A Different Direction -- Michael Castellana's sculptures call into question the conditioned responses of the viewer. Each is a traffic sign about three inches thick, made of lead; the letters are defined by relief. The solid finality goes beyond the mundane purposefulness of a street sign, and each work's powerful presence makes the viewer's emotional response to the signs somehow irrelevant. At the same time, however, the lack of color in the signs challenges their authority. Through September 25 at Pavanna Gallery, 2250 Professor St., 216-771-9811. -- Chris Kelley
Daring Decade: Women in the 1920s -- After WWI, American girls wanted to be more independent, and simply constructed, loose-fitting, low-waisted evening dresses made it easy to fox-trot late into the night. One of several examples of the genre is a Lanvin purple chiffon dress, circa 1929; the blouson shape of the top and the ruffles on the skirt have made several reappearances over the decades. Jantzen tested the waters of modesty with a wine-colored, knitted beach garment that might today be called a tankini. But it's the stories behind the clothes that make this a relevant show. Women of the 1920s planted the seeds of fashion as we know it today, when women can wear anything they want. Through October 24 at Western Reserve Historical Society, 10825 East Blvd., 216-721-5722. -- Nadia Michel