Artists changing styles and the approaching Day of the Day: your October First Friday hit list

October marks the beginning of the Day of the Dead season, and two art spaces are celebrating that cultural heritage this month. Hilliard Gallery (1820 McGee) has invited 11 artists to be part of Sugar Skulls: A Tribute to Día de los Muertos, and the Mattie Rhodes Art Gallery (919 West 17th Street) is starting its 16th Annual Día de los Muertos with an exhibition of traditional tribute altars and related artwork Friday night, plus an all-day street festival Saturday.

The Pakistani Cargo Truck, Asheer Akram’s ambitious and self-propelled collaboration with a number of local artists, is still on the road a year after its debut, and Akram is about to unveil a collection of new sculptural works. With Sacred Spaces, at Belger Crane Yard Studios (2011 Tracy), Akram demonstrates what happens when he applies his intense work ethic to metal domes, ceramic platters and other illuminated sculptures of stylized and refined industrial materials.

Phil “Sike” Shafer recently completed an enormous “Angry Zebra” mural on a 50-foot wall at the NAIA building, at 12th Street and Grand, under the auspices of the Downtown Council’s Art in the Loop program. The distinctive black-white-and-red zebra chess piece makes strong use of Shafer’s personal, metaphor-layered iconography. You can see his latest vector-based design up close Friday, when he opens an exhibition called State of Shock at 19 Below (5 West 19th Street).

It seems that just the other day, Bernal Koehrsen had a major exhibition at Blue Gallery (118 Southwest Boulevard), but that show was back in 2012. Since then, he has moved into a new, larger studio space, and the change has breathed new life into his work. His latest series is built on black backgrounds and focuses on a sense of spaciousness in both composition and theme: Resin-coated works, larger canvases and multi-layered resin boxes make up The Map Is Not the Territory, inspired by the artist’s interest in astronomy.

Blue also opens Play: Part One by Maura Cluthe, who is exploring 3-D collage with the goal of building toward a larger body of work that can be customized and rearranged by viewers.

At Leedy-Voulkos Arts Center (2012 Baltimore), you can see Aberrations by David Slone. There’s also an exhibition for the 16th Edgar Snow Symposium, which comes to Kansas City October 16–18 (it alternates annually between here and China) and features the paintings of Tang Mingsong and Nie Chengxing. And Travis Pratt’s striking The Joplin Paintings exhibit documents the destruction wrought by the May 22, 2011, EF-5 tornado that swept the ground for 38 miles and took 158 lives. Pratt uses photographs that he took
while there helping with cleanup, creating lovingly colored semiabstract testaments in watered-down acrylic. The light touch of paint and line creates a tension that captures the essence of true beauty: that which contains the power to terrify us.

Amid Friday’s choices are two detail-intensive exhibitions that demand close engagement. Miki Baird is wrapping up her three-year residency at The Studios Inc. (1708 Campbell) with a summing-up titled Read This … Part Two, which shows a continued exploration of, Baird says, “the shredded remains of one individual’s junk mail.” It’s not a minimalist collection of untidy paper piles but rather an arrangement given arresting composition and scale. Finally, get acquainted with an abstract photographic process called vortography — invented in 1917 by Alvin Langdon Coburn — with Shane Blindt’s first solo exhibition at MLB Designs (2020 Baltimore). Blindt’s experimental, digital take on this kaleidoscopic style shows us well-known landmarks and Alaskan landscapes in an exhibit that includes work from 2008 to the present.

Here are additional gallery openings and events, both in and out of the Crossroads