Capsule reviews of current area art exhibitions.

Cleveland art

Victoria Anders Sometimes the right frame really does make all the difference. On their own, these black-and-white, untitled photos of Cleveland might not garner much attention. But as Anders presents them, printed on metal and dangling inside customized aluminum borders, they're sure to turn heads. Subject-wise, Anders is absorbed with Cleveland's aging infrastructure: bridges, railways, and roads, and their brick, stone, and steel components. Printing the prints on metal reminds viewers, perhaps painfully, of Cleveland's status as a fallen Rust Belt stronghold, but what elevates these generally static cityscapes are their frames: thin metal rims delicately cut in ways that accentuate or extend features in the images. The technique has its limitations — her experiments with a human subject are distinct flops — but when it works, it really works. On one strong example, the frame extrapolates a train track viewed head-on; the rails seem to jut from the wall. In another, a bridge's undergirding keeps arcing gracefully beyond the printed surface. In the end, what Anders provides, besides a rather somber tribute to Cleveland, are lessons in art appreciation and creative pointers to a deeper understanding of photography. Through November 30 at The Wooltex Gallery, 1900 Superior Avenue, — Zachary Lewis


Erik Neff — Neff, a local painter and draftsman, was recently included in a major museum exhibition in Cleveland. That made sense: It was a group show, and Neff's loosely geometrical abstractions, thickly painted on small canvases, fit into and benefited from the larger theme. But Neff alone is much harder to take. Here, the paintings seem entirely random, visually mute, driven by no particular concept or intention. One standout is "Nodule," in which a blue rectangle frames a light rising in the sky over a smudged, barren landscape. Some viewers detect environmental meaning in Neff's work. Perhaps there's something here about our sacrifice of the external world in pursuit of indoor lives. Who knows? Neff's drawings, meanwhile — small, incoherent improvisations in charcoal, ink, and pastel — are as dull as the paintings, but also flat and lifeless. No doubt Neff had something in mind with them, but there's no guessing what. In one of the more distinctive images, a dark eye seems to stare out mysteriously behind faint, jagged lines, like an ancient hieroglyph on a cracked cave wall. But that would be an act of communication, and there's none of that going on here. Through November 30 at Raw & Co. Gallery, 1009 Kenilworth Avenue, Cleveland, 216-235-0635. — Lewis

Reverberation Ohioan Audra Skuodas' bold but sensitive abstractions won't save Earth, but they may align you more closely with it. Whether painting with acrylic on large canvases or pencil-drawing on vellum, Skuodas capitalizes on the inherent graces and rigidities of physics. She'll map out a perfect grid, then apply sensual but orderly curves, like sound waves, or more freewheeling, balletic strings of color. To underscore the point, she'll include a female figure, gaunt and bent over backwards, floating in a yoga-like position of submission to the visual rhythm. Vellum gives these images a ghostly aura. "Pattern, Structure, Archetype Series" is two paintings back-to-back. In one, loops of red, silver, and pink arc freely against a sea of baby blue. Its mate is more primordial: Pastel-colored lassos float serenely against gray, like sperm under a microscope or quasi-human figures posing as a group. The four-part "Vibrational Vulnerability Series" is more complete conceptually. Beneath it are pencil-drawn grids, then evenly spaced curves in red or black, gently dipping and rising like sine waves. One picture includes the now-familiar woman, presumably signifying Skuodas herself, held by some invisible force while hovering blissfully amid the waves and bars. Her particles are practically dancing to the rhythm of the spheres. Talk about being in tune with nature. Through December 21 at 1point618 Gallery, 6421 Detroit Avenue, Cleveland, 216-281-1618, — Lewis

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, — Lewis

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