Capsule reviews of current area art exhibitions

Cleveland art

Summer Painting Exhibition According to gallerist William Busta, 70 percent of the art in this show was made within five weeks of the opening. More impressive than the spanking newness is the fact that 100 percent of the work represents a divergent direction on the part of its creator. Matthew Kolodziej displays four gouache paintings, a new venture for the Akron artist. Although Kolodziej's work is abstract, underlying architectural forms seem to surface through the zigzagging calligraphic lines that cover the paper, like a more ambiguous version of one of Monet's impressionistic cathedral paintings. Douglas Max Utter contributes a series of paintings completed after recovering from cataract surgery. The backgrounds, flatly painted in brilliant yellows, blues, and greens, are paired with foregrounds of black-and-white figures wearing sour expressions, reflecting the artist's brighter, newly unclouded perspective. Old art-school pals Timothy Callaghan and William Newhouse team up for three paintings, in addition to solo efforts by each. (The two attended the Cleveland Institute of Art together in the '90s.) Hildur Ásgeirsdóttir Jónsson presents a new series of weavings in a palette ranging from cheery Easter-bonnet pinks and yellows to deep mauves and grays. Although Jónsson's work is assembled on a loom, using silk thread, it uncannily resembles watercolor washes on paper. Also on display are six of Lorri Ott's intimately scaled, fluorescent-colored liquid-plastic collages. Through July 26 at the William Busta Gallery, 2731 Prospect Ave., 216-298-9071. — Theresa Bembnister


Artist as Quiltmaker XIII Crafting may be a hip hobby for twentysomethings, but only a hardcore crafter goes beyond the usual projects — jewelry fashioned from PBR bottle caps, crocheted iPod cozies, etc. — to take up quilting. The handiwork of such diehard crafty folk from across the country is on display for this biennial juried exhibition, and it sets the standard for those stocking up on fabric scraps. Here, visitors should be happy to note, quilters avoid common symmetrical blocks, instead making imaginative plays on the traditional bedcovering — moves that involve the same kind of design decisions about pattern, color, and texture made by painters and other less craft-y artists. As a result, these quilts are not functional; they're the expressions of individuals. Rebekka Seigel, for one, uses old yearbook photos to make a political statement in "The Real Cost of War: Class of 1911" and "The Real Cost of War: Class of 1966," in which she recreates the smiling faces of high-school seniors before their lives were presumably altered by the realities of warfare. Molly Elkind's "13 Ways of Looking at Dodd's Creek," meanwhile, features tiny strips of fabric, covered with whirling patterns of stitches and beads, which resemble the movement of running water. With its intimate size and intricate details, Elkind's quilt comes across as a personalized document. Through August 2 at the Firelands Association for the Visual Arts Gallery, 39 S. Main St., Oberlin, 440-774-7158. — Bembnister

Just Suppose The art in this exhibition features the bizarre kinds of scenarios you'd expect to dream about after falling asleep on the beach: women wearing fish as hats, ocean waves appearing where there should be sky, an empty rowboat marooned in a desert landscape. It's whimsical yet creepy photo-based work in which husband and wife Jerry Uelsmann and Maggie Taylor, a Cleveland native, delve into surrealistic, mystical, and psychoanalytical themes inspired by the inner workings of the human mind. Like most couples, they operate differently: Taylor creates digitally; Uelsmann is all analog. Her primary tools are Photoshop and a scanner; he uses photomontage — cutting and attaching different photos to create a single print. But the exhibition doesn't try to contrast the couple's distinct working methods or highlight their personal or working relationship. Uelsmann's and Taylor's photos are rarely displayed side by side, but instead are hung on facing walls. The exhibition could have benefited from a stronger curatorial touch. After a while, the implausible situations depicted in the grand total of 60 photographs start to blur together. Through August 8 at the Cleveland Institute of Art Reinberger Galleries, 11141 East Blvd., 216-421-7000. — Bembnister

New BloodHere's some advice for the class of 2008 BFA graduates: Just because you're no longer making letter grades on your art doesn't mean you shouldn't bring your A-game to every exhibition. Overall, the work by recent grads of area art programs featured in this show is above-average, but there are still lessons to be learned. Nicholas Moenich assembles his sculptural collages from bits of painted-on paper, plastic ribbon, yarn, felt, and pipe cleaners. He affixes them to the wall in unexpected places, such as along the baseboards and on the side of the entranceway, like a vividly colored rash spreading across the white wall. But less empty wall space would've made for a more powerful installation. In contrast, Ryan Serafin plasters his allotted area with what could be described as intellectual detritus: pseudoscientific documents, cutouts of platonic forms, printouts of pictures of past installations, and stenciled slogans such as "mechanism now," written in geometric letters. Serafin's work is intriguing, but unfortunately, his artist statement reads like a befuddling philosophy textbook. Also on display are abstract paintings by Emily Moores, doodle-inspired canvases by Dustin Nowlin, Melissa Spainhourd's postcard-size drawings of everyday functional objects, and fluorescent-colored jewelry and illustrations by Rich Zarobell. Through July 19 at Arts Collinwood Gallery, 15605 Waterloo Rd., 216-692-9500. — Bembnister

They Never Saw It Coming Graffiti is often illusionistic, but there is no illusion in Clevelander Bob Peck's exhibition. He presents his art, both abstract and representational work, in a smorgasbord of media, alongside biographical musings scribbled on the wall. He even includes a video documenting his work process. This provides viewers with insight into how each piece fits into Peck's evolution from street painter to gallery artist. Graffiti taught Peck self-confidence and discipline, and he still draws upon the character traits and the design skills he learned on the street, now that his paintings are executed on canvas and displayed on white walls. "After all these years, I still use the tools of the trade, and each abstract is a snippet of days past," he writes. The assuredness and grace of the line work in Peck's abstract paintings and drawings are stunning. The titles of his paintings — "Action Packed," "More Than Expected," and "Dive Bomb," among others — mirror the forcefulness of the loops and swirls of thick and thin lines that follow the outline of the soft-edged shapes of the background. His deceptively simple abstract drawings with marker and pen on paper have a wide variety of line weights and balanced compositions that undoubtedly reflect his start outside the studio. Through July 20 at Artchitecture Gallery, 1667 E. 40th St. Unit 1A, 216-533-5575. — Bembnister

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