Capsule reviews of current area art exhibitions..


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, — Theresa Bembnister

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, — Zachary Lewis


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

The Resinators No, it's not a spelling error. Both artists here use resin, and their work is sure to resonate. Both are local too. But what really matters is their thematic link. Haley Litzinger and Rosanne Smith both evaluate the tragedy of environmental devastation with compelling force. Litzinger is the realist, creating bleak but plausible scenes in which industry runs toxically amok. She's also more prolific and relies more heavily on resin, applying it in layers to produce pictures with rich, three-dimensional depth. Her entries deliver one stunning blow after another, but "Factory Fire" is the coup de grâce. Flames consume a group of trees, machinery, and drilling towers in the foreground, while oil spills onto the pristine shore behind. Dark yellow resin evokes smoggy, poisonous air. Meanwhile, tiny policemen have just appeared, but they're dwarfed by the fire, powerless to regain control. Smith, by contrast, uses resin to consider the human impact of environmental degradation, specifically its potential to foment disease and bizarre biological reversals. "A Sickness Unto Death" is the one to remember. Graph paper and medical files are the background to a silhouette of a woman whose head and breast are filled with minute, tumor-like circles. As a before-and-after picture, this one, depicting the spread of cancer, may be the cruelest: from human being to statistic. Through February 1 at Doubting Thomas Gallery, 856 Jefferson Street, Cleveland, 330-687-3355. — Lewis

Apollonova Artists are loners by tradition, but sometimes it's better to share the proverbial garret. Consider this exhibition by Akron-based artist group Apollonova. Although the eight members featured here function independently and have unique identities, it's clear they derive energy from each other. They even produce work collaboratively. There's no official theme here, but sensuality predominates. Will Felix paints bright floral patterns resembling plain breasts and nipples, but "Shiva," a near-total abstraction, is his most captivating entry. Intensely colorful swirling figures coalesce magically to evoke a curvaceous dancing woman. If this is the female half of the Hindu male god, as the title suggests, it's a daring but also dignified take on a hallowed, age-old subject. Ashley Limbach accomplishes a similar feat with "Serenade." At first glance, this dark oil portrait looks like some gaudy, allegorical relic from the 18th century, complete with cherubs and black velvet draped around the frame. But look closer: That cherub is a naked woman, and the man and woman in the picture are engaged in a rather provocative and modern act. But the most simply pleasing image here is Ursula Rauh's "The Rest Goes Away," and it has nothing to do with sex. It's an acrylic vision of peace, a serene landscape in hallucinogenic shades of smeared yellow and orange. It's the kind of place where Shiva — or better yet, Apollo — might reside. Through February 2 at Asterisk Gallery, 2393 Professor Avenue, Cleveland, 330-304-8528. — Lewis