- douard Balduss 1852-53 image of Notre Dame Cathedral, part of Drawn With Light at the art museum.
Drawn With Light: Pioneering French Photography -- Digital cameras are ubiquitous as cell phones, but in the 19th century, capturing an image on film was an advanced and highly technological art. This exhibit of 19th-century French photography lauds the accomplishments of those who were on its cutting edge. Eugène Atget's photos exude the joy he must have felt freezing the opulence of a wealthy Parisian's garden on paper. He did so with such crisp detail and bold outline, one can imagine the textures of the trees and stones. Others, such as Édouard Baldus and Louis-Remy Robert, had figured out how to convey the architectural majesty of cathedrals: Baldus offers a panoramic view of the Parisian Notre-Dame in all its buttressed glory, including details as fine as a nearby pile of bricks and the church's reflection in the Seine; Robert, meanwhile, presents the cathedral fountain in Saint-Brieuc as the yellowed relic of an ancient era. Gustave LeGray's "Portrait of Edmond Cottinet" is artfully blurry on the edges, but holds its subject in a softened but clear light. A picture by Frank Chauvassaignes contains one of the most unusual effects in the show, a somewhat impressionistic rendering of a stream receding beyond sight into the background. It must have been a photographic triumph. Through June 8 at the Cleveland Museum of Art, 11150 East Blvd., 216-421-7350, www.clevelandart.org. -- Zachary Lewis
Masterworks From the Phillips Collection -- Touring this group of highlights from the renowned Phillips Collection is like taking an art-history survey course on Impressionism and Abstraction, and the list of artists reads like the textbook's index: Monet, Manet, Courbet, Morisot, Cézanne, Delacroix, Corot, Ingres, Van Gogh, Goya, Bonnard, Braque, Matisse, Renoir, Degas, Picasso, Kandinsky, and Klee. Duncan Phillips, founder of the collection and wealthy heir of a steel magnate, displayed amazingly prescient taste, buying works by artists whose true worth was not always recognized at the time. Organized by period and subject matter, the show consists of 59 paintings that originally hung in the Phillips home, now a major national museum in Washington, D.C., in addition to 18 comparable works owned by Cleveland. Renoir's magnificent "Luncheon of the Boating Party" may be the best-known piece, along with a handful of Degas' ballet paintings and Matisse's "Etruscan Vase," but the exhibition is not short on less familiar works and less familiar names. Cubism gets a weighty nod via still lifes by Braque and Picasso, but the show ends on a whole note of pure abstraction with Feininger's elegantly geometric "Village" and four exotic musings by Klee. This is not a class to cut. Through May 29 at the Cleveland Museum of Art, 11150 East Boulevard, 216-421-7350, www.clevelandart.org. -- Lewis
Misha Kligman: Icons for the Nonbelievers -- Whether he sells one or every picture on display, 2001 Cleveland State graduate Misha Kligman should count his first solo exhibition a success. His oil paintings are derived by stripping fashion magazine covers of their ink and overlaying them with entirely different colors; the results are shadowy portraits that would be appropriate in a cathedral, if only the figures were biblical. In "April," one of only two titled works, a bird stands on the shoulder of a girl with slick hair pulled back over a face as white as a mime's. The pictures look like relics of a bygone era, oddly tinted daguerreotypes of people who, as models, had perfect skin, hair, and bone structure, but never quite existed among the living. Their skin now appears far too sallow to be traditionally beautiful, their haunting oval eyes -- one of few traits that remains recognizably human -- burn through the layers in ways both alluring and frightening. Meanwhile, Kligman's dark tones render their glamorous poses silly and their once-lavish costumes as coarse rags. This show marks a strong start for an artist worth knowing better. Through March 26 at the E. Gordon Gallery, 2026 Murray Hill Road, 216-795-0971. -- Lewis
Psychological Expressionism: The Art of Sid Rheuban -- A Cleveland native and retired bond salesman, octogenarian Sid Rheuban has been painting for less than 15 years, yet his work is at a master's level. The title of this large retrospective is right on the money: The emotional lives of the figures he paints -- elderly men, teenagers, variously occupied older women, and a few sardonic self-portraits -- resound across his canvases. Rheuban derives meaning from a wide range of exaggerated physical characteristics, but it's his subjects' eyes, painted disproportionately large and darkly outlined, that often become their most expressive feature. True to the definition of expressionism, the colorful and flat but rather bleak world Rheuban paints around his figures is more an extension of their interior climates than a simple background. Canvas, though, is not necessarily Rheuban's preferred surface; some of his most imaginative work takes place on Plexiglas, which endows the paintings with a lifelike three-dimensional quality and additional warmth. A number of these are suspended mid-gallery from the ceiling, allowing viewers to examine both sides. One, "Prussian Blue," depicts a woman with large, knotted hands. Her outline appears black, until one looks through the paint. Similarly, Rheuban seems to have peered directly into the true nature of each of his subjects, with affection, honesty, humor, and understanding. Through March 11 at the Cleveland State University Art Gallery, 2307 Chester Ave., 216-687-2103, www.csuohio.edu/art/gallery/main.htm. -- Lewis
Sean Derry: The Soundings of a Weightless Line -- This tranquil, site-specific installation re-creates Derry's questionably scientific but deeply poetic attempt to "hear" the clouds. It consists of the wondrous, Jules Verne-like contraption Derry used in his experiment. Here's the blueprint: Long strands of wire connect two speakers, one of which is attached to a clear plastic box that collected moisture, the other to a plastic box amplifying the faint crackling sounds recorded in the sky -- the true voice of the clouds. At the same node, Derry's voice can be heard reciting the alphabet. Perhaps he's reminding us of the childlike spirit behind the work. The whole structure is suspended by large red balloons filled with helium, which are bound to sag over the course of the exhibit; even a slight touch causes the structure to wobble powerfully, producing a strange low rumbling. A dirty, shredded fragment of balloon at the entrance points to the trial-and-error process Derry must have followed. Some balloons extend beyond sight above the drop-tile ceiling through panels of tinted glass. These simulate the effect of looking up at the sky and, brilliantly, prompt the viewer into wondering what's up there. Better still, Derry turns the viewer into a passenger on a dream-like ride into the clouds, where the only sound is the occasional drip or crackle and the world's troubles lie safely far below. Through March 4 at the Sculpture Center, 1834 E. 123rd St., 216-229-6527. -- Lewis
59th Student Independent Exhibition 2005 -- Humor and seriousness vie for dominance in this sizable exhibition, organized by students at the Cleveland Institute of Art. For humor, it's hard to beat Beth Whalley's juxtaposition of dainty and industrial in "Drill Cozy," or the outrageous oddity of Wes Friedrich's "Honey I'm a Ninja," a picture of a husband confessing to his shocked wife; there's also a historically stylized oil portrait of Eric Cartman, the foul-mouthed kid from South Park, by David Torowski. Among the more contemplative works: Angela Oster's metaphorically potent "Secrets," a picture of six black gloves connected by a web; Colleen McCullen's impossibly narrow-waisted and busty Girl Scout dress; and Carol Traymor's faux dead deer, made of fabric from hunting clothes. Amid the funny and serious works are plenty of less effective pieces, as well as those that defy categorization: Cecilia Philips' picture of a dark-haired woman standing on a craggy, windswept cliff, for instance, is simply beautiful, and it's not without peer in this quirky and largely worthwhile gathering of contemporary art. Through March 13 at The Cleveland Institute of Art, 11141 East Boulevard, 216-421-7407. -- Lewis
Topographic -- Explanation for this show's title lies in a statement accompanying a wall drawing by Mark Taylor. "Wild Wonderful," which happens to resemble a gigantic topographic map, consists of "multiple images . . . meant to activate remembered or imagined scenarios." That it certainly does. The statement also applies rather well to the work of the other 10 artists in the show, whose installations and multimedia projects comment -- with varying degrees of success -- on the developed world. Two constructions by Chicago artist Yoshiko Kanai are the most profound items here: Her "Sea of the People" is a small pond inhabited by real goldfish and lined on either side by towers that look like sand castles. Three-dimensional human faces emerge from the water, forming a kind of stepping-stone path from one side to the other. It's a beautiful realization of the notion that only people can heal mankind's divisions. Kanai carries the point further in a similar piece, in which water from the pond drips onto a slowly dissolving landscape made of sugar and dotted with tiny tanks and airplanes. Elsewhere, Neil McDonald's deliberately blurred paintings of sites where planes have crashed transform scenes of tragedy and catastrophic malfunction into strangely pleasant abstract landscapes; also memorable are Mark Slankard's photos of flimsy, barren, cookie-cutter suburban homes under the heading "Curb Appeal." Through March 11 at Spaces, 2220 Superior Viaduct, 216-621-2314. -- Lewis