Capsule reviews of current area art exhibitions.

On View 

Capsule reviews of current area art exhibitions.

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NEW

Beautiful Dreamer -- Romanticism is alive and well in the contemporary art featured in this huge exhibition. Filled with the sensual, mysterious, and playful -- along with plenty of artsy mumbo-jumbo -- Beautiful Dreamer demonstrates that intellectual trends haven't quashed imagination and emotion. Jonathan Feldschuh may be the biggest daydreamer of the bunch. His immense photographs of planets ("Red Spot"), altered with shiny acrylic, reveal a childlike curiosity about the tactile qualities of gaseous bodies forever in stormy motion. Ruth Waldman's inner child, meanwhile, is interested in the tension between opposite forces that holds society together like an atom. She illustrates this concept in exquisitely detailed colored-pencil drawings of fanciful, Seussian creatures dangling in complex networks, entwined by their loose limbs. Katherine Daniels, in "21 Wall Blossoms," adapts disposable American media to a Persian art form, weaving cheap plastic beads into a fabulously ornate web. More serious is Dean Monogenis' acrylic titled "Eight Fifty a Square Foot," in which jarringly different architectural forms -- a clunky modern building and a collapsed Roman aqueduct -- collide to almost painful effect; history, it seems to say, is being destroyed before our eyes. Most touching is Raven Schlossberg's "Sunrise and Blacklight." A sprawling, elaborate collage of old magazine pictures, the piece traces a woman's life and psychological development from innocent childhood through sexual blossoming, rebellion, and motherhood. The romantic part? Its powerful sentimental narrative. Through October 23 at Spaces, 2220 Superior Viaduct, 216-621-2314, www.spacesgallery.org. -- Zachary Lewis

Bornwaking -- Amazing that it's possible to bond with a hologram, but Cleveland native Mike Jones proves it with this simple, ritualistic video installation that forges a connection between him and his viewers. A small, square fabric screen stretched taut between ceiling and floor displays a film, projected by a machine suspended at the same height, of Jones' head being baptized with oil. His eyes remain closed while his mouth opens and shuts, as he accepts the inundation patiently and solemnly. The allusion to the biblical practice of anointing with oil is strong, and indeed, the brightly lit film is akin to witnessing a religious assumption. In fact, it's a strangely personal scene, rendered all the more intimate by the extremely close-up view and the way the head floats bodiless in the middle of a completely dark space. Composer Ryan Lott's low, murmuring, repetitive soundtrack, with its hint of a choir in the distance, augments the austere, sanctified mood significantly. But the real coup de grâce is the shelf near the exit, lined with small vials of oil. Taking one is like carrying a piece of the artist home with you. Through September 30 at Spaces, 2220 Superior Viaduct, 216-621-2314, www.spacesgallery.org. -- Lewis

A Study -- The tiny Raw & Co. gallery doesn't just house this quirky exhibit by Bill Radawec; it's part of it. One wall is a replica of the basement in his childhood home in Parma, complete with ugly green curtains and faux conceptual art. A line of green paint indicates where the ceiling would be; it's extremely low, and to imagine it compounds already palpable feelings of claustrophobia in a gallery only slightly larger than a walk-in closet. Along the other two walls are three-dimensional, HO-scale models of what could be the very same basement. But what's taking place inside these little boxes is what's truly strange: One can see groups of miniature people engaged in all sorts of vaguely perverted activities. One appears to show a sex-ed class under way, complete with demonstration; in another, a hazmat crew hoses down a naked woman. Some bear a faint relation to current events: The naked white man and boy chatting with a policeman might refer to Michael Jackson, while a kidnapping scene may be an allusion to the American girl lost in Aruba. These are only descriptions, mere possibilities. Because there are no titles, Radawec leaves it to his viewers to imagine scenarios that fit his mysterious representations. The only sure thing is that they're physical manifestations of a bizarre, fantastic imagination. And painting the gallery to resemble its contents was a stroke of genius. Through October 16 at Raw & Co. Gallery, 1009 Kenilworth Ave., 216-235-5511. -- Lewis

ONGOING

CIA Faculty Show -- Far-out both conceptually and technically, the first exhibit of the academic year at CIA is as confusing as it is impressive. Each piece occupies its own aesthetic world, and the effect is akin to dozens of voices speaking at once. Some make absolutely no sense: Kevin Kautenberger's "Field Screen" is a rack of wooden boxes filled with alfalfa, and Kristen Baumlier's "Kerosene Camera" consists of a plastic gasoline can tipping into a pair of jeans, which house a video camera scanning the gallery entrance. Still, the dazzle meter runs high in works like Kathy Buskiewicz's "The Eyes of George Are Upon You," which consists of a scarf intricately woven from shredded dollar bills, and Sarah Kabot's innocently humorous "Blank," a piece of ruled notebook paper with its lines surgically removed. The rippling, sun-dappled liquid surfaces of Gretchen Goss' "Waterview Series" are exquisite in their own right. Nancy McEntee, too, probably struggled over the lighting effect in her black-and-white "Garden Series: Book" photograph (the only light in the scene appears to emanate from a book), but the composition is both deep and easy to grasp. Through October 1 at the Cleveland Institute of Art, 11141 East Blvd., 216-421-7407, www.cia.edu. -- Lewis

