinghy taking passengers on solitary journeys along the most bustling part of Hong Kong’s waterfront. There’s art you can sit on and art you can play with, too. Through Aug. 28 at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, 4420 Warwick, 816-753-5784. (G.K.)

Strange Passages Maria Park’s first solo museum exhibition consists of a dozen or so acrylic-on-expanded-PVC landscapes, arranged much like a film strip along a horizontal band of color — sadly, an unfortunate shade of beach-house bathroom. The paintings, which from a distance look like large digital prints, aren’t smooth enough up close to further that illusion (this is supposedly intentional), and the disjointed content of each (palm trees, cowboys, convoys) repeatedly interrupts the show’s overall narrative. If we understand this correctly, the point is to force viewers’ perceptions to pinball from time and place as they “read” the strip, thus creating a landscape that exists only in one’s mind. We’ll be honest: That didn’t really happen for us. But we did think the pieces were awfully pretty. Through Oct. 9 at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, 4420 Warwick, 816-753-5784. (A.F.)

UrbanSuburban The nice thing about art auctions, other than the adrenaline rush some people get from bidding, is the variety that can be achieved when a curator assembles a bunch of good artists and lets them show work without a theme. Heading out to Village Shalom, viewers not only get up to yuk it up with the luckiest retirement-community residents in the world (please send us here to live someday, in the room closest to the gallery, thank you) but can also familiarize themselves with plenty of Kansas City artists working in a variety of styles. In one gallery visit, a viewer will catch Christopher Leitch’s cotton-sateen “canvases” that have been adorned with abstract “prints” created by fungus cultures — the best use of a fungus since the discovery of the mushroom; Beniah Leuschke’s Heavy Rain — Hire a Navy anagram, which — incorporating both paint and “pre-approved” credit cards — turns wordplay into a concise political statement; and warped photography by J.D. McGuire, who paints toys and candy wrappers, photographs the paintings, enlarges and slightly distorts the digital photographs, then, after affixing the photographs to Plexiglas, takes a torch to them, creating strange dents and blurs in the final surfaces. On display through Sept. 9 at the Epstein Gallery at Village Shalom, 5500 West 123rd Street in Overland Park, 913-266-8407. (G.K.)

Categories: A&E