On View

Capsule reviews of current area art exhibitions.

Marilyn Bianchi Kids' Playwriting Festival Dobama Theatre
A detail from Ducks, by Jason Lee, on view at MOCA - through August 8. - Photo courtesy of Jason Lee
Photo courtesy of Jason Lee
A detail from Ducks, by Jason Lee, on view at MOCA through August 8.
Capturing Cleveland: Pages from a City Sketchbook -- The 200-plus works in various media by 21 Cleveland Institute of Art students all portray Cleveland scenery. Although their subjects are easily recognizable, providing opportunities to reminisce, most of the works are mere surface studies, lacking tangible mood and depth. Among the exceptions are Sarah Laing's digital prints of the decaying interiors of abandoned steel-mill offices, with their peeling paint and empty desk drawers; the images create a palpable sense of forlornness. Ben Dewey goes beyond exterior facades as well, in his exuberant, colorful portraits of people on the West Side. Christi Burchfield's charcoals of Tremont are also strong, their soft lines appealing to any city dweller who's ever loved buildings. The works on view will be compiled into a sketchbook for sale. Through July 31 at SPACES, 2220 Superior Viaduct, 216-621-2314. -- Tami Miller

Carmen Ruiz-Davila: Everywhere and Here -- Sex is the key to decoding Carmen Ruiz-Davila's large-scale, theatrical installations. What at first appears cryptic and cartoonish becomes crystal clear with the help of the backstory posted on the wall next to each piece. The flamboyant "Juana la Loca (Juana the Crazy)" features a black-and-white-tiled floor and giant castanets painted red with automotive paint and decorated with orange flames. Juana la Loca was a 15th-century Spanish queen who supposedly went mad because of her husband's sexual indiscretions. The bright red of this inflamed piece exudes the passion of the tale, while the castanets themselves recall a classic feminine symbol: the charming Spanish flamenco dancer. "La Mysterieuse Chambre Chinoise de Madame Wallis Simpson (The Mysterious Chinese Room of Madame Wallis Simpson)," a parody of Asian massage houses, is another feast for the eyes: A giant white spoon takes on the role of Jacuzzi bath, complete with bubbling water. Ornate wallpaper and small figurines give the setup an exotic flair. Looking into these installations is like embarking on a twisted adventure through the artist's fertile imagination. Through August 8 at MOCA, 8501 Carnegie Ave., 216-421-8671. -- Nadia Michel

Cleveland Institute of Art Student Summer Show -- From glasswork to digital graphics, abstract minimalism to what might be called "reality art," this show runs the gamut. But the highlight undoubtedly is photography. Brendan Beecy's Untitled Series digital prints are lit from behind, making the images of feet, arms, and faces seem to come to life. Smaller but no less intriguing is Lauren Gutierrez's Miss January: The American Burka Collection. The model, in a flesh-toned body stocking and a bleached-blond wig, poses in a perfect '70s pinup style. Maybe it's the baby-bottle nipples masquerading as the real thing, or the exaggerated red lips and garish makeup, but the effect is convincing at first glance and hilarious upon a second look. Through July 30 at the Cleveland Institute of Art's Reinberger Galleries, 11141 East Blvd., 216-421-7407. -- Michel

Closet Space -- Kent-based installation artist and instructor Kim Eggleston-Kraus re-creates domestic closets from her childhood and adult life in an attempt to recapture the memories they held. Aesthetically, her closets are just as mundane as anybody else's; shoddy doors lead to compact spaces loaded with clothing, board games, wrapping paper, and storage bins. The closets are oddly isolated within the gallery space, lacking the usual domestic accoutrements. The success of Eggleston-Kraus's closets lies in their interactive component. By looking, touching, and prodding, the viewer is rewarded with discovery. These portals may be walked and climbed through, creating tension between the desire for adventure and the fear of appearing foolish. Eggleston-Kraus's closets represent an attempt to break down the fine-art concept of not touching, in order to stimulate a return to a time when one didn't know better. They achieve this -- but only with a willing participant. Through July 9 at the Sculpture Center, 1834 E. 123rd St., 216-229-6527 -- Miller

Curve Series: Jason Lee -- Lightboxes scattered around the gallery space, in groups of three, recall urban sprawl and planned communities. Four groups of three orange boxes project light through a transparent image at the top: Two square boxes show a picture of grass, while the circular box has a water print. The pattern is repeated in each set. On the wall, projected aluminum rods carry one hundred yellow ducks, in groups of 25, spread out across the curved wall. A posted explanation says the installation is supposed to reveal "the idealized landscape to be as manufactured and manipulated as the urban environment." Color coordination -- orange boxes and the orange plaques, a single yellow dandelion in the grass that matches the ducks -- further emphasizes how landscapes are "civilized." Truth is, intentionally or not, the effect is quite pleasing. As a result, Lee's commentary on a serious topic is refreshingly quirky and lighthearted. Through August 8 at MOCA, 8501 Carnegie Ave., 216-421-8671. -- Michel

