Capsule reviews of current area art exhibitions.

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On view
The collages of Gean Moreno are on view at Shaheen.
The collages of Gean Moreno are on view at Shaheen.

Design for the Modern World: The Arts and Crafts Movement in Europe and America, 1880-1920 -- The art museum's first major arts-and-crafts show in years is notable not only for its enormous size, but for the many far-flung cultures (included are works from Germany, Scandinavia, Scotland, and Hungary) that share space. But what really unites these rooms of exquisitely designed teapots, tables, chairs, lamps, jewelry, and vases is the notion that arts and crafts are anything but stylistically homogeneous: Resisting the push toward industrialism, crafts practitioners cared about design that was beautiful but functional and, above all, honest in construction. Paramount was evidence of their origin -- visible screwheads on a chair or tiny hammer marks on a silver teapot; objects with such traits, even if they were mass-produced, were deemed inherently better. Some artists, like Henry Van de Velde, who designed an entire modernist dining room for a department store, also valued affordability. The movement was a lifestyle, too, with small communes forming around these principles. The exhibit culminates in America with some elegant chairs and lamps obviously designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. There's even a nod to Cleveland's golden age of enamel. In short, Design for the Modern World renders a potentially dull subject in the most compelling manner possible. Through January 8 at the Cleveland Museum of Art, 11150 East Blvd., 216-421-7340, -- Zachary Lewis


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, -- Lewis

Drawn to Cleveland -- More than a tribute to a generous museum patron or to the city, this group exhibition feels like a reunion. Fourteen nationally recognized artists are represented here through various works on paper. Each is connected to Cleveland, and many have shown at MOCA previously, but beyond that common experience, they've followed widely different paths. Robert Crumb's anxiety-ridden cartoons are perhaps the most famous; the best of the five examples here is his most recent, a French-themed set about consumerism called "Creeping Global Villagism," from 2004. Dana Schutz is present through three captivating black-and-white portraits of friends, whom she conveys with brutal, vaguely cubist honesty; even her self-portrait, a figure with a jack-o'-lanternlike head, is unsparing. April Gornick and Heide Fasnacht, meanwhile, wield graphite and charcoal with stunning virtuosity. Gornick's "Allee" may be the most memorable piece in the show: Using charcoal, she captures the play of light moving between groves of neatly planted trees, the horizon receding almost infinitely. Fasnacht's "Big Bang," a picture of an explosion, is pencil drawing at its most technically accomplished, but her "Sneeze V" is truly inspired: An icky mess spews across the immense page in the form of tiny, singed punctures to the paper. Through December 30 at the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland, 8501 Carnegie Ave., 216-421-8671, -- Lewis

Drunken Bottles, Franken Hearts, and Other Friends -- As a Halloween show designed to amuse, this lighthearted exhibit of small sculptures by Ross Kennedy more than suffices. Kennedy, a Kent State grad now living in Oakland, California, has made playful, quasi-grotesque figurines out of terra-cotta and paint. They exude a dark, odd humor that is appealing on a certain level, as evidenced in "My Tummy Hurts," a pink Teletubby-like creature with a goblin in its stomach. Along these lines are "Trophy Doggy," a remarkably realistic Dalmatian head mounted on the wall in lieu of more typical hunting prizes, and "Pan-Duh," a panda bear with glazed eyes, holding its brain in its hands. Kennedy spares no bodily by-products, as is clear with "Poopy Doggy." Grossest of all is the pink, shrunken, vaguely human thing Kennedy calls "Preemie," which looks more like an aborted fetus. Cutest of Show goes to the "Drunk Bottles," limp green bottles with tipsy faces. They're the most likely to end up in someone's home as a decoration this month. Then they'll go into storage until next year. Through October 31 at Bela Dubby, 13321 Madison Ave., Lakewood, 216-221-4479. -- Lewis

Gean Moreno -- Like an overstuffed tie rack from 1977, vastly different colors and patterns hang together and somehow make sense in this exhibit of untitled mixed-media collages. Moreno, a Miami-based artist, uses patterns and signs familiar from pop culture, but strips them of their intended purposes by compiling them into something entirely original. Paisley, polka dots, flames, Celtic-style braids, and countless other standard designs -- drawn, painted, or glued onto paper -- form strata that cram into each other and bend like tectonic plates in an earthquake. The visual stimulus is intense, and textures tend to be dense. It takes some examining to detect Moreno's subtler gestures: a scrap from a beer label in this corner, a brawny coat of arms in that one. After a few minutes, the works begin to resemble landscapes with dimensional effects. One could be a radiant sun rising over a gently sloping hill, while another is like viewing the tops of buildings from a sidewalk in Manhattan. Of a similar aesthetic are two mobiles: Wrapped in tape or aluminum foil and dangling weakly from the ceiling, they hold looping strands and knots of plastic beads, feathers, and other party detritus. Viewed in the right light, they call to mind chandeliers. Of course, they serve no such function. Moreno's point is that these materials, normally discarded like those in the collages, can enjoy new life in a completely different form. Through October 31 at Shaheen Modern and Contemporary Art, 740 West Superior Ave., 216-830-8888, -- Lewis

