Art Capsule Reviews

Charlotte Street Foundation The Charlotte Street Foundation awards show isn’t your average group show, lumping together somewhat disparate artists with a theme or linking their work by period or subject. Instead, the CSF artists whose work hangs together at Johnson County Community College’s Gallery of Art share something else: recognition and the funding that comes with it. This year’s award winners include Craig Subler, who comments on the experience of viewing art by rendering works that question how people participate in museums and galleries; looking at his pieces makes us worry that we’re in danger of becoming his next victim. Miles Neidinger’s Maelstrom of Reflections is an enormous installation made from sheets of foil; in Neidinger’s skillful hands, the lowly sandwich wrap evokes Frank Gehry’s undulating architecture. Max Key thinks big, too, with wall-sized paintings that are dark, decorative and gothic. (Look closely for patterns that echo those of origami, silhouette portraits and botanical prints.) Sean Ward, on the other hand, doesn’t do pretty. His paintings of Halloween masks and claws are pretty funny, though. And it’s hard not to want to touch Callyann Casteel’s soft sculptures, assemblages of hands, chains and horns — they’re on display here, but they’re meant to be worn. Through Dec. 20 at the Johnson County Community College Gallery of Art (inside the Carlsen Center), 12345 College Blvd. in Overland Park, 913-469-8500, ext. 3972. (R.B.)

Exhibición de la arte de vida y muerte The Day of the Dead Festival is over. Gone is your chance to buy skull-shaped lollipops, refrigerator magnets and pens. No more can you enjoy funnel cake while watching lithe flamenco dancers stomp gracefully in high heels. But the art and ofrendas (or altars) at Mattie Rhodes Gallery are still on display, and art workshops continue for the duration of the exhibit. The most-publicized work is by famous Mexican artist Jorge R. Gutierrez, whose colorful, iconic posters of El Macho (or Macho Man) seem to have predicted the current trendiness of skull imagery. (His Web site has the best URL ever; at super-macho.com you can also see the artist’s “manimation.”) Other pieces of wall art worth the visit are Xerox-transfer skull prints on big, heavy stone tablets and layered, comic-book style Day of the Dead stories. But a window installation is our favorite part. Dirt covers the window sill, and a grave awaits an unglazed clay coffin carried by a procession of unglazed clay skeletons. Through Nov. 19 at Mattie Rhodes Gallery, 919 W. 17th St., 816-221-2349. (G.K.)

Newrotic: Experiments in Eroticism With new gallery director Luis Garcia in place, the Vault has gathered paintings of women resembling Tank Girl, airbrushed hip-hop portraits and girls who look straight out of manga. But one person’s Playboy centerfold is another’s unsexy nightmare. Accordingly, the works in this group show are a bit of a sensual smorgasbord — what one viewer finds titillating, another might find mundane. Adrian Halpern’s delicate, disjointed figures (a screaming girl wields a sword in one hand; her other arm is a fish, her legs a mass of snakes) are set next to a series of photographs called “Mine Is Bigger Than Yours” in which Beanie Babies are placed in provocative positions with … mushrooms. The piece that provoked the most laughter on opening night involves Ronald McDonald proclaiming “I’m loving it” as a woman, naked but for thigh-high stockings and a corset around her midsection, goes down on his Big Mac. We’ll skip the joke about supersizing it. Through Nov. 24 at the Vault Gallery at Leedy-Voulkos, 2012 Baltimore, 816-405-3562. (R.B.)

Parts In each of the 11 large-scale photographs that make up Parts, the latest exhibit to open at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, artist Nikki S. Lee adopts a distinct persona — and a boyfriend to complement it. Staged in snapshot form, the glossy images feature Lee interacting with tattooed muscle men and pale drug addicts, on playgrounds and in bars; however, each of the guys has been cut out of the picture, suggesting truncated relationships. (After viewing 11 presumably failed attempts at relationships, one starts to feel a little discouraged.) Her diverse identities are certainly driven by stereotypes, but we empathize with the desire to be someone else every so often. In “Part 18,” she’s in morning-after mode, drinking coffee on a fire escape, bedheaded and wearing boxers; “Part 13” has her barefoot and laughing on a bus. What’s most striking is that it’s not her face — where one usually looks for indications of mood or disposition — that gives her away; it’s her body language. There does seem to be a direct correlation between the amount of makeup Lee wears and her level of misery, though. We’d better toss our eyeliner. Through Dec. 11 at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, 4420 Warwick, 816-753-5784. (A.F.)

The Snug Sensation Martin Morehouse’s sculptures — nine white, upholstered forms of various shapes and sizes, simultaneously suspended from the ceiling and stuck to the floor — look like punching bags. But aggression is the last thing they’re intended to incite; in fact, Morehouse wants you to hug them. Using a tactile transducer (a variation on a speaker that vibrates solids instead of air), he makes his figures pulse like muscle contractions, heartbeats, refrigerators and idle motors. The objective is to energize the senses of sight, sound and touch in a nonthreatening way. The gallery was deserted when we stopped in on a Saturday afternoon, and we felt damned silly embracing these sculptures while alone. But we found evidence of a more populated opening: the comment sheet. And we were fascinated by how the remarks differed by what appeared to be the writers’ genders. Whereas large, loopy letters — often accented with exclamation points — declared the show “very intimate” and confided “I enjoyed hugging your art,” a minimalist, masculine scrawl announced: “I kinda think this is bullshit.” Through Nov. 26 in the Front Room Gallery of the Leedy-Voulkos Art Center, 2012 Baltimore, 816-474-1919. (A.F.)

Categories: A&E