Capsule reviews of current area art exhibitions..

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Cleveland art


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


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

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

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

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

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