It's a Gas: Sculpture With Light and Color -- That soft hum you hear is the sound of the noble elements neon and argon buzzing inside electric tubes. Discarded signage is treasure to Clevelander Jeffry Chiplis, who refashions former hotel, dry-cleaning, and beer beacons -- and their various accessories -- into snappy works of art. He's often simply playing around: "Dana Knot Knot," for instance, is merely a glob of twisty pink, yellow, and blue tubes. He also has fun mixing up old, scary-looking equipment (transformer boxes, mostly) with newer gadgets. But frequently he transcends this unusual medium to create works of considerable aesthetic merit. In "Glacier," a site-specific installation, rows of blue and white tubes on the floor radiate evenly from the corner, away from jagged stacks of large toppled letters. The effect is of a cold, slowly advancing mass. Equally fascinating are the differences between neon and argon. Neon lights are narrower and visually shrill, while argon projects a thicker and warmer beam one could almost touch. Maybe that's why it counts as sculpture. Through October 21 at the Sculpture Center, 1834 E. 123rd St., 216-229-6527, -- Lewis

POPulence -- Splendor and extravagance are the defining traits of this large-scale group exhibition organized by the University of Houston Art Museum. From velvet DayGlo &lowers on the floor to swooning visions in latex and acrylic on the walls, POPulence proves without question that pop art has moved into a brighter and more expansive new realm. It's tough to say who's furthest over the top, but L.C. Armstrong probably takes that honor. Her immense Hawaiian seascapes, complete with figures frolicking in the water, are almost ridiculously naive. Were it not for the frighteningly large flowers in the foreground, they might be perfect for travel brochures. Next in line is Chiho Aoshima, with her panoramic reveries about youthful aimlessness; her cute, anime-style figures drift like Japanese versions of Ophelia through scarily enchanted undersea environments fashioned out of film negatives and Plexiglas. Lacking any such narrative intent, David Reed takes graffiti art to a new level. He uses alkyd paints to create dynamic swirling lines so nearly three-dimensional, they're like liquids in motion. Kim Squaglia's colorful, multilayered combinations of latex, resin, and oil resemble Starburst chews and look good enough to eat. Then again, so do many pieces in this gloriously hedonistic exhibition. Glossy, sensuous, and full of references to contemporary culture, the whole show is candy for the eyes. Through December 30 at the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland, 8501 Carnegie Ave., 216-421-8671, www, -- 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 forever 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

Tierra Madura -- Hispanic Heritage Month is this exhibit's reason for being. Unfortunately, the two artists here, Augusto Bordelois and Angelica Pozo, both Cleveland-based and of Cuban descent, don't provide cause for celebration. Bordelois clearly loves Raphael and Frida Kahlo, but he falls short of their technical and narrative prowess. He paints large, smooth-skinned figures and places them in archetypal outdoor or abstract settings, but the meaning behind the pictures is often absent. Whether there is sense behind "Dreams and Oars Are All One Needs," in which a man with butterfly wings embraces an angel beneath a hovering oar, only the artist knows; maybe he's trying too hard to be intellectual. In other cases, the message is positively blunt. For instance, the figure in "It Hurts So Much to Be Far Away From Home" (wordy titles are another issue) is literally stabbed and bloodied by a house, while his engorged heart dangles before his eyes. It's the most obvious piece in the bunch, but like the rest, it's hard to take seriously. Pozo, meanwhile, applies Latin names -- "Bolla Plumaris," "Conjunctus Punctatus" -- to her plant- and seed-inspired bowls and vases, but alas, this fails to lend them significant credibility. Their palette is simply too gaudy and their composition too crude. When one piece after another looks like a model for the man-eating plant in Little Shop of Horrors, it's a problem. Through November 5 at Cuyahoga Community College Gallery West, 11000 Pleasant Valley Rd., Parma, 216-987-5322, -- Lewis

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