- Lauren Kalmans A Pretty Little Trick at The Sculpture Center.
A Pretty Little Trick — This is the first show in The Sculpture Center's 2008 Window to Sculpture Emerging Artist Series, a succession of exhibitions by young artists with Ohio connections. Here, Cleveland Heights native Lauren Kalman presents an ambitious installation — a self-described critique of gender stereotypes as well as media idealization of the female form. But her message gets lost in translation. The hodgepodge of objects Kalman arranges throughout the gallery — frog skeletons in glass cases, microscopes, specimen jars, and rusty mortuary tables — suggests a preoccupation with an unspecified pseudoscience. She displays these objects near video projections of women, clad in white clothing and performing physical tasks — jumping and balancing and hanging from rope. The juxtaposition only adds confusion. It's hard to draw connections between the videos and sculptures, and the themes she hoped to address — alchemy, advertising, and fashion — seem to get lost in it all. Ultimately, the show would benefit from some simple editing: The five video pieces, the most eye-catching and thoughtful elements of the installation, would make much stronger statements displayed without the accompanying bric-a-brac. Through February 16 at The Sculpture Center, 1834 East 123rd Street, Cleveland, 216-229-6527. — Theresa Bembnister
The Resinators — No, it's not a spelling error. Both artists here use resin, and their work is sure to resonate. Both are local too. But what really matters is their thematic link. Haley Litzinger and Rosanne Smith both evaluate the tragedy of environmental devastation with compelling force. Litzinger is the realist, creating bleak but plausible scenes in which industry runs toxically amok. She's also more prolific and relies more heavily on resin, applying it in layers to produce pictures with rich, three-dimensional depth. Her entries deliver one stunning blow after another, but "Factory Fire" is the coup de grâce. Flames consume a group of trees, machinery, and drilling towers in the foreground, while oil spills onto the pristine shore behind. Dark yellow resin evokes smoggy, poisonous air. Meanwhile, tiny policemen have just appeared, but they're dwarfed by the fire, powerless to regain control. Smith, by contrast, uses resin to consider the human impact of environmental degradation, specifically its potential to foment disease and bizarre biological reversals. "A Sickness Unto Death" is the one to remember. Graph paper and medical files are the background to a silhouette of a woman whose head and breast are filled with minute, tumor-like circles. As a before-and-after picture, this one, depicting the spread of cancer, may be the cruelest: from human being to statistic. Through February 1 at Doubting Thomas Gallery, 856 Jefferson Street, Cleveland, 330-687-3355. — Zachary Lewis
Travel Photography — Clevelander Jeneen Hobby isn't breaking any artistic boundaries with these recent photographs, but it's clear she explored new territory, as in Southeast Asia, Northern Europe, and the Middle East. What's more, the images are sincere, the unaltered evidence of real experiences. Generally speaking, Hobby's work here is that of a skilled amateur. Still, it's distinctive on several accounts: Hobby shoots film, which somehow seems more honest; also, she's got an eye for pattern and an obvious talent for capturing the dignity in people. The latter is most evident in "Boys in Wadi Sara," a portrait of two Yemeni children, several inches apart in height, happily leaning on each other. They're grimy, shabbily dressed, and surrounded by poverty, but Hobby catches them in a moment of utter peace, when all is right in their little world. "Girl With Henna," by contrast, is looking down. We barely see her face past her head-covering and dark locks, and the focal points are the designs on her scarf and arms. Again, though, Hobby transforms her subject. Viewed at this thoughtful instant, in traditional garb, the girl seems older and wiser than her years. Sometimes the lack of people is what's crucial. In "Jungle Versus Temple in Ta Prohm," an ancient tree's roots drip like wax into an underground stone temple in Angkor, Cambodia. There's a battle going on here, but no clear victor. Both have endured for ages, and it's impossible to say one is more magnificent than the other. — Through January 31 at Loganberry Books, 13015 Larchmere Boulevard, Shaker Heights, 216-795-9800. — Lewis
Apollonova — Artists are loners by tradition, but sometimes it's better to share the proverbial garret. Consider this exhibition by Akron-based artist group Apollonova. Although the eight members featured here function independently and have unique identities, it's clear they derive energy from each other. They even produce work collaboratively. There's no official theme here, but sensuality predominates. Will Felix paints bright floral patterns resembling plain breasts and nipples, but "Shiva," a near-total abstraction, is his most captivating entry. Intensely colorful swirling figures coalesce magically to evoke a curvaceous dancing woman. If this is the female half of the Hindu male god, as the title suggests, it's a daring but also dignified take on a hallowed, age-old subject. Ashley Limbach accomplishes a similar feat with "Serenade." At first glance, this dark oil portrait looks like some gaudy, allegorical relic from the 18th century, complete with cherubs and black velvet draped around the frame. But look closer: That cherub is a naked woman, and the man and woman in the picture are engaged in a rather provocative and modern act. But the most simply pleasing image here is Ursula Rauh's "The Rest Goes Away," and it has nothing to do with sex. It's an acrylic vision of peace, a serene landscape in hallucinogenic shades of smeared yellow and orange. It's the kind of place where Shiva — or better yet, Apollo — might reside. Until February 2 at Asterisk Gallery, 2393 Professor Avenue, Cleveland, 330-304-8528. — Lewis