Hadley Conner -- Local artist Hadley Conner's photographs look as if they date from a 1950s edition of Life magazine when, in fact, she took them in the past year. Therein lies her artistic identity: Conner is fascinated by the continuing popularity of rockabilly culture in modern society, and she successfully passes on that curiosity to viewers through this set of black-and-white gelatin prints. Her pictures document people who, not unlike Civil War reenacters, gather around antique cars and dress as if it were still 1957. In "Lay Tracks," an old hot rod burns rubber at a stop sign, while a man in jeans and white T-shirt stands by, looking impressed. Faces are rarely Conner's focus; she's more interested in bodies and their proximity to one another: We see the jeans-wearing man only from behind, with the car far in the background. She also excels in conveying a sense of atmosphere: Almost every picture depicts a sunny, hot day, and the featured event takes place in some vast deserted area. Only occasionally does Conner leave clues to the real date. In "Girl Talk," for instance, the action takes place in front of a relatively modern high-rise apartment. All told, her photographs fit perfectly at Bela Dubby, which itself is designed like a 1950s soda shop. Through September 30 at Bela Dubby, 13321 Madison Ave., Lakewood, 216-221-4479. -- Lewis

Markus Pierson: Know Limit -- Painter-sculptor-writer Markus Pierson is known for his coyotes -- fun-loving, well-dressed, elongated, Joe Camel-like creatures inspired by the Joni Mitchell song "Coyote," which serve as ongoing allegories for humanity. They inhabit a dark, Tim Burton-like world, riding motorcycles and sipping martinis. Pierson often attaches texts with poetic observations about life or love. In "Know Limit," an oversized coyote pushes the edge of the frame, while text relates the artist's surprise at his own success: "I can't believe what I've done, where I've been, and so I say to you these two simple words. Not no limit but know limit." Driving home the messages are small objects -- a pearl, for instance, in a painting called "Renaissance" that alludes to "pearls of wisdom" -- carefully set into the canvas. The obstacle to appreciating Pierson's work is its cartoonish appearance. Ingenious and unique as many of the pieces are, they would be oddities in anyone's home. (Consider "Homage to Magritte: This Is Not a Coyote," a Dadaist sculpture balanced on one foot, a train running through its body and a fish in its coat pocket.) Pierson's creations fetch big dollars; you'll probably be content just fetching a look. Through September 19 at the Contessa Gallery, 24667 Cedar Rd. (Legacy Village), Lyndhurst, 216-382-7800, www.contessagallery.com. -- Lewis

Sculpture Garden -- The small sculpture garden at Atmosphere's new Tremont digs is filled with engaging sights. Alex Stoll's burnt-steel dragonflies and squirrels hover over shrubbery like busy real-life creatures. A large insect with brightly colored metal bars for legs oversees the garden's back half. Near the front, Lothar Jobczyk's "Garden Spirits" -- sandstone blocks with craggy, totemic faces -- poke their heads above the plants; commendably, Jobczyk managed to give each one a personality without squandering their dense, stony qualities. But the sculptures by Frank Brozman and Jerry Schmidt are the kings of this jungle. Brozman's are abstract realizations in brown steel of familiar materials and physical processes. Ornate flower planters are among his more obvious examples, but he can be subtler: At first, his "Insatiable" looks like nothing more than a large flat piece of steel connected to its stand by a metal coil. Viewed from the side, however, it becomes a face and stomach trapped in a cycle of feeding and regurgitating. Schmidt's "Photogenic" compares in size to the giant insect, but surpasses it conceptually: A circle of blue steel punctures a large, flesh-colored plate, like a lens coming out of a camera. Not only does it evoke photography in this way; the whole, curvaceous, semi-animate thing appears to be posing for a picture. Atmosphere Gallery, 2379 Professor Ave., Suite 1, 216-685-9527. -- Lewis

The Sidekick Show -- He's scratching their backs, and they're scratching his. That's the idea behind this motley display of work by local artists organized by Pop Shop owner Richard Cihlar. Some artists, including Jeremy Mann and Joshua Shark, could hold their own at higher-profile locations. Mann earns the gallery's central display with an abstract watercolor on canvas titled "Current," which depicts a huge astral explosion in hues of peach and black. Shark scores with "Touch," a spectacularly detailed drawing in colored pencil of a hand with long fingernails resting on a plush green pillow; upon closer inspection, it might be a knotted tree stump with extended roots. In Shark's "Ada Chino Hanabi Takai," a pretty girl in a kimono smokes a cigarette beneath an ornately dappled sky dotted with fireworks; the visual conflict here between tradition and modernity is striking. Also visually remarkable is Tim Collins' "Shingles," a wonderfully blinding geometrical abstract best described as interlocking rows of multicolored zippers. Graffiti artist Bob Peck, woodcarver Joseph Smith, and Baroque-style printmaker Ginger Wankewycz -- some of Cihlar's other "sidekicks" -- also offer welcome contributions. Through September 17 at the Pop Shop, 17020 Madison Ave., Lakewood, 216-227-8440. -- Lewis

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