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. (Chris Packham)
Ice: A Victorian Romance If you want a hot romance, go see Ice at the Linda Hall Library. Curator William B. Ashworth has organized an astonishing exhibition from the library’s rare-books collection. It covers the period of arctic exploration from 1818 to 1860, when expeditions set the stage for later explorations of and ideas about the Arctic, Antarctica and how prehistoric Earth developed. Gorgeous, diminutive images suggest the engagement that captains and crews (traveling in wooden ships and wearing heavy 19th-century clothing) had with this frozen, alien world and its creatures and citizenry. Amid images of seascapes, maps, seals, whales and native tribal people are the stories of explorers such as Ernest Shackleton, whose 1914-16 expedition is one of the most harrowing survival stories of all time. Beautiful drawings from Sir William Edward Parry’s voyage are intimate portraits of the Inuit as they fish, wait for seals at breathing holes and joyride on their dogsleds. Personal and scientific, these and other documents are filled with lived experiences that transcend time and place to re-emerge as some of Western culture’s most compelling historical and creative objects. Through September 13 at the Linda Hall Library, 5109 Cherry, 816-363-4600. (Dana Self)
Sparks! The William T. Kemper Collecting Initiative Over the past decade, the Nelson has spent $10 million collecting work to augment its modern and contemporary collection. Guided by renowned curator, writer and artist Robert Storr and the Nelson’s curator, Jan Schall, the museum has purchased work by established artists such as Alex Katz, Jane Freilicher, Louise Bourgeois and Kiki Smith, as well as pieces by lesser-known but significant artists such as the late Al Taylor and Belgian Raoul de Keyser. The most enigmatic and strange work here is Jess’ “Figure 2 — A Field of Pumpkins Grown for Seed: Translation #11,” from 1965. Based on a 1909 Department of Agriculture photograph, it depicts a man sitting in a pumpkin patch. The painting is a beautiful, complex and significant marker in the transition from surrealism (represented here by Duchamp, Man Ray and Dorothea Tanning) to contemporary art and postmodernism (Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Rachel Whiteread and Alex Hay). Work by other luminaries such as Richard Tuttle and Kerry James Marshall demonstrate the breadth of this collecting initiative. The money was well spent. Through July 20 at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, 4525 Oak, 816-561-4100. (Dana Self).