Arts » Visual Art

Capsule reviews of current area art exhibitions

NEW

Just Suppose The art in this exhibition features the bizarre kinds of scenarios you'd expect to dream about after falling asleep on the beach: women wearing fish as hats, ocean waves appearing where there should be sky, an empty rowboat marooned in a desert landscape. It's whimsical yet creepy photo-based work in which husband and wife Jerry Uelsmann and Maggie Taylor, a Cleveland native, delve into surrealistic, mystical, and psychoanalytical themes inspired by the inner workings of the human mind. Like most couples, they operate differently: Taylor creates digitally; Uelsmann is all analog. Her primary tools are Photoshop and a scanner; he uses photomontage — cutting and attaching different photos to create a single print. But the exhibition doesn't try to contrast the couple's distinct working methods or highlight their personal or working relationship. Uelsmann's and Taylor's photos are rarely displayed side by side, but instead are hung on facing walls. The exhibition could have benefited from a stronger curatorial touch. After a while, the implausible situations depicted in the grand total of 60 photographs start to blur together. Through August 8 at the Cleveland Institute of Art Reinberger Galleries, 11141 East Blvd., 216-421-7000. — Theresa Bembnister

ONGOING

Focus: Fiber 2008 By selecting "innovation" as the theme for this juried show, the organizers behind Focus: Fiber 2008 likely wanted to help textile art shed its rep as nothing more than macramé belts and baskets woven by aging hippies. Indeed, the works here were constructed using methods that were groundbreaking at one moment or another: weaving, dyeing, embroidery, quilting, painting, and digital inkjet printing on fabric. No real theme emerges in this disparate collection of fibrous objects. But some pieces stand out for their craftsmanship, concept, or both. Among them: Christine LoFaso's Sweatshop Worker Series, which features two glittering banners of woven metallic black and gold yarn. Each depicts a close-up of the face of a young girl or boy, cuing the viewer to consider where the garments on their own body came from. Also, Linda Ohrn-McDaniel displays an elegant jacket of raw silk, decorated at the waist with embroidered and beaded ants, calling attention to the diligence necessary to complete the labor-intensive tasks involved in textile art. Brooks Harris Stevens, meanwhile, contributes "Beginning," the most compelling of the bunch. The black and brown design, digitally printed over the entire swath of linen, resembles the lines of a topographical map, while the hand- and machine-stitched embellishments form a volcano-like protrusion on one side of the fabric, creating a literal representation of topography. Innovation indeed. Through June 21 at the Cleveland State University Art Gallery, 2307 Chester Ave., Cleveland, 216-687-2103. — Bembnister

The Future of Heads What to expect from a show with a title that conjures such bizarre and disparate associations? Haircutting? Lettuce? David Byrne? No — what local artist Mark Keffer displays here is a series of futuristic landscapes, painted on panel and populated with oblong shapes resembling heads, brains, and spinal cords. Take away the head references in the works' titles, however, and viewers will see nothing more than ovoid shapes against richly textured fields of color — hard-edged, graphic stripes and concentric circles, against glowing, drybrushed backgrounds, so intricate that they resemble woodcut prints. His palette (heavy with greens, blues, and pinks) and delicately roughed-up textures suggest the faded indigo of worn blue jeans or the hazy tonal ranges captured by a thermal camera. And the inspiration seems to come from the notion that reality occurs inside our own minds. The show took a lot out of Keffer — a lot of blood, that is. For "Present-day Head (Stars and Stripes)," he covers the paper with Venetian-blind-like stripes of rusty-red congealed blood, and he paints another of his characteristic head shapes in acrylic on top of a hemoglobin-enhanced background. These bloody works are marked "present-day" — as opposed to the "future" of the exhibition's name — and suggest that Keffer means to link the shock and disgust associated with his choice of medium to events of the day. Through June 21 at Exit, 2688 W. 14th St., Cleveland, 330-321-8161. — Bembnister

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