Capsule reviews of current area art exhibitions.. 

ONGOING

Beyond the Line MOCA had its hands full installing these vast, intricate "hybrid constructions" by New Yorker Diana Cooper, who enjoys her first solo museum exhibition here. The effort was worthwhile, at least for us. Beneath all the colorful, elaborate trappings — Cooper's imagination is staggering — is a conceptual foundation that's clear and solid: Even complex systems are subject to chaos. "Emerger," a recent creation, strikes the deepest personal chord. Pink and white ribbons and red felt buttons take over an entire wall. But unlike several other entries that resemble circuit boards, this evokes a soft, living creature, complete with organs, arteries, and blood — a portrait of human frailty. Cooper's grandest and timeliest gesture is "Orange Alert UK," a room in which warnings get into your face from all sides, like a booby-trapped dungeon: an immense paper sunburst here, large, pointy shards of orange foamboard there. It's her depiction of a flawed terror-alert system. "Experiments in 3D" is a doodle gone wild — a tour de force of brownish scribbling marked by concave and convex patterns. Through December 30 at the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland, 8501 Carnegie Avenue, 216-421-8671, www.mocacleveland.org. — Lewis

Delineate The pen is mightier than the sword, but in this stunning collection of drawings by seven well-known Ohioans, the pencil trumps all. Technique takes center stage as this group reaches new artistic heights with carbon. Wielding charcoal, Julie Friedman creates silhouettes of trees, so richly layered they could be prints or paintings. "Night Sky" is tops. Dense white branches glow against black night as if illuminated by a 1,000-watt bulb. But darkness seeps delicately over the edges like exposed film, and the effect is that of watercolor. Laurence Channing's unusual highlight is "Eclipse," a curious scene rife with little glories. Pedestrians walking down a street are viewed oddly from above, their shadows stretching across the paper. But there's also beveled stone, an alley growing darker as it recedes, a pitch-black car, and a dimpled manhole cover. But the knockout in this collection is Lowell Tolstedt's "Cherries and Wrapped Candy." Each of Tolstedt's pictures represents some new technical hurdle mounted: foil, egg, colored glass, wax paper. "Red and Gray" is the mother lode: two immense cherries with stems and a wrapped peppermint candy on glass. Tolstedt not only conveys every texture and crinkle with scientific accuracy; he does it three times, through shadows and reflections. — Through January 5 at Bonfoey Gallery, 1710 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, 216-621-0178 — Zachary Lewis

Dissolving Nature Three years after she last showed in Cleveland, Lissa Bockrath is back. The wait was worthwhile. Having moved to the country, Bockrath is now taking cues from nature and producing images that are consistently sensuous. Her landscape subjects are mostly of the vast-valley and sweeping-mountains variety. Others are pure abstractions, explosive visions rendered with a loose, caressing hand. But the differences among subjects are almost insignificant; what matters is that each picture stands as its own complete system of emotions and sensations. In "The Other Side of the Fence," dark pillars loom large in a dizzying swirl of deep blue and sickly green. It's the most menacing and probably most memorable piece here. "Ebb and Flow" better represents the show. Though small, the image captures a vast panorama: a dense wave of icy-cold blue air filling a valley and meandering past a range of mountain peaks. Suddenly you're thousands of feet above sea level, and there's a chill in your lungs. But "Somewhere in the Middle" announces Bockrath's return most triumphantly. A sunset-colored river lazily empties into the sea, and the sheer magnificence of the scene practically overwhelms the senses. Subject-wise, it's fairly routine, similar to countless other landscapes. But in terms of effect, it has no equal. Until January 18 at Wooltex Gallery, 1900 Superior Avenue, Cleveland, 216-241-4069. — Lewis

Light to Spare Art and light go way back — think Dutch masters, the Impressionists, etc. That's what makes this little show so fascinating: Four contemporary artists prove that natural light still matters in this electric age. Philadelphian Morgan Craig speaks Cleveland's language in several large, photo-realistic, oil-on-linen paintings in which light transforms abandoned industrial spaces into touching testaments to impermanence. Finest is "Every Man Builds His Own Castle of Sand," in which sunlight bathes in radiance a dilapidated, rusted-out shell of a shopping arcade. As Craig paints it, the structure is more than a jolting symbol of fragility. It's a once-glorious place enjoying a last hurrah. Something similar happens in Brooklyn artist Lea Bertucci's ingenious installation "Aberrations." A Plexiglas container hanging from the ceiling shows 3-D video footage of an apartment-building wall with windows and fire escapes. Visually, it's a dull subject, but Bertucci's treatment brings it to life. A show about light wouldn't be complete without someone simply pointing skyward, and few could have done so more poetically than Phillip Andrew Lewis, of Youngstown. His "On a Clear Blue Day, You Can See the Sky" consists merely of seven lights in the floor casting a blue patch on the ceiling. Craning to look up, your natural reaction is to wonder when you last paid attention to the real thing. – Through January 4 at SPACES Gallery, 2220 Superior Viaduct, Cleveland, 216-621-2314. — Lewis

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