Art Capsule Reviews

Elissa Armstrong: Objects of Innocence and Experience Lawrence artist Elissa Armstrong takes the lighthearted concept of “sit-arounds” (or “set-arounds,” depending on how rural your accent is) —decorative objects, including porcelain unicorns, free-standing arrangements of dried flowers and Precious Moments figurines — and flips it on its innocent little head. For this show, the Alfred University-educated ceramist (and University of Kansas assistant professor) gathers childlike lambs, bunnies and deer at thrift stores and garage sales and creates others with lowbrow, craft-store molds. She then adds heaps of bumpy plaster, douses the sculptures in glaze and glitter and affixes long, tubular clay appendages. Some of these subversive figurines look virtually untouched; others are so distorted they’re practically abstract. Arranged together on a flat plane, though, the 11 sculptures begin to make sense as an illustration of evolution or devolution— it’s up to the viewer to decide which. Through Oct. 1 at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, 4420 Warwick, 816-753-5784. (A.F.)

David Detrich: 26 Years Later It’s been 26 years since David Detrich graduated from the Kansas City Art Institute, and he’s still wrestling with big ideas. In his complicated and profound sculptures, Detrich allows viewers to peer into his brain as it mashes science and physics with more familiar notions. “Specimen” is a series of monarch butterflies — co-opted illustrations from Encyclopedia Britannica — arranged horizontally and pinned to a display board behind glass. The butterflies are framed dangerously close by two hammers, suggesting nature’s fragility when human builders are nearby. In “I Like America, But Does It Like Me?” Detrich uses two plastic figurines to spotlight relationships between individuals: On a miniature sleigh, a black Jesus prays to a virginal bride, who’s waiting for him at the top of a steep incline of wooden train tracks. A pulley and a crank connect to the sleigh, and the two are forever joined by a bungee cord. It’s a surprising, distorted take on marriage, religion and the good ol’ U.S. of A. Through Sept. 30 at Zone Gallery, 1830 Locust, 816-471-3618. (R.T.B.)

The Feminine Mystique: Portraits of and by Women In an effort to explore the late-19th- and early-20th-century period of first-wave feminism, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art has opened an installation in Gallery P27, where 16 permanent works are being exhibited for the first time in years. The subjects mostly represent the family, friends and lovers of some of the most celebrated artists of their time. These women might have been gunning for equality, but we suspect they made plenty of men feel damned inferior. Through Oct. 1 at the Nelson, 4525 Oak, 816-751-1278. (A.F.)

Megan Mcginnis Family photos never felt so creepy. Megan Mcginnis captures seemingly innocuous events in snapshots and then paints them with subtle changes so they’re somehow scary — we’re not sure why we should be weirded out, but we are. Two girls seated in front of a dollhouse in “Shared Room” look at the viewer with a blank stare; a veil of whitewash separating the girl in the background from the older girl in the foreground creates a sense of foreboding, heightening our anxiety. Mcginnis uses her camera’s depth field to create a similar feeling of unease in “Big Boy,” in which an adolescent boy is seated in front of a TV in what appears to be a rec room; Mcginnis has smeared a bit of paint around his eyes as the light from the basement window trickles down. Even the few smiling faces in Mcginnis’ images foretell awful things. Though Oct. 28 at Byron C. Cohen Gallery for Contemporary Art 2020 Baltimore, 816-421-5665. (A.E.F.)

Shawn Sanem: Transcape There’s something a little claustrophobic and uninspired in Shawn Sanem’s repetitious watercolors; to describe one of the paintings is to describe them all. Yet “Lost Tunnels” is beautiful in its own way, with bands of bright yellows, oranges and maroons breaking up the frame. Hard-edged straight lines intersect and contrast with varying, opaque shapes: mountains, the curve of the horizon, all expressed in the vibrant colors of an autumn sunset or the burning shades of leaves changing color in the fall. Like the other 14 pieces here, it appears as a partially formed, unrealized kind of map. But this isn’t art that’s challenging. Through Sept. 30 at the Opie Gallery, 2012 Baltimore, 816-474-1919. (R.T.B.)

Martha Schneichert and Jim Walker Martha Schneichert’s photocopied collages on panels are like Victorian-era botanical prints. Modern technology, however, lets her surpass the older style by illuminating the flora’s slightest details. In “Poppy,” the flower’s red stands out against the black panel, and it looks as if we could run our hands across the veins of the petals and feel the ridges. With a strong grasp of photographic technique, Jim Walker also exposes the finest details in nature, such as folds of clouds and the quills of a decaying bird. There is an otherworldly quality to the work of both artists, which is a little unsettling but ultimately conveys a sense of tranquility. Through Sept. 30 at the Back Room Gallery in the Leedy-Voulkos Art Center, 2012 Baltimore 816-474-1919. (A.E.F.)

Sexy: Greg Eltringham and Kenny Johnson Because Greg Eltringham’s oil paintings are so damn funny, they draw attention away from Kenny Johnson’s photographs. Presumably, the title of Eltringham’s “These Two” refers to the oversized, breastlike pecs of the male subject; the model’s bulbous stomach glows like a moon, and an Elvis curl rests on his forehead — with a come-hither look in his eyes and a cigarette dangling from his mouth, the man has truck-stop love written all over him. More pale male skin abounds in “Squeeze,” in which a guy with unnecessarily large spectacles and a mustache is getting his nipple tweaked by another shirtless man. With his untraditional subjects striking curious poses (most are his ex-students), Eltringham may have created a new genre of art: Boy Scout erotica. At the Late Show, 1600 Cherry, 816-474-1300. (R.T.B.)

Surfaces Chris LaValley’s show at the Pi Gallery is a collection of oil paintings, collages, dyed fabrics and ceramics. LaValley tells us she draws her inspiration from topography and the colors of nature; her oil paintings are nonrepresentational, with organic lines and colors that remind us of fall. These paintings are reminiscent of Georgia O’Keeffe’s New Mexico-inspired landscapes, and though they don’t come anywhere close to evoking the same emotions, they’re not unpleasant to look at. LaValley’s ceramic work is the most moving. Fruitlike forms with a matte glaze, stacked on dowel rods and placed on small wooden pedestals, are aptly named “Totems.” LaValley’s dyed fabric pieces, scattered throughout the gallery, hang from the ceiling to create a neat backdrop; the collages fill out the edges. Through Sept. 30 at the Pi Gallery, 419 E. 18th St., 816-210-6534. (A.E.F.)

Categories: A&E