Arts » Visual Art

Capsule reviews of current area art exhibitions.


From Here to Infinity -- The Cleveland Institute of Art admissions staff's job just got a lot easier. This exhibition, marking the 125th anniversary of the CIA, provides concrete evidence to the wary parents of prospective students that, yes, it is possible to graduate from art school and make the pages of art-history books -- let alone enough money to pay the rent. On display are works by CIA graduates who helped shape major artistic movements such as Art Deco, Op Art, and Minimalism. Richard Anuskiewicz, Ed Mieczkowski, and Julian Stanczak contribute eye-arresting acrylic and mixed-media hard-edged abstractions with color combinations that make the heart palpitate, while Robert Mangold's serene black-and-blue canvas is minimal in form, but large in scale. Other alumni, like Motorola design guru Bruce Claxton and Arthur the Aardvark originator Marc Brown, have left their mark with creative ventures outside of the fine-art world. The youngest and freshest contributor is 2000 graduate Dana Schutz, whose solo exhibitions of humorously grotesque paintings sell to collectors and museums around the world. The pieces on the walls and in display cases are arguably not the masterworks of their creators, but they reflect the wide reach of the influence of these 18 artists, who got their start in the studios of the CIA. Until October 27 at CIA Reinberger Galleries, 11141 East Boulevard, 216-421-7407, -- Theresa Bembnister

Gary Spinosa: Through Forests of Symbols -- It's easy for today's art audiences to forget that for centuries, paintings and sculptures were purely functional, designed to enhance or evoke a spiritual experience. Gary Spinosa's mixed-media sculptures hark back to the days when art didn't just look pretty or express the individual's feelings, but served as a reminder of a higher power. Fashioned from clay, wood, fabric, and bits of bric-a-brac (can lids, bells, shotgun shell casings, etc.), and ranging in size from towering to diminutive, his works look like artifacts spirited away from some ancient Babylonian temple. A midcareer retrospective of sorts, this show includes pieces dated from 1973 to 2007, allowing viewers to follow the subtle differences in the organic forms and richly textured surfaces that developed over the decades. Spinosa's most intriguing pieces lie on small velvet pillows in a glass case near the gallery entrance; the "Assorted Stones" are palm-size porcelain sculptures reminiscent of both the handheld technological gadgets of today and the magical amulets of centuries gone by. Their small scale, opulent surfaces, and delicate details encourage close inspection. Through October 26, The Sculpture Center, 1834 East 123rd Street, 216-431-6300, -- Bembnister


Pentimenti -- Art can divide, but it can unify too. So it's easy to see why one-time Clevelanders Misha and Amy Kligman, the artists featured in this intelligently conceived exhibit, are married. While stylistically they're as individual as two painters can be, their work seems nonetheless bonded by theme. Amy powerfully distills painful memories with "Comforts of Home," a simple picture of a boy tied to a house. The artist's trademark naive, two-dimensional style contrasts with the complexity of the statement. Misha captures the sense of being two people simultaneously in "The Split," a self-portrait of Rembrandt-like subtlety showing a faceless figure in the shadows next to his heavenly, contented, well-lit counterpart. But the bond shines brightest through Misha's "Landscape With Cages" and Amy's "The Secret." In the former, a dramatically foggy vista in white acrylic and graphite, several empty, open birdcages float in an arctic sea. In the latter, a little girl and boy whisper messages in a forest while the boy's secret lies at his feet: a dead bird, fallen from the cage he's holding. Fascinatingly, the paintings use the same symbol to evoke presumably traumatic events, but the specific meanings behind them are unique and personal. Only a married couple could have produced a pair so different yet so deeply linked. Until October 12 at Wooltex Gallery, 1900 Superior Avenue, Cleveland, 216-241-4069, -- Zachary Lewis

Post Card Diaries: The Visual Art of Mark Mothersbaugh -- Most artists are forever engaged in the ancient tug-of-war between style and substance. Not Mark Mothersbaugh. In his visual art, the Akron-born Devo singer lets style win every time. Only rarely in this traveling show of prints -- which incorporate elements from the postcards Mothersbaugh maniacally collects -- does he make serious statements or aesthetic experiments. But the images have style -- namely that dusty, yellowed look of outdated textbooks. The medium too is arresting: thick, cottony paper, drawn over with pencil and a watercolor-like ink that dries in layers. And whatever Mothersbaugh lacks in depth, he makes up for in entertainment value. Consider "Crying Time at Happy Hour," in which a Tin-Man character holding a glass frowns bitterly inside a postcard framed by the word "Poison." Pure random hilarity. "Bring 'Em in Like This, Drive 'Em Home Like This," meanwhile, is a collection of innocent postcards rendered raunchy by explicitly sexual doodling. But while the bulk of the work is substance-free, Mothersbaugh is best in works like "Weapon of No Destruction," a humorous critique of the Iraq debacle. In this faded, drab-hued scene, a vaguely Asian man looks over a bizarre contraption -- a cross between a stock-ticker and a dialysis machine? -- that's obviously nothing of concern. Yet the man seems genuinely surprised and confused, even a little disappointed, like a president who imagined it a cause for war. Until September 22 at Asterisk Gallery, 2393 Professor Avenue, Cleveland, 330-304-8528, -- Lewis

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