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Capsule reviews of current area art exhibitions. 

Felas Visit, 1952, a pencil drawing by Darice Polo, is on - view at Raw & Co Gallery through October 8.
  • Felas Visit, 1952, a pencil drawing by Darice Polo, is on view at Raw & Co Gallery through October 8.

Darice Polo -- These images by Clevelander Darice Polo look so much like old black-and-white family photos that it's hard to believe they're actually recent works. Only upon close inspection -- nose against the glass -- is their true magnificence revealed. They're actually drawings -- film stills transformed with painstaking care into pencil-and-paper (or oil paint) masterpieces, complete with historic blemishes; the effort involved explains why there are so few of them. And while nothing says the subjects are members of Polo's family, the drawings evince so much love and pride that it's impossible to assume otherwise. Particularly moving are the variations in clarity and what they imply. A large pencil drawing titled "Fela's Visit, 1952" shows a group of women cooing over a baby. All the details are there, textures particularly: a flannel blanket, dress fabrics, a painted wood cabinet, the baby's peach-fuzz hair. Yet the faces are blurry; the most valuable element is omitted. By contrast, "Theresa, 1948," another graphite drawing, is in amazingly sharp, pointillistic focus, suggesting that Polo (or whoever holds the memory) took great care in preserving this mental picture. It shows a young, well-dressed black woman, who smilingly waits on a train platform amid businessmen. Perhaps she was traveling to a job interview or happy social event. In any case, she was probably far ahead of her time in the segregated, chauvinistic 1940s and '50s, and the image resounds with her pride. Through October 8 at Raw & Co Gallery, 1009 Kenilworth Ave., 216-235-0635, -- Zachary Lewis

Drop -- Think of "drop" in terms of a distribution hub or collective gathering space. That's the only sensible explanation for this five-person group show, which pairs local talent with artists from Holland. But it all fits under the new AARTCorp gallery's deliberately nebulous identity: The name stands for Applied Aesthetic Research and Technology Corporation -- a generic, connotation-free label that implies nothing and imposes no restrictions. Happily for this show, the highlights are evenly divided between the continents represented. Dutch artist Karen van de Vliet takes graffiti to high artistic and technical levels in a set of portraits digitally printed on canvas. Imagine Rembrandt as a punk with a laptop: Composing on a computer, van de Vliet pieces together and overlays patches of light, semitransparent hues to form cohesive images. In her eyes, an immense Afro on a joyous Rastafarian becomes a ball of patchwork quilts, and the loud colors she uses mirror the character's presumably larger-than-life personality. Clevelander Ron Tucker experiments with India ink in a series of small, untitled, ribbonlike strokes on paper. He displays a profound grasp of the medium through stunning variations in hue, definition, and density of tone -- everything from light speckles to the blackest of solid blacks. The subtlety here is on par with the work of an ancient master of Japanese calligraphy. Through September 30 at AART Corp, 2026 Murray Hill Rd., 216-421-0704, -- Lewis


All Women All Art -- Woodmere's Opus Gallery opens its halls once a year to an exhibit featuring local women artists only. The 11th edition of the show includes work by six painters and photographers, at least half of whom make the trip worthwhile. Victoria Dumesh's digital photography is particularly memorable. Applying modern technology to a traditional genre, Dumesh shoots intricate arrangements of flowers in glass vases, in lovely outdoor settings. A painter would capture these rather academic scenes in deep, lush colors and shadowy patterns of refracted sunlight. But Dumesh has no use for paints, since her high-resolution camera renders the compositions with the softness of a brush and a vibrant, living presence that's almost surreal. Anyone looking at "Blue and Green" (and the distorting effect a vase of flowers has against a backdrop of tall grass) from a distance would swear it's a watercolor. The other standout artist is Faina Magaram, whose recent trip to Venice inspired a series of paintings reveling in the colorful costumed grandeur of Carnivale. Her background as a commercial illustrator serves her particularly well in "Woman in Gondola," where a lush shade of dark blue saturates a scene of two boats viewed in profile as they pass each other at night. The predominance of horizontal lines distinguishes the image, reducing it to an almost purely geometric abstract. With artists such as these, maybe Opus Gallery ought to consider going all women, all the time. Through August 31 at Opus Gallery, 27629 Chagrin Blvd., Woodmere, 216-595-1376, -- Lewis

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, -- 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, -- 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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