Cursive New York artist Creighton Michael’s definition of drawing is extremely elastic, encompassing traditional pencil-on-paper imagery, painting and sculpture. Gesture is key to understanding the pieces here; Michael is interested in the various ways in which physical movements create marks on a page or canvas. His pieces, arranged in series, make up a kind of dialogue, each responding to others in various ways. The exhibit’s dominant piece may be “Rhapsody,” a “three-dimensional drawing” made from graphite, paper and rope arranged on the floor; using a dense arrangement of curls and arcs, Michael explores similar ideas about gesture and line in 3-D. Oh, yeah — despite Michael’s unapologetically cerebral approach, the work exhibited is really pretty. Through June 6 at the Belger Arts Center, 2100 Walnut, 816-474-3250.
Paint The large-scale works in Kevin McGraw’s exhibition Paint were created expressly for the dramatic space of the Leedy-Voulkos Art Center. They’re extremely playful and spontaneous, their bold compositions maximally readable even at a distance. “Sail Around,” an acrylic-on-canvas painting, is composed of fat, obvious brushstrokes and the emergent effects of paint drips, but it’s cut through with deliberate geometrics. Judging by the gravity-defying direction of its paint drips, “Oh No” was painted at one orientation and displayed at another, a playful flourish that may have occurred during its hanging but seems absolutely correct in situ. McGraw also offers some acrylic-paint-on-paper works, which reveal another side of the medium. More than just a substrate, the matte, organic surface of the paper contrasts with the synthetic shininess of the paint, a relationship McGraw exploits with the gaudy, immediately attractive colors of “Open Jump” and “Reconfiguring.” The exhibit includes “Barrel of Fun,” a free-standing sculpture consisting of three gleaming barrels painted in the primary colors. With its appealing yet repelling brightness, it evokes some of the tastier Neo-pop sculpture of Jeff Koons. Through May 31 at the Leedy-Voulkos Art Center, 2012 Baltimore, 816-474-1919.
Seven Deadly Sins If Joe Gregory, a self-taught painter of surreal landscapes, were a formally trained artist, some mortarboard-wearing academic type would have gotten around to telling him that a series of paintings based on the Seven Deadly Sins was a prosaic idea and that he should try something else. But then this great series would never have happened, which would be too bad, because Gregory uses the initial concept as an armature to hang his visual ideas, which are edgy, troubling and (pleasingly) affected. The paintings are well-executed and slightly queasy — due in part to the strange translucence of the skin on Gregory’s figures, but mostly due to his approach to the subject’s mortal implications. “Wrath,” beautifully composed, depicts a satisfied-looking woman in repose holding a pair of scissors, a beheaded teddy bear on the floor nearby. As in the rest of the exhibited works, the elements here are deliberately chosen and artfully arranged, creating an artificiality that speaks to the artist’s ironic approach. In “Lust,” a woman cuddles a cartoony stuffed rabbit between her thighs; the inspired “Envy” depicts a thin woman hungering after a slice of cake in the possession of her obese, nude couchmate. Through May 31 at the Late Show Gallery, 1600 Cherry, 816-474-1300.