Capsule reviews of current area art exhibitions.

Cleveland art


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 Ave., Cleveland, 216-281-1618, — Theresa Bembnister

Carroll Dunham Prints: A Survey New York painter Carroll Dunham's first foray into printmaking was back in the mid-'80s, and he's kept at it ever since. This exhibition presents more than 100 of those prints and demonstrates the range of processes (lithography, wood engraving, etching), along with morphing styles, he's played with over the years. Curiously, with their labor-intensive layering and underlying grotesque themes, Dunham's prints from 1985 seem more up-to-date than those from 2005. The ambiguous biomorphic forms in "Accelerator" are encapsulated within tornadic lines and billowing gray-scale tones. "The Shadows" series of prints from 1989 features extensively detailed repugnant masses, reminiscent of oozing genitalia (hence the sign outside the gallery entrance warning that some material may not be suitable for younger audiences), along with hair and clawlike fingernails. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, Dunham limited his visual vocabulary, creating hard-edged geometric abstractions as well as series portraying cartoon-inspired figures with thick black lines and bright, flat colors. In "Deranged Characters," Dunham depicts male and female bodies with suggestive protrusions and cavities, which lock together like puzzle pieces. Some of his most recent works feature a recurring character in a suit and stovepipe hat, with a trumpet-shaped penis for a nose. This goofy figure lacks stereotypically masculine characteristics of power; instead, he comes across as flaccid and passive. Through March 23 in the Ripin Gallery at the Allen Memorial Art Museum, 87 North Main Street, Oberlin, 440-775-8665. — Bembnister

Charlene Liu: Recent Paintings It's difficult to tell by looking, but Charlene Liu's works on paper are an amalgamation of drawing, painting, and printmaking. She uses a process called "chin colle," which involves attaching two pieces of paper together through the pressure of the printing press. Highly detailed and fantastical, Liu's depictions of plant life appear to be drawn from a mishmash of sources — a saltwater fish tank, a desert landscape, a forest floor — and assembled into a single organic entity. Although strikingly beautiful, Liu's work is infused with a sense of putrefaction and spoil. The wet-on-wet painting effect she employs produces circular forms that are surrounded by darker rings of color and resemble spores of fungi or bacteria. Her palette is that of organic matter in decay — mossy greens, bruise-hued purples, and the golden and brassy hues of autumn leaves. Liu's mixed-media work serves as a reminder that things are most precious to us when they are almost gone or in the process of fading away. Unfortunately, there's a little too much white wall left between the separate pieces in this exhibition. Artwork that encourages such intense study and close observation could make room for the addition of another piece or two. But what is on the walls is spectacular and quietly explosive. Through April 11 at Shaheen Modern and Contemporary Art, 740 W. Superior Ave., Ste. 101, Cleveland, 216-830-8888. — Bembnister

Let All God's People Say Amen For five years, Cleveland State University Urban Studies Professor Helen Liggett photographed the faithful members of Morning Star Baptist Church on Shaker Boulevard. The resulting series of more than 100 black-and-white photographs has none of the academic distance or analytical coolness you might expect from a scholar whose expertise includes urban planning and theory. Liggett's unposed photos are like snapshots from the congregation's scrapbook, tenderly capturing the commitment these churchgoers have to their faith and to each other, and — judging from the subjects' lack of consciousness of the camera — their trust in the photographer. Although the installation is at times distracting — the pictures without a foam-core backing are beginning to warp — this exhibition provides an intimate look at the worship and ministries of Morning Star. Liggett organizes the photos loosely by theme — singing women on one wall, young-adult mentoring on another — and artfully arranges them in patterns often reminiscent of a cross. The most successful grouping is displayed near the gallery entrance, where Liggett focuses on the parishioners' hands: calmly folded, clutched one in another, waving a fan, held high in worship, clapping. The emotion expressed in these photographs disputes the old adage that the eyes are the windows to the soul. Through April 5 at Heights Arts Studio, 2340 Lee Rd., Cleveland Hts., 216-371-3344. — Bembnister

TA-DAA The artist known as BASK brings mixed-media works — graphic design, graffiti, and illustration — into a fine-art setting. And judging from the salability of his artwork — 15 out of 40 pieces were purchased on the opening night of his first Cleveland exhibition since 2006 — this combination of gimmicky, mass-produced slickness and counterculture cool has a broad appeal. The Florida artist stencils, scratches, paints, and draws on top of outdated floral-patterned wallpaper stuck to scavenged wooden boards. The media used for these pieces are truly mixed: BASK's smooth stenciled images provide a striking contrast to his childlike graphite scribbles and thick, broad strokes of paint. Rough wood grain and rusty nails are visible underneath his embellishments. In this show, BASK presents a recurring cast of characters — a little boy with a sanguine, toothy grin, a pointy-horned devil engulfed in flames, scantily clad females with come-hither glances, a swarm of adorable yet dangerous killer bees. Simultaneously cute and creepy, these anxiety-inducing characters attract and repel, even though rendered in an easy-to-swallow style. Maybe it's that seductive mix that's convinced so many gallery visitors to whip out their wallets. Through April 4 at Architecture Gallery, 1667 E. 40th St., Unit 1A, Cleveland, 216-533-5575. — Bembnister

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