Garry Fabian Miller Photographs -- Is it really a photograph, if a camera is not involved? Surprisingly, yes. British photographer Garry Fabian Miller's dye-destruction prints rely on a photographic technique employed in the 19th century, before the camera was invented. In an antiquated procedure, Miller passes light through filters and cylinders of colored water onto prepared paper. The effect is fantastic. Minimal forms infused with glowing white light radiate from the paper, much as Mark Rothko's color-field forms radiated from their canvases in the 1950s and '60s. Although less warm than Rothko's paintings, the prints are captivating; the viewer is drawn in by the entrancing light, as if trying to see into the center of the sun. Through July 22 at the Cleveland Museum of Art, 11150 East Blvd., 216-421-7340. -- Miller

Kari Russell-Pool -- Russell-Pool's colorful, lace-like glass sculptures look as if they might easily dissolve in the mouth. Sorbet-colored works with names such as "Raspberry Cup" and "Cinnamon Peach" feature tiny, intricate flowers, leaves, and fruits formed by heating pencil-sized rods of glass and weaving them with tweezers. The pieces in her Teapot series may be far from functional, with fragile, flowery walls, but the fantastical vessels nonetheless convey the sensual pleasure of tea. "Pink Vessel with Birds" and "Robin Trophy" are two of four collaborative works that include a bird nestled among the flowers or perched in place of a stem on a purely ornamental vase. Despite their complexity, all 14 pieces on display are light, inspired by and evocative of summer. Kari Russell-Pool's signature style is pretty and delicate, a standout in the world of glass. Also, don't miss the gallery's extensive collection of glasswork by other artists. Through June 20 at Thomas R. Riley Galleries, 2026 Murray Hill Rd., 216-421-1445. -- Michel

Kelly McLane: My Blue-Green Algae -- Nature's raw power is beautifully rendered in McLane's large-scale graphite-and-acrylic paintings. "Soon on Me," placed at the entrance to a small room dedicated to her work, is the catalyst in a narrative that develops through four images. A tsunami soars over a city, tearing down a bridge in its furor. "Survivor" depicts a lone house drifting, attached to the mainland by cables and afloat thanks to numerous rubber tires strewn about its structure. McLane's watered-down aquas and transparent oranges give the devastation a lightness, perhaps indicating admiration for the planet's ability to transform. As the show's title suggests, the artist is interested in blue-green algae (aka cyanobacteria), believed to have been among the world's first living organisms. Six small figurative graphite drawings show another facet of McLane's original and finely executed vision. "You Pissed Your Pants" and "Hunting Season," for example, showcase emotionally defining moments in children's lives. Through August 22 at the Cleveland Museum of Art, 11150 East Blvd., 216-421-7340. -- Michel

Modern American Masters: Highlights From the Gill and Tommy LiPuma Collection -- Native Clevelander Tommy LiPuma's eye for art rivals his ear for music. Nominated for 30 Grammys, the renowned producer also cultivated an in-depth knowledge of modern American art, his passion for which is reflected in the 24 works on display. It's an overview of what LiPuma considers to be the best by American modernists from the early 20th century. Indeed, paintings by Marsden Hartley, Arnold Friedman, Arthur Dove, John Marin, and John Graham -- all underappreciated gems -- are perfect examples of how the use of pure, luminous color and intense texture revolutionized the art world and spawned abstract expressionism. A fine initiation to underexposed American talent, the show also highlights the pleasure art can provide for people from all walks of life. Also on view, Burchfield to Schreckengost: Cleveland Art of the Jazz Age (through July 18), a celebration of rarely seen works by other Clevelanders who give the city a good name. Though July 28 at the Cleveland Museum of Art, 11150 East Blvd., 216-421-7350. -- Michel

Rona Pondick: Recent Work -- Futuristic, genetically modified creatures collide with mythology in Rona Pondick's impressive and disturbing work. Scattered about the gallery floor are stainless steel curiosities like "Dog," a human-headed canine figure, and "Monkeys," a tangled grouping of primates with humanlike heads or arms. The bodies shine like liquid mercury, while the human parts have a matte finish. The sophistication of Pondick's technique further boggles the mind: The artist cast her own head and body parts and used 3-D computer scanning to reproduce and scale down the molds. "Monkey With Hair" features Pondick's face on a monkey's body that is covered with synthetic fur. Eerily thought-provoking, Pondick's body of work is also decidedly elegant. Through August 8 at MOCA, 8501 Carnegie Ave., 216-421-8671. -- Michel

Senenkunya: Many Voices, One Family -- Everyday objects displayed in their cultural context create an intimate portrait of life in West Africa. Photographs by Peggy Turbett (photo editor for The Plain Dealer) document her visit to Mali in 2002: Colorful rituals and the daily tasks of women are pictured in vibrant, large-scale images, revealing an alternative West African reality that has nothing to do with war or poverty. On the main floor, artifacts are displayed alongside life-sized reproductions of village homes and other structures. Among the highlights: the Toga, a decision-making area with a low ceiling that forces village men to sit down, thus eliminating height inequalities that might upset the balance of power. Another realistic scene is a market cart, strewn with hanging fruit and resting alongside the facade of a 13th-century mud mosque. In this way, utilitarian objects take on resounding new life as art. It's an engaging, hugely enlightening experience. Through August 29 at the Museum of Natural History, 1 Wade Oval Dr., 216-231-4600. -- Michel

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