Arts » Visual Art

Capsule reviews of current area art exhibitions.

ONGOING

Pedestal and Off the Wall -- The two-part title is a sign: This sculpture exhibition, juried by Cleveland artist Don Harvey, boasts a sharply split personality. The meatier, stronger half boldly pushes all sorts of relevant buttons. The second half, by contrast, is pure goofiness -- creative, technically accomplished froth. Guess which half Dietrich Wegner's "Bomber Boy" belongs to? Strapped to this realistic, life-sized figurine of a white, blond-haired little boy is a pack of dynamite. A cherubic symbol of Western innocence transforms into a brainwashed harbinger of death straight from the war-torn Middle East. More than effective, the sculpture jams together opposing stereotypes, thereby evoking an almost painful degree of cognitive dissonance. No less powerful is Case Conover's "Match America." This 3-D map of the U.S., made of matchstick tips, eliminates blue states entirely, brilliantly portraying the entire country as one more-or-less monochromatic swath of red -- one that could, incidentally, burst into flames at the slightest provocation. The show's laid-back side is a zoo of zany contraptions and creatures, dazzling to the eye and playfully meaningless. Chief among them is J. Derek O'Brien's "Polli," a life-sized pig forged from cast-iron cookware. A pig made from pans used for frying bacon? How deliciously cyclical. But Mark VanFleet's "Tape Measure Ceiling" best bridges the gap between the exhibit's two sides: The video shows a group of men extending flimsy tape measures high into the air, allegorically taking the male obsession with length to humorous new heights. Through April 14 at the Sculpture Center, 1834 East 123rd St., 216-229-6527, www.sculpturecenter.org. -- Zachary Lewis

Apart: From Europa to Paradise Lost -- The volatile passion for which Eastern Europe is famous is fully evident in these six large paintings by Clevelander Andrzej Siwkiewicz, a native of Poland. Pretty representation is the last thing on Siwkiewicz's mind as he surrenders to process-as-art mentality and attempts to encapsulate dark, inchoate feelings of alienation, misunderstanding, and life's ultimate futility. Alas, the attempts don't always succeed, despite their sometimes bold visceral appeal. Each painting belongs to one of three recent series: Europa, Separations, or Paradise Lost. To call the differences among the works subtle is an understatement. Essentially, they're all about loneliness, specifically that of someone lost in the gap between two cultures. It's easy to imagine a dramatic scenario behind Europa's "Escape From the Market at Noon," the show's most vigorously painted image: Suddenly inspired by some deep-seated passion, the artist dashes home and releases the floodgates of his subconscious onto canvas. What results is an explosion of whitish flames over ribbons of red the color of meat. Perhaps it's no surprise to detect a pink, vaginal oval in this heated mix. It's not all pure abstraction. Pale, skeleton-like figures cross a white, slatted pathway in "Bridge of Suspend," of the Paradise Lost series. But Siwkiewicz reduces everything to two dimensions. Thus the limp, faceless creatures appear pinned to the painting's red background. What they're doing is more like dangling than crossing. The frustration message is clear. Problem is, that's where the communication ends. Through March 31 at Exit: a Gallery Space, 2688 West 14th St., 330-321-8161, www.exitgallery.com. -- Lewis

Monet in Normandy -- Claude Monet's oeuvre has been presented a thousand times in a thousand ways, but never quite like this. Organized chronologically in accordance with Monet's many trips to France's rugged Normandy coast, and featuring a healthy mix of major and minor works, this 50-piece exhibition amounts to a quick but insightful examination of the painter's stylistic development. Famous works from the 1860s like "The Garden at Sainte-Adresse" and "Pointe de la Heve at Low Tide" illuminate the show's early chapter, in which Monet becomes infatuated with the sea and refines his ability to produce landscapes both fresh and dramatic. But it's not long until Monet's nascent Impressionism begins to emerge. By the 1880s, after marriage and many returns to the shore, his palette is growing more subtle and complex, and he's more intensely obsessed with water. One painting here, full of blue-green curlicues depicting crashing waves, verges on pure abstraction. But the most rewarding pieces are those that show Monet's devotion to capturing the transformative effects of light, shadow, and snow. The few precious selections from the Rouen cathedral and haystack series are enough to steal this already dazzling show. Through May 20 at the Cleveland Museum of Art, 11150 East Boulevard, 216-421-7350, www.clevelandart.org. -- Lewis

Visions of a City With Soul -- Eighty years of life in Cleveland come alive in this ample survey of four photographers: Arthur Gray, William Barnhill, Jasper Wood, and Andrew Borowiec. What's striking is how different these artists are. Beyond using black-and-white film, they have almost nothing in common. Gray, in the 1920s, fondly captures Cleveland's economic heyday, when downtown was a vibrant, crowded shopping district and black smoke symbolized industrial health. But while his work is dated, it's also strikingly contemporary in certain respects. "Bridges at Night," a long exposure illustrating the curvy paths of traffic through and over the Flats, might have been taken yesterday. Wood, a self-taught artist in the late '40s, exposes Cleveland's extreme poverty with brutal honesty; his shots of unemployed men and grimy children playing in garbage-strewn slums burn into the visual memory instantaneously. Urban loneliness, expressed via desolate, shadowy alleyways, seems to have been Barnhill's primary interest in the late '30s. But Borowiec, a professor at the University of Akron, has the sharpest formal eye. Shooting in modern-day western Cleveland, Borowiec composes scenes of remarkable depth and geometric eclecticism. Lines formed by train tracks, beams, and industrial structures intersect at every angle, setting up one surprising contrast after another. Through March 31 at the Cleveland Artists Foundation (at Beck Center for the Arts), 17801 Detroit Ave., Lakewood, 216-227-9507, www.clevelandartists.org. -- Lewis

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