Capsule reviews of current area art exhibitions.

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Black and Blue Judith Brandon's work is about control — and about losing it. It's hard to tell whether the dribbles and streaks of inky color that make up her atmospheric landscapes are serendipitous or the marks of an exceptionally skilled hand. In "Hurricane," she applies horizontal bands of deep indigo that bleed into the bruise-colored washes of the background — dark, soft-edged areas that suggest the silhouettes of storm clouds or trees. In her mixed-media works, Brandon plays with textures, scoring her background paper with long, purposeful strokes that contrast the fluid perimeters of waves, rain, and ice. And she keeps this traditional motif timely: Headlines reporting the most recent weather-related disasters remind us how little control we have over our surroundings. Brandon's celestial paintings are the least successful of the otherwise compelling bunch. The dusky waves and golden orb dominate the composition of "Yellow Moon With a Western Tide" — just a little too reminiscent of Joe Versus the Volcano, a different kind of calamity altogether. Through March 30 at 1point618, 6421 Detroit Avenue, Cleveland, 216-281-1618, — Theresa Bembnister


Curious Terrain Landscape is as much about creating a mood as setting a scene, as demonstrated by three Ohio artists in this exhibition. JenMarie's dark washes of muted color cover gloomy, atmospheric canvases with barely discernible horizon lines or minuscule patches of rocky grass. It's landscape as a metaphor for hopelessness and loss, and the painting's titles, such as "Hanging in the Wait of Fading Echoes, yet I Only Dream of You," read as though they were gleaned from the liner notes of an emo album. Robert Robbins' charcoal drawings on brightly tinted, gessoed paper depict quiet winter forest scenes. The subtle play of lights and darks on the paper's textured surface capture the still, barren quality of snow-covered trees this time of year. But ultimately, the show rides on the strength of Randall Tiedman's work, the most original and thought-provoking in the exhibition. Tiedman dubs his landscapes "inscapes," because they are imagined scenes — sprawling, nighttime cityscapes, pictured from a vantage point far above the streetlights that cast a dull yellow glow on the craggy terrain below. Step back, and the details disappear, dissolving into shifting planes of tint and hue, and balancing each other in a way Tiedman likens to the harmonies of classical music. Through March 8 at the Cleveland State University Art Gallery, 2307 Chester Avenue, Cleveland, 216-687-2103, — Bembnister

Phenomena(l) You might expect screens aglow with computer-based artwork in a science-themed show. But thankfully, this exhibition avoids that pitfall. Instead, it features work by 13 national artists in a variety of media — both low- and high-tech — that explores the overlapping territories of art and science. References to biology and genealogy — DNA strands, multiplying cells, epidermis — are on view, alongside vaguely futuristic, mechanized contraptions with oblique functions. And the most intriguing works manage to tie the colder, more studied elements of science to an emotional experience. In Christa Donner's ink and acrylic drawings on cut paper, naked little girls with mops of curly hair crawl from the open midsection of a reclining female figure. It's a curiously grotesque take on human reproduction. "Teraton Necklace," Nancy Bowen's opulent, oversize jewelry piece, made from glass, ceramic, and steel interspersed with tufts of hair, is inspired by teratoma, a type of tumor filled with hair, bone, or skin tissue. It's simultaneously disgusting and fascinating. Erica Duffy's efficient-looking machines slice through a thin sheet of latex that looks eerily similar to human skin. But the blade reacts to the vibrations generated from viewers, calling attention to our own responsibility for the consequences of scientific exploration. Through March 7 at Spaces, 2220 Superior Viaduct, Cleveland, 216-621-2314, — Bembnister

A Pretty Little Trick This is the first show in The Sculpture Center's 2008 Window to Sculpture Emerging Artist Series, a succession of exhibitions by young artists with Ohio connections. Here, Cleveland Heights native Lauren Kalman presents an ambitious installation — a self-described critique of gender stereotypes as well as media idealization of the female form. But her message gets lost in translation. The hodgepodge of objects Kalman arranges throughout the gallery — frog skeletons in glass cases, microscopes, specimen jars, and rusty mortuary tables — suggests a preoccupation with an unspecified pseudoscience. She displays these objects near video projections of women, clad in white clothing and performing physical tasks — jumping and balancing and hanging from rope. The juxtaposition only adds confusion. It's hard to draw connections between the videos and sculptures, and the themes she hoped to address — alchemy, advertising, and fashion — seem to get lost in it all. Ultimately, the show would benefit from some simple editing: The five video pieces, the most eye-catching and thoughtful elements of the installation, would make much stronger statements displayed without the accompanying bric-a-brac. Through February 16 at The Sculpture Center, 1834 East 123rd Street, Cleveland, 216-229-6527.­ — Bembnister

Sam Taylor-Wood Make sure you see this exhibition soon. Not only is it profoundly affecting, but it could change at any moment. If there's one point British artist Sam Taylor-Wood makes in this bold, searingly honest photo-and-video show, it's that everything is always in flux. And that includes people, a message Taylor-Wood proclaims with large photo-portraits of crying Hollywood alpha males. Onscreen, all are men of steel, but here we see tender sides, and the contrasts are both surprising and touching. Doubly fascinating: No two sadnesses are alike. Laurence Fishburne stares stoically, ignoring the tears dripping down his face. Daniel Craig, meanwhile, seems disturbed, as if witnessing something painful, while Hayden Christensen, aka Darth Vader, appears bitterly remorseful. Taylor-Wood herself is the principal character in several more pieces. In five photos called "Bram Stoker's Chair," the artist is seen balancing impossibly atop a wooden chair, gracefully defying gravity. They're haunting, balletic images, with her shadows dancing on the wall behind her. The truth in each is the same: She's flying now, but pain is just ahead. But nothing conveys flux more neatly than Taylor-Wood's "Still Life." In this time-lapse video, a bowl of nectarines, the quintessential still-life subject, is seen gradually rotting and molding to the point of collapse. It's a dramatic transformation, actually, and all those endless, static paintings of fruit will never look the same again. Through May 11 at the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland, 8501 Carnegie Avenue, Cleveland, 216-421-8671. — Zachary Lewis

Tower Press Artists The Wooltex building is a happening place, even if you discount Artefino, the gallery café. For proof, see this group exhibition featuring some of the many artists who live or operate studios there. A more diverse mix is hard to imagine, and while some pieces may leave you cold, others will drop your jaw. First among the jaw-droppers is Bruce Biro's "Beget." Like a Moebius strip, this knotted sandstone cylinder appears to loop back into itself, forever beginning where it ends. But the medium matters more. Biro cut the stone to highlight its elegant, woodlike grain and buffed it smooth, making it seem breathtakingly lighter-than-air, despite its immense weight. Joshua Cole has fun manipulating expectations with "Coffee, Ketchup, Coffee." In between two dainty, flower-bedecked coffee cups made from white glass sits a ketchup squeeze bottle — ridiculously, also made of glass. Cole is defying practicality, snubbing his nose at high-class dinnerware. By not working, it works. But Christopher Stofan's "Into the Storm" will stop you in your snowy tracks. Great smears of white and gray (blends of acrylic and charcoal) sweep across the canvas in chaotic disarray, while a small figure stands alone in the distance, facing the wind. Maybe it's Byron, the great Romantic poet, braving the elements. Better yet, this visceral scene could represent any one of us, our souls and sanity being tested in these cold, cold times. Through March 7 at The Wooltex Gallery, 1900 Superior Avenue, Cleveland, — Lewis

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