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.)

Martin Cail and Ernest Wedoff If this show were an artistic duel, we’d put our money on Martin Cail’s dreamy, odd paintings over Wedoff’s slightly repetitious portraits. Cail seems to be channeling the hyperactive imagination of a sugar-fueled child. “Young Grudge” humorously portrays the titular tension using a baby carriage and an ax, “Temper Temper” appears like a topographical mood map in green and pink, and “Drifting” shows a creature floating on water atop a life raft or flying through the galaxy — it’s hard to tell which. “Cosmic Candy Counter 669,” with its rainbow-bubblegum colors, could have been a prototype for Willy Wonka’s famous factory. Interspersed throughout are Wedoff’s portraits of friends, individuals posed against repeated-figure backgrounds from advertising (especially Calvin Klein’s recognizable “C”). Wedoff uses photography, printmaking and painting to explore the point where identity is usurped by ubiquitous corporate logos. Through Aug. 26 at Grothaus and Pearl Gallery, 2012 Baltimore, 816-471-1015. (R.T.B.)

Jeremy Collins If you need an excuse to visit Pidgeon — other than to shop for really great clothing and accessories — you’ll find it in Jeremy Collins’ exquisitely crafted paintings. Collins explores themes that seem to arise from our collective unconscious. In “Tug,” silhouetted human figures struggle to keep a rope strung tightly across a vast canyon so that the figure walking the line won’t fall into the abyss. The canvas is shiny and lacquered, the colors are ominous and tempestuous (especially the dark sky), and beneath the paint we catch glimpses of an old map. In “Taunt,” we get the sense that a force hovers above us, wielding the strings. His work is eerie, but beautifully so. Through Aug. 4 at Pidgeon, 1810 Baltimore, 816-842-0093. (A.E.F.)

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. Long necks and youthful faces are abundant; these are some pretty ladies. The mouth of Redon’s Salomé is set in a satisfactory pout, of course — her looks have brought her the head of John the Baptist (portrayed with Redon’s features). And there are flirtatious lilts in the lips of Matisse’s “Head of a Woman” and Picasso’s portrait of Marie-Thérèse Walter. But our favorite is the glamorous muse portrayed in “The Red Umbrella” by Jacques Villon (Gaston Duchamp): The lovely Parisian looks relaxed and confident, but her eyes belie an unmistakable haughtiness — perhaps even something darker. 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-Atkins Museum of Art, 4525 Oak, 816-751-1278. (A.F.)

Max Key and Chris Teasley Seeing one of Max Key’s vibrant, large-scale paintings is like getting a fantastic, all-consuming crush on someone. The beauty of Key’s obsessive botanical patterns is the initial draw. Then, over time, you begin projecting enviable qualities on the object of your desire. As you stare at the multilayered designs, you perceive strength in the blooms of “Mother Menthol,” compassion in the copper-colored birds in “Seasonal Divorce,” intellect in the graceful wisps of smoke throughout “Prune and Spoon.” Whether these traits actually exist — whether your idol is actually worthy of your affections — doesn’t matter. What you feel is unconditional. Through Aug. 26 at Dot Gallery, 1517 Oak, 816-283-1213. (A.F.)

Categories: A&E