The View From God's House:
A Witness to WorshipStereotypes abound about the African-American church experience, and any white documentarian approaching the subject faces the peril of playing into preconceptions. Michael S. Levy's photography series Mere Witness, opening June 17 at Proximity gallery, avoids any such traps. Levy, a longtime Cleveland photojournalist whose work has appeared in Time, Newsweek, and Life as well as local outlets, succeeds because his approach is not anthropological but familiar, plucking instantly recognizable and empathetic disclosures of emotion from scenes of worship. We see mourners cry, celebrants shouting in joy, and those in incommunicable ecstasy wavering somewhere between tears and exaltation. But there are glimpses of the merely human too: a music director's idle glance up from his keyboard is evocative in its simplicity. Yet even when captured in the most transported passion or unguarded moment, none of Levy's subjects lacks gravitas: bored children and watch-checking husbands are conspicuously absent. Beyond their sensitivity to their subjects, Levy's photos are just plain gorgeous, moving between black and white and a shimmering palette that glorifies reds, deep blues, and inky shadows, as in "New Red Hat" (left). The current exhibition is a revisiting of work from Levy's 2008 book Revelations: Photographs of Cleveland's African American Churches, which grew out of a 2003 Plain Dealer assignment. An opening reception will be held Friday, June 17, from 6 to 10 p.m.; the show runs through July 8 at 1667 East 40th St., Suite 1A. For more information, call 216-262-8903 or go to proximitycleveland.com. — Joseph ClarkOn View:
Openings & Exhibitions
Akron Art Museum: All-Star Jazz. Jazz history comes to life in the photos of Herman Leonard, who captured greats like Billie Holiday and Frank Sinatra in moments of staged glory and private vulnerability. Through July 10 at 1 South High St.; call 330-376-9186 or go to akronartmuseum.org.
Brownhoist Gallery at Studio St. Clair: The Form of Cleveland. For Brownhoist's inaugural exhibition, woodworker and sculptor Timothy Riffle and photographer Jerry Mann display contemporary and historic tools, furniture, carvings, and photographs to narrate an "industrial archaeology" honoring the work of Cleveland's fading manufacturing sector. Through July 30 at 4403 St. Clair Ave.; 216-789-2998 or studiostclair.com/brownhoistgallery.
Cleveland Artists Foundation: Designing History. This exhibit showcases the work of the late architect, architectural historian, and local preservationist I. T. Frary. Through July 16 at the Beck Center, 17801 Detroit Ave., Lakewood. Call 216-227-9507 or go to clevelandartists.org.
Cleveland Museum of Art: The Lure of Painted Poetry: Japanese and Korean Art. Designed to illuminate the intricate connections between Chinese poetry and its reinterpretation as visual art by Japanese and Korean artists, this exhibition features 80 diverse works spanning nearly seven centuries; almost all of the pieces are drawn from the museum's preeminent collection. Through August 28. Also: Indian Kalighat Paintings. Highly stylized and brightly colored, these works were originally created as souvenirs for 19th-century tourists. Today, they are highly regarded as marking the beginning of modernism in Indian art. Through September 18 at 11150 East Blvd. in University Circle; call 216-421-7340 or visit clevelandart.org.
Harris-Stanton Gallery: Introspections. Kent State University instructor Patricia Zinsmeister Parker displays real affection for the homey subjects of her impressionistic still lifes. In Clevelander Lee Heinen's paintings, viewers can recognize drama and significance in the deceptively simple, even whimsical composition, even without knowing they are sketched from family photos. An opening reception will be held June 17 from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Through July 16 at 2301 West Market St., Akron; call 330-867-7600 or go to harrisstantongallery.com.
John F. Seiberling Gallery: Natural Distinction. Print artist Jen Doss uses striking color choices and simple sketches invoking both Renaissance scientific illustrations and pop art to represent the "constant surprise" afforded by untamed nature. Through July 8 at 1403 W. Hines Hill Rd.; call 330-657-2909 or go to conservancyforcvnp.org.
