Art Capsule Reviews

Before and After Kevin McGraw refers to himself as a “junkyard guy.” Based on this show, the description is accurate. The title refers to the objects — metal traffic signs, skateboard pieces, tire treads, mudflaps — that McGraw frequently finds along the sides of roads. He incorporates these materials into photographs of assemblages he’s already made. There’s a bit of trickery here. From far enough away, the real objects blend with the photographs, and we’re caught between the two-dimensional and three-dimensional worlds. In “Ortho,” a metal can of wasp repellent is smashed and rusted but recontextualized and revitalized through its placement alongside other aging metals, all of which sit in a heavy (some of the pieces weigh in at more than 80 pounds) industrial frame. The work gives new meaning to the idea of recycling. Through March 25 at the Back Room Gallery, Leedy-Voulkos Art Center, 2012 Baltimore, 816-474-1919. (R.T.B.)

Five Acres Inspired by the wooded landscape of his upbringing, Kurt Lightner constructs sizable collages from hundreds of hand-cut pieces of painted Mylar, a process that generates works with a luminous, stirring energy. The series is striking in its polarity — in each of these nine pieces, individual elements are often repeated, yet the tones are overwhelmingly distinctive. Anchoring the images are vibrant flowers; lush, cellular growths; and solid trunks. But with additional layers comes the darker, more sinister side of a forest. One piece is thick with slender, blue-black foliage obscuring flashes of a bright background; another, the largest in the exhibition (and our favorite), stacks veiny mushrooms impaled on long, thin stalks atop a large, volcanic structure glittering with almost Klimt-like details. The collages are imbued with nostalgia, imagination and, strangely, an arresting sense of hunger. Through April 2 at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, 4420 Warwick, 816-756-5784. (A.F.)

Turbulent Although we often say that Jessica Simpson shouldn’t be allowed to sing, we don’t mean that her onstage cooing and pouting should be illegal — just that she should consider a less cloying form of expression. Iran’s leaders, on the other hand, aren’t just trying to spare their countrymen such irritations by not allowing women there to participate in public musical performances. Drawing upon that prohibition to make a larger comment on gender inequality in her homeland, artist Shirin Neshat has created a 10-minute video work titled Turbulent in which she stages a vocal duel between Sjoha Youssefi Azari and Sussan Deyhim. On one screen, Azari faces the viewer with an all-male audience behind him; on another screen directly opposite the first, Deyhim stands alone in an otherwise empty auditorium. With Deyhim shrouded in black, Azari begins a lovely, melodic song with traditional lyrics adapted from Rumi. As he finishes, looking pleased (as he should — the man has a gorgeous voice), he hears an unsettling rumble. Deyhim has begun her own performance on the other screen, a series of disquieting improvisations, rapid grunts and high-pitched shrieks. Her expression of freedom is shocking, primal and extraordinarily beautiful. Through March 26 at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, 4525 Oak, 816-561-4000. (A.F.)

Categories: A&E