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

Martin Ball You probably didn't realize geometry has a philosophical side, but that's what you'll discover in these fascinating oil-and-wax paintings by Ball, an English-born Kent State professor. The show consists of nine pieces from two series: "Carceral" and "Erasure." Both hail from the late 1980s and early '90s, and both are debuting in the U.S. They stem from the same basic blueprint: carefully painted grids overlaid with meticulous, spirographlike arcs. But there are a few key differences. The paintings in "Carceral" (think prison) look like plaid accidents: The grids are black, and the arcs, vibrantly colorful, float above and through the bars. In "Carceral 1," yellow arcs radiate across a densely gridded, mostly black background, like bolts of neon at night. The "Erasure" images, by contrast, resemble giant, smudged thumbprints or swarms of locusts: All are ghostly black-and-white, and the arcs are blurred at points by the grid in an organic, cohesive system. The physicality and rhythm of the abstractions offer plenty to savor, but Ball is deeper than that. He seems to be portraying the cosmos, with the grids representing ethics and laws. These are two worldviews — one where rules are created, to be obeyed or disobeyed, and another where principles are internal, built into our genes. It's a profound conceptual foundation, and the implications linger long after the show. Through December 21 at Exit (a gallery space), 2688 West 14th Street, Cleveland, 330-321-8161. — Lewis

Meditations A year has passed since the grievous murder of Cleveland artist Masumi Hayashi. Time to start measuring the loss. This thoughtful survey is one of three on display in Northeast Ohio, and just like the artist herself, it forges many distinct characteristics into a single experience. The show spans some three decades, capturing a photographer who was true to the aesthetics of Cubism, collage, and mosaic. Oldest here are color-print collages, early examples of Hayashi's deep interest in patterns. For a time, she also explored 3-D photography, relishing its disorienting effects. But her greatest works are "mappings" — large, panoramic images composed of overlapping photos shot at slightly different heights, angles, and times. Hayashi transformed average places into complex, kaleidoscopic landscapes. In one, an image of the West 25th Street Rapid station, a hub for the working poor becomes a crystalline palace flecked with red. Shooting a temple in India, she juxtaposes a statue of a god with an exotic-looking peasant, presenting both as divine entities inside a magical, resplendent place. But most poignant are her personally meaningful subjects. One is Hayashi's 2004 composite portrait of Ed Ezaki, an elderly former resident of a Japanese internment camp, who Hayashi renders as a friendly man full of memories. Ezaki survived the horrors of war and racial segregation. Sadly, he also may have survived Hayashi. Through December 15 at Cleveland State University Art Gallery, 2307 Chester Avenue, 216-687-2103. — 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

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