Kenneth Paul Lesko Gallery: Transmutations. John Nativio exhibits paintings, drawings, and sculpture, including his signature surrealistic paintings of powdery pastel furniture and everyday objects containing miniature landscapes, meant to signify (among other things) the intended and unintended consequences of urbanization and the marginalizing of the rural and unspoiled. Through July 2 at 1305 West 80th St. For more info, call 216-631-6719 or go to kennethpaullesko.com.
Kokoon Arts: Eternal Vibrations. Three artists draw upon mystic spiritual traditions for their inspiration. Through July 9 at 1305 West 80th St. For more info, call 216-832-8212 or go to kokoonarts.com.
Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage: About the Right of Being Different: The Art of Diversity and Inclusion at Progressive. On loan from the Progressive Corporation's Mayfield Village headquarters, this collection represents local and national artists, numerous mediums, and a commitment to tolerance and inclusivity shared with the Maltz Museum. Through June 26 at 2929 Richmond Road, Beachwood. For more information, call 216-593-0575 or go to maltzmuseum.org.
Morgan Conservatory: Pulp It Up, Break It Down: Artists Get Real. Local and nationally-recognized artists contribute pieces showcasing pulp (that's wood fiber, not the bargain-basement literature genre) over an array of mediums. Through July 18 at 1754 East 47th St.; call 216-361-9255 or go to morganconservatory.org.
Museum of Contemporary Art: Delicious Fields. In an homage to Man Ray, nine Ohio photogs invoke surrealism to reframe or reassert psychological and social issues. Also: Terrain. Julianne Swartz's soundscape is a multilingual audio-ecology as winding and mysterious as the subconscious. Through August 13 at 8501 Carnegie Ave.; learn more by calling 216-421-8671 or visit mocacleveland.org.
O Gallery: On the Wall/Off the Wall: A Functional Art Show. Russian-born artist Alice Kiderman reasserts the value of art in hard times by producing a series of abstract sculptures with every-day functional applications. Through July 1 at 2101 Richmond Rd., Beachwood. Call 330-921-1234 or go to kocustoms.com.
The Sculpture Center: Sculpture X: 6 Sculptors of Ohio & Western Pennsylvania.This exhibition of 75 curated sculptures and installations honors the work of 1960s minimalist and experimental artists, often drawing on everyday materials, and reflects on the intersection of urbanization, nature, and the use of manufactured objects. An opening reception will be held June 17 from 5 to 8 p.m. Through August 20 at 1834 East 123rd St. Call 216-229-6527 or go to sculpturecenter.org.
SPACES: Pink Milk Mild. Rainbow Lightning, the creative duo of Chelsea Blackerby and Erica Hoosic, sew memories into a tunneled environment that is traveled and experienced rather than viewed. Also: All That Glitters. Tamar Harpaz combines sculpture and projection to create shifting patterns of line and shadow as part of a 9-week residency exploring parallels between Western and Israeli cultures. Also: Farmed: The New Agronomists. This hands-on educational exhibit seeks to de-romanticize farming via a series of workshops and lectures by international and local horticulturalists. Through July 10 at 2220 Superior Viaduct; call 216-621-2314 or go to spacesgallery.org.
William Busta Gallery: Self Storage. Aaron Koehn's paintings depict architecture, but their subject is alienation. Architectural constructs, and especially ones with repetitive, linear features — rows of bricks, blinds, the slats of doors on storage modules — stand starkly, with no hint of their human use, inviting a creeping loneliness. Also: The Playboy Covers. A series of covers for Playboy magazine by local artist Derek Hess channel a punkish sketchbook style. Both exhibitions run through July 30 at 2731 Prospect Ave. Call 216-298-9071 or go to williambustagallery.com.
Zaller Building Gallery: Visual Music. The 200 prints in this exhibit are the work of a dozen local artists who have contributed to the pictorial history of rock & roll from the 1960s onward. Subjects range from the iconic to the little known, but all reflect rock's pervasive influence on Cleveland culture. Through June 25 at 16006 Waterloo Rd. in Collinwood. For more information, see the Visual Music page on Facebook.