Art Capsule Reviews

Empty Thoughts, Lame Excuses, and Decorative Lies Ryan Humphrey’s first solo museum exhibition consists of four pieces: “Vantasy,” the driver’s side of a tricked-out, 1971 C-10 Chevrolet van; “Honky Spaceship,” a battery-powered installation panel that pumps out the beats of Public Enemy and Run DMC; “Rear Window,” the tail section of a Ferrari mounted on plywood; and “Velocity of Transparent Aspiration,” a BMW 7-Series hood painted in the distinctive slash pattern of Eddie Van Halen’s guitar. The artist has taken the inherently gritty, masculine cultures of guitar rock, hip-hop and auto customization and melded them with the postmodern concept of ready-mades, a movement that playfully criticizes what was considered art by objectifying average items. But the products that result aren’t average. And we suspect that Humphrey is trying to pay homage to that on some level, but by bringing it into a pristine white gallery, he looks self-indulgent at best, and pretentious at worst. We wonder if the show might succeed in a space that’s as coarse as the work. That the exhibition is at the Kemper doesn’t “shake up our connotations of class,” as the accompanying essay promises; instead, it robs these worlds of their sex, one of their most fundamental dimensions. Through July 2 at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, 4420 Warwick, 816-753-5784. (A.F.)

Celebrating a Grand Gift: The Hallmark Photographic Collection On January 12, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art announced that when its new Bloch Building opens in 2007, it will house the 6,500-piece Hallmark Photographic Collection. Keith Davis, director of Hallmark’s fine-art programs, has spent 25 years assembling the collection — which, with its emphasis on the history of American work, is considered one of the best in the country. Davis has organized a 31-piece exhibit to tempt our palates. The show includes important works by such greats as Chuck Close, Alfred Stieglitz and Man Ray as well as two teasers from Hallmark’s extensive daguerreotype collection and Harry Callahan’s “Ireland,” one of 320 Callahan holdings. Just try to take your eyes off Irving Penn’s gorgeous subject in “Woman in Moroccan Palace, Marrakech,” her face turned to confront the camera, the corners of her painted lips turned up oh so slightly. (Penn’s a fashion photographer to the core.) Or Carrie Mae Weems’ highly detailed prints of Ebos Landing, where, the legend goes, a number of West African slaves chose suicide as their freedom, drowning themselves in Dunbar Creek. (Some say that on quiet nights, their ghosts can be heard chanting in the marsh.) Our favorites include the film still of a 22-year-old Cindy Sherman, Ilse Bing’s self-portrait and Barbara Morgan’s 1939 photo montage “Hearst Over the People.” Through April 30 in Gallery 208 at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, 4525 Oak, 816-561-4000. (A.F.)

Faith Culture Collection At Grand Arts, Welsh artist Neal Rock’s gargantuan “Pingere Triptych” (pingere is Latin for paint, but also means depiction) straddles the line between sculpture, painting and installation. The three pieces — horizontally arranged and oddly fish-shaped — are constructed from Styrofoam and covered in pigmented silicon squeezed out of cake-icing bags. The results form interesting combinations of shapes that fall somewhere between the natural and synthetic worlds. (Rock claims the three pieces weigh in at 1 ton, and the wood frame holding the piece contributes to the immense quality of the work.) Bright and shiny, thick and decorative, the sculptures appear to float. Look for the much less daunting but equally intriguing “Discreet Lustre,” a pine-cone, bud-shaped form delicately hanging vertically in the center of the smaller gallery. Through June 3 at Grand Arts, 1819 Grand, 816-421-6887. (R.T.B.)

Spaces Between Leigh Salgado and Susan White each may have a touch of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Both artists manipulate fire — in all of its dangerous glory — to create beautiful, detailed drawings. One misstep, and a piece that’s been hours in the making is reduced to trash. In Salgado’s mixed-media work, there’s a provocative interplay between the destructive qualities of the medium and the delicate, feminine nature of the work it produces. In some instances, lacy flutters of paper create lively shadows on the gallery’s walls; in others, the cavities that Salgado burns into her pieces are more substantial and symbolic. (If you feel like you’re undergoing ink-blot tests when you look at her pieces, you aren’t completely off. She used to be an art therapist.) White, on the other hand, uses a wood-burning tool to create her recurring patterns, listening to fast-paced electronic music as she does so. The tension in her work comes from an insistent repetition — not only in the product but also in the process. Through May 26 at Greenlease Gallery (Rockhurst University, 54th St. and Troost), 816-501-4407. (A.F.)

Mette Tommerup and Squeak Carnwath Inspired by the Victorian era, Danish-born artist Mette Tommerup’s old-fashioned pieces bring to mind children’s fairy tales as reflected and transformed through a fun-house mirror. Tommerup uses digital technology to create delicate, detailed renderings that require careful scrutiny. Characters reveal themselves after a time — a small, sad boy looking forlornly through a window, for example, or two mischievous skeletons. (We’re most impressed by “Woman” and “Arc,” both printed on uniquely textured Japanese Kinwashi paper.) In the back gallery, Bay Area artist Squeak Carnwath’s colorful painted tapestries suggest memories, as represented by seemingly unrelated symbols. The standing bunnies and other random objects within the grid of “Everyday,” the vinyl records in “Recorded History,” and the “guilt free zones” of both, hint at visual explorations of the mind. Through May 27 at Byron C. Cohen Gallery for Contemporary Art, 2020 Baltimore, 816-421-5665. (R.T.B.)

(Un)Redeemable Moments: Bobby Belote, Curt Bozif and Brian Zimmerman Of all the intriguing work on display at the Bank, Curt Bozif’s obsessive pieces stay with the viewer like images branded on the brain. His preferred shape is the circle; in “To Mother’s Escape,” the center of a chalkboard is worn down in a circular shape to create a pile of dust on the chalk tray beneath it — a handmade sun over a handmade desert. “One Day” chronicles a 24-hour walk in one place on a rug. Thousands of ballpoint pen lines stacked on one another make “Lines for Micah” and “Every Lamb to Its Shepherds” appear as tapestries. Elsewhere are playful and sublime pieces by Brian Zimmerman, such as the hand-stamped roll of tickets in “Please Take One,” allowing holders to “renounce,” be “free” or “play.” In “Oil and Water,” a row of five rings attached to fishing lines are dropped into glasses of liquid again and again — the romantic devolving into the mundane. Through May 6 at the Bank, 11th St. and Baltimore, 816-221-5115. (R.T.B.)

Zealothrone Mindfield: Anthony Baab and Colin Leipelt In the wonderfully titled “Sky Is a Fossil for the Mountain Within It,” Anthony Baab uses only pencil and colored tape to create an intriguing depiction of a mountain, doubled, with two concentric circles and neat draft lines vertically and horizontally breaking the plane. This and Baab’s other work, “Baths,” appear like blueprints from the mind of a mad architect. Unfortunately, one speaker was blown in Colin Leipelt’s sound installation, “Abysmal Depths Are Flooded.” The digital print “Torn into Enthrallment” at least appears to create sound waves broadcast from the tops of two geometric towers. Leipelt’s pencil-on-blackboard paint skulls are dark, mysterious meditations on death (or something like it), and they make it clear that even skeletons age. Through May 6 at Paragraph, 23 East 12th Street, 816-221-5115. (R.T.B.)

Categories: A&E