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 But the images have style -- namely that dusty, yellowed look of outdated textbooks.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, www.asteriskgallery.com. -- Zachary Lewis
Exposure Cleveland -- It's hard out there for a photographer. Images are everywhere, and standing out is difficult. This makes the accomplishments of certain artists in this large, diverse exhibit all the more notable. Several of the photogs -- who all belong to a year-old community called Exposure Cleveland, which was formed through the photo-sharing website Flickr -- manage to offer something truly individual. In "Figs," Anthony Previte presents a stunning visual connection between man and nature, in which some tough, banged-up green figs bear striking resemblance to the hands of the worker holding them: cracked, gnarled, and dirty. Poetically, that's all we see and all we need to see. Thaddeus Quentin deserves a prize for most unusual location. In "American Way," he finds an industrial service closet that looks more like a jail cell; the walls on either side of it bear text reading "Truth" and "Justice." The picture delivers satiric commentary on our overflowing prisons, and the message is doubly bitter coming from a guy who shares a name with a notorious lockup. The show's oddest entry is an untitled composition by Michelle Murphy. A sharply dressed woman stands amid neatly sliced chunks of trees in an ugly urban lot bordered by a brick wall. It's a complex image: humorous, because her tool is ludicrously inadequate and she clearly hasn't broken a sweat, but also poignant, because whoever felled the trees removed the desolate spot's last vestige of life. Few pictures are worth that many words. Until August 31 at Kelly-Randall Gallery, 2678 West 14th Street, Cleveland, 216-771-7724. -- Lewis
In the Realm of the Gods -- Art, about a mother, who is in heaven, Krisztina Lazar be the name of thy creator: If Lazar's bold, highly accomplished paintings here could pray, this is what they'd utter, for they mostly pay homage, in lavish detail, to the Eternal Feminine -- the female essence uniting the cosmos. Witness her "Elements" banners, large wall hangings depicting fire, water, earth, and air as women whose outlines blend into their surroundings. Stylistically, Lazar, a Clevelander, is a Fantastic Realist, using Old World techniques to paint literal objects in impossible scenarios rife with symbolism. Most here were made using Mische Technique, a demanding process perfected by the Dutch masters, in which layers of tempera produce vivid colors and a shiny surface that seems to glow from within. A prime example is "Kosmic Mother." In this large vertical portrait, a regal woman, nude, with hair of water, hovers in space, cradling a snake and cuddling a vulture. Behind her are two spirals and several cycles of the moon. At her feet, a green-colored cherub. Think Botticelli's Venus, only on LSD. But the symbolism is clear: Woman reigns forever supreme over death through her power to create life. If "Mother" is the earthly sovereign, "Victoria and Amanda" are her maidens-in-training. Two tweens pose idyllically in a forest, clothed in leaves and welcomed by woodland creatures. They're perfectly serene and at one with their environment. We should all be so lucky. Until August 31 at The Wooltex Gallery, 1900 Superior Avenue, Cleveland, www.thewooltexgallery.com. -- Lewis
The Russian Eye --If this show were a "safari," Anastasiy Safari would be the annoying guide who never stops talking. Brilliant as several images here are, the California-based photographer who created them spoils many more by attaching meddlesome titles and numbingly obvious wall text, making it difficult for viewers to comprehend or interact with his work independently. More problematically, many textual guidelines ascribe depth and meaning that simply aren't there. Happily, the exceptions together overshadow the rule, combining humor and happenstance into memorable compositions. "The Infernal Smile of Moscow" is a wide, nighttime exposure of a narrow canal or park lined by traffic-filled streets on both sides. Distorted through a fish-eye lens, the scene becomes a giant, red-lipped mouth, grinning dementedly as it emerges from the darkness around it. The Moscow tourism bureau probably won't be using that photo. In another blissfully untitled image, a large dark bird alights on a desert rock, mimicking a line of three similarly-shaped rocky formations behind it. It's almost too perfect: A bird that couldn't bear the asymmetry, and Safari happened to catch it. "Black Sea Oblivion" is considerably more ominous. Safari takes us at dusk to a misty round pool defined by boulders at the shore. Surface-wise, the pool looks much different and more mysterious than the sea itself, which is simply flat and serene. But the spell lasts only so long. At the horizon are two well-lit ships -- signs of civilization intruding on a nearly magical place. Until September 3 at Loganberry Books, 1305 Larchmere Boulevard, Shaker Heights, 216-795-9800, www.loganberrybooks.com. -- Lewis
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