Capsule reviews of current area art exhibitions

Cleveland art


The Future of Heads What to expect from a show with a title that conjures such bizarre and disparate associations? Haircutting? Lettuce? David Byrne? No — what local artist Mark Keffer displays here is a series of futuristic landscapes, painted on panel and populated with oblong shapes resembling heads, brains, and spinal cords. Take away the head references in the works' titles, however, and viewers will see nothing more than ovoid shapes against richly textured fields of color — hard-edged, graphic stripes and concentric circles, against glowing, drybrushed backgrounds, so intricate that they resemble woodcut prints. His palette (heavy with greens, blues, and pinks) and delicately roughed-up textures suggest the faded indigo of worn blue jeans or the hazy tonal ranges captured by a thermal camera. And the inspiration seems to come from the notion that reality occurs inside our own minds. The show took a lot out of Keffer — a lot of blood, that is. For "Present-day Head (Stars and Stripes)," he covers the paper with Venetian-blind-like stripes of rusty-red congealed blood, and he paints another of his characteristic head shapes in acrylic on top of a hemoglobin-enhanced background. These bloody works are marked "present-day" — as opposed to the "future" of the exhibition's name — and suggest that Keffer means to link the shock and disgust associated with his choice of medium to events of the day. Through June 21 at Exit, 2688 W. 14th St., Cleveland, 330-321-8161. — Theresa Bembnister

Through Wilderness Philadelphia artist Hilary White's artwork is a mash-up of apparent opposites. Her sculptural paintings, on cut wood panel and plastic, are steeped in religious symbolism and conveyed through an immaculately crafted punk aesthetic. And you don't have to be a theologian to appreciate the creepiness of the ascending doves or circlets of golden rays that appear throughout her work. White uses this Christian symbolism to address a spiritual or mental quest; she writes that throughout the Bible, the wilderness is a place of both trial and renewal. But her paintings are full of secular symbols too. Dump trucks, toppled pine trees, and wood-chippers serve as reminders of today's shrinking wilderness, while bears and vultures are depicted feasting on smaller animals, reinforcing the cycle of life and death — a theme also seen in images representing Christ's passion, such as the dogwood branches and the crown of thorns. Perhaps most impressive, however, is White's masterful combination of dozens of tiny, delicate three-dimensional pieces, collaged together to create brilliantly colored, unified wall-hanging artworks. White, who graduated last year from the Savannah College of Art and Design, presents a body of paintings that reflects a maturity, attention to detail, and conceptual richness not commonly found in the work of artists so early in their career. Through June 15 at Front Room, 3615 Superior Ave. #4203-A, Cleveland, 216-534-6059. — Bembnister


The Formal Absences of Precious Things Tannaz Farsi's work has presence. It must be reacted to, not merely looked at. Farsi fills the room with oversize, clear vinyl pillows, over six feet tall and four feet wide. As viewers maneuver through the claustrophobic space, four plastic tubes run from the side of each pillow up to the ceiling, attached to a hidden, incessantly droning air compressor that keeps the pillows constantly puffed. Fluorescent lights placed behind the translucent pillows emit an eerie glow, adding to the otherworldly atmosphere. Farsi projects four videos on the gallery wall — nearly still images of outdoor scenes, shot from her apartment. Set off to the side, a pair of disembodied arms and hands, cast in clear resin, rests above what appears to be a control panel covered in dozens of knobs, suggesting that this surreal scene is under the command of some unseen force. The tubes running from pillows to compressor imply a lifeline or interconnectivity. Farsi's mastery of sensory engagement is impressive; the sights, sounds, and sense of space transform the gallery into a sterile area with an unsettling quality. Through May 31 at The Sculpture Center, 1834 E. 123rd St., Cleveland, 216-229-6527. — Bembnister

Living in Your Imagination For Spaces' 30th-anniversary show, curator William Busta selected artists who displayed work there in each of the last 10 years. The resulting exhibition features not the fantastical, as the title might suggest, but mundane, everyday experiences, filtered through artists' robust imaginations. Florida artist Billie Grace Lynn gives concrete form to the "elephant in the room" with three life-size, puffy pachyderms. Fashioned from a diaphanous nylon, the animals stretch from floor to ceiling, dominating the front of the gallery. Viewers must walk around them to get a closer look at Cleveland artist Amy Casey's acrylic paintings on paper, which present scenes familiar to Clevelanders — drab neighborhoods, dingy industrial plants, and bright orange construction cones. Only Casey removes the ground from her cityscapes. The buildings hang from a system of ropes woven like a spiderweb, or are propped up by the slats of fences normally used to demarcate land and property. But the everyday is most apparent in "North," by Virginia artist Kevin Everson. In this short looped video, a bundled-up man stands near a scenic overlook in heavy winds, trying in vain to refold a road map. His unsuccessful attempts to recreate the original order of the creases mirror the disappointment of being caught in the cruddy weather — something we can all relate to. Through July 6 at Spaces, 2220 Superior Viaduct, Cleveland, 216-621-2314. — Bembnister

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