Brick by Brick -- To the pudgy, pointy-nosed subjects of the magnificent paintings by Cuban-born Clevelander Augusto Bordelois, appearance means everything. Like many Americans, they're either wracked with insecurity or oblivious to their faults. Bordelois imagines them in outrageously ornate clothing that either masks or flaunts their deficiencies, thereby transforming them into universal and sometimes humorous symbols of human vanity. Bordelois is an exceptionally good painter -- the show's title alludes to his meticulous method -- and his palette is as rich and vibrant as Raphael's, dominated by velvety maroons, plush reds, and luminescent flesh tones. In "Fragile," a teen tries to look grown up in his dark sunglasses and mobster suit, when he's really just a pasty kid with a weight problem. By contrast, the woman in "The Fox" poses luxuriously, like Eve in the Garden of Eden -- naked except for a strategically placed leaf. Only she's far heavier than Adam's wife, sporting a fox-fur collar in sad contradiction to her utterly unfoxy looks. Best is "Living Without a Rooster," where women in evening gowns preen around an empty throne. They resemble the chickens at their feet: Empty in mind and soul, they have nothing to do but wait around and hope someone notices them. Until September 29 at 1point618 Gallery, 6421 Detroit Avenue, 216-281-1618, www.1point618gallery.com. -- Lewis
A Face in the Crowd -- You may not be stunned by this second annual juried display of work by members of Art House's Supporting Educators and Artists Network (SEAN), but there are some redeeming standouts. Pam Schlichenmayer's acrylic painting "The King of Times Square" shows a New York City hot-dog vendor standing still on the street. He's wearing a puffy blue parka and staring straight ahead, seemingly lost in thought, behind a wall of soda cans. What grabs you is his face, kindly and serene; in a sea of hectic activity, he's an island of calm. Simple, realistic, and straightforward, the painting indicates a strong grasp of a tricky medium and powerfully evokes a unique place and mood. Jane Critchlow's black-and-white inkjet photo "Eye Out" scores its points with unusual perspective and a smart visual metaphor. The wooden doors of an old duplex jut into the frame from both sides of the picture, guiding the eye to the rear inner wall of a house through the passageway they form. This would be pleasing enough in geometric terms, but Critchlow adds a meaningful dash of color -- a circular, eye-like pattern, just above a gaping hole in the front door. This humanizes the entire structure, like a scar on the face of an old man, and it says that something happened here. Through August 27 at Beck Center for the Arts, 17801 Detroit Ave., Lakewood, 216-521-2540, beckcenter.org. -- Lewis
Food -- Besides exploring our love-hate relationship with food, the artists featured in this fun and unusual show call attention to the strange, unhealthy, and utterly fake substances that pass as nourishment, placing gross-out emphasis on sugars, chemicals, and meats. Dana Depew's argument is the subtlest and most artful. His seven oversized stick-of-gum paintings capitalize on all of pop art's best qualities: Their vivid, luscious colors, carnivalesque stripes, and glossy surfaces make strong appeals to the eyes and taste buds. What's more, their exaggerated dimensions (each one is roughly 18 inches wide and six feet tall) mirror the significance of gum in popular culture. Jeff Pasek takes another refreshingly indirect tack to a food-related point. The four expertly painted human portraits in acrylic that make up his "Four Food Groups" remind us of our inability to read people by appearances. Each person is different, from the hippie to the grunge kid to the urban professional, yet their puzzled expressions as they mull over food choices -- "Meat?", "Brussels sprouts or artichokes?" -- reveal the deep vegetarian bond that unites them. Shawn Mishak's graphic food paintings actually trigger the gag reflex, in a good way. His huge "Ode to the Chili Dog" repels and attracts simultaneously, with its brown mushy chili, sprawled-open bun, and massive diced onions. It's more than a little intimidating. Through September 2 at Asterisk Gallery, 2393 Professor St., 330-304-8528, www.asteriskgallery.com. -- Lewis
The Impressionists -- Don't confuse this exhibit with a mammoth blockbuster survey. Rather, it examines Impressionist masters from refreshingly oblique angles. Instead of highlighting the oil paintings that Manet, Renoir, and Pissarro are most famous for, this show looks at their prints and etchings, as well as works by other, lesser-known Impressionists. The Pissarro family receives the fullest representation. Camille, the patriarch, has a set of beautiful, finely nuanced lithographs featuring sturdy women toiling in fields of hay. Not only do the images complement his other paintings, they confirm the quiet dignity of their subjects. Works by Lelia, Georges, and Paulemile Pissarro are of variable interest, although H. Claude's "Le Port de Quimper" is a stunner: Tall wooden ships are docked in a small urban bay, but the only thing viewers notice in the predominantly pastel and impressionist blur are the ship's flags -- tiny shocks of bright blue and red. Thirty-year-old Alexandre Renoir pays tribute to his renowned great-grandfather, Pierre-Auguste, in a lithograph version of "The Boating Party." His watercolor-like treatment lends the iconic work an appealing looseness. Even when the painter ventured into printmaking, the results were as assured as if they'd been drawn with charcoal. Mary Cassatt's small, drypoint portrait, "Party Dress," is a tiny treasure. Every strand of a little girl's hair is visible, and her delicate cheek is flushed with color. Cassatt may have veered away from Impressionism, but leave it to her to steal this show. Through August 26 at Contessa Gallery, 24667 Cedar Road (in Legacy Village), Lyndhurst, 216-382-7800, www.contessagallery.com. -- Lewis
Super Fly -- Troy Chafin rises above this show's 12 other artists with his large, vaguely surreal painting titled "Making the Artists Furious." In this enigmatic scene, three scruffy, blindfolded men stand before a tuxedo-clad firing squad, against a wall covered with famous paintings by Mondrian, Magritte, and Van Gogh. Who's killing whom isn't certain, but the implications of each scenario are fascinating. It could be the battle cry of contemporary artists -- a metaphor for the desperate measures necessary to avoid the influence of their most dauntingly original predecessors. Appropriately, Magritte's effect on Chafin is confirmed in "Painting Knife," a vastly different work. Like the French master, Chafin wittily explores questions about art's limitations in this model of a painter's knife that's half three-dimensional and half painting. Patrick Triptow's brand of representation is no less stunning for being less complex. His "San Francisco," a landscape painting looking up a particularly steep street, uses gray hues almost exclusively to capture not only the city's inimitable charm, but also the strangely blinding late-afternoon sunlight. Now that's super fly. Through September 2 at the Pop Shop, 17020 Madison Ave., Lakewood, 216-227-8440. -- Lewis
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