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Capsule reviews of current area art exhibitions. 

NEW

Travel Photography Clevelander Jeneen Hobby isn't breaking any artistic boundaries with these recent photographs, but it's clear she explored new territory, as in Southeast Asia, northern Europe, and the Middle East. What's more, the images are sincere, the unaltered evidence of real experiences. Generally speaking, Hobby's work here is that of a skilled amateur. Still, it's distinctive on several accounts: Hobby shoots film, which somehow seems more honest; also, she's got an eye for pattern and an obvious talent for capturing the dignity in people. The latter is most evident in "Boys in Wadi Sara," a portrait of two Yemeni children, several inches apart in height, happily leaning on each other. They're grimy, shabbily dressed, and surrounded by poverty, but Hobby catches them in a moment of utter peace, when all is right in their little world. "Girl With Henna," by contrast, is looking down. We barely see her face past her head-covering and dark locks, and the focal points are the designs on her scarf and arms. Again, though, Hobby transforms her subject. Viewed at this thoughtful instant, in traditional garb, the girl seems older and wiser than her years. Sometimes the lack of people is what's crucial. In "Jungle Versus Temple in Ta Prohm," an ancient tree's roots drip like wax into an underground stone temple in Angkor, Cambodia. There's a battle going on here, but no clear victor. Both have endured for ages, and it's impossible to say one is more magnificent than the other. — Through January 31 at Loganberry Books, 13015 Larchmere Boulevard, Shaker Heights, 216-795-9800. — Zachary 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. Until February 2 at Asterisk Gallery, 2393 Professor Avenue, Cleveland, 330-304-8528. — Lewis

ONGOING

Dissolving Nature Three years after she last showed in Cleveland, Lissa Bockrath is back. The wait was worthwhile. Having moved to the country, Bockrath is now taking cues from nature and producing images that are consistently sensuous. Her landscape subjects are mostly of the vast-valley and sweeping-mountains variety. Others are pure abstractions, explosive visions rendered with a loose, caressing hand. But the differences among subjects are almost insignificant; what matters is that each picture stands as its own complete system of emotions and sensations. In "The Other Side of the Fence," dark pillars loom large in a dizzying swirl of deep blue and sickly green. It's the most menacing and probably most memorable piece here. "Ebb and Flow" better represents the show. Though small, the image captures a vast panorama: a dense wave of icy-cold blue air filling a valley and meandering past a range of mountain peaks. Suddenly you're thousands of feet above sea level, and there's a chill in your lungs. But "Somewhere in the Middle" announces Bockrath's return most triumphantly. A sunset-colored river lazily empties into the sea, and the sheer magnificence of the scene practically overwhelms the senses. Subject-wise, it's fairly routine, similar to countless other landscapes. But in terms of effect, it has no equal. Through January 18 at Wooltex Gallery, 1900 Superior Avenue, Cleveland, 216-241-4069. — Lewis

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