Art Capsule Reviews

Bend Debra Di Blasi’s abstract paintings are about math and communication — superstring theory, to be specific. Anne Austin Pearce’s ink-on-vellum creations — called Rhetorical Black Holes — look like cells under a microscope, only prettier, with a pink-dominated color scheme that says “spring” in a way that nothing you observed in your 10th-grade chemistry class ever could have. But haters of solving for X should not be afraid; this is art, not math — or is it? (Insert ominous music here.) Also, when checking out the work by Pearce and Di Blasi, don’t pass too quickly by the work in the Late Show’s back room — in particular, Heather Marton’s series of prints that layer Warsaw ghetto imagery with floral patterns and other gleeful visual material in an attempt to process the Holocaust. That’s a brave thing for an edgy young artist to do right now, when the mention of a book, documentary or art exhibit dealing with the oft-explored subject tends to elicit eye-rolling. Marton is fascinated by the role of hope during the Holocaust, and she has selected photographs in which people look happy. This heightens our awareness of her subjects’ mortality; their smiles make us uneasy. It’s quite the visual mindfuck. Through July 31 at the Late Show, 1600 Cherry. For information, call 816-474-1300. (G.K.)

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.)

From Bingham to Benton, Midwest as Muse Those of us who grew up around here have seen paintings by Thomas Hart Benton and company from such an early age, and on such abysmally boring field trips, that the artists’ work constitutes — for us — the visual equivalent of white noise. Incredibly, this exhibit could change that. George Caleb Bingham’s “The Jolly Flatboatmen” alone would be worth the visit. Created in 1847, the painting enraged New York art appreciators for two reasons. First, the boatmen on the river playing fiddles, drinking and dancing were viewed as lowly commoners unworthy of a portrait. Second, the tranquil float scene did not cater to New Yorkers’ fantasies of life in the wild, wild West. It’s kind of like how, when you head to the coasts, people feel gypped that the only Kansan they know can’t milk a cow. On display through July 31 at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, 4525 Oak, 816-751-1278. (G.K.)

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 Aug. 5 at the Belger Arts Center, 2100 Walnut, 816-474-3250. (R.B.)

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.)

Tessa Windt, Sculptures and Photographs When kids go to museums, they want to touch things — it’s a natural way to make sense of unfamiliar objects — but they’re warned not to touch anything. This sometimes confuses the literal-minded among them (especially in contemporary-art museums, where it’s not always clear what is on display and what’s not; at the Kemper, we once witnessed a little girl waiting patiently to ask her parents if it was OK to touch the water fountain). Tessa Windt’s draped-fabric sculptures provoke a similar response for adult viewers, who tend not to discuss whether they like the pieces or what a given sculpture makes them think about. They’re too busy wondering: Is that big glop of shiny white glue wet or dry? What’s under the fabric? Is anything huddled under that bunched-up fabric at all, or is there just more fabric under there? A quick peek underneath, and you would know. All you’d have to do is lift it up. The result is that you really, really, really want to touch this stuff. The photographs of people covered in fabric are a little less compelling, but only because they don’t create the same tactile urges. Windt’s strength is in giving fairly common objects and materials mysterious new personalities — and creating the unbearably inappropriate urge to grab things. Through July 29 at Zone Gallery, 1830 Locust, 816-471-3618. (G.K.)

Categories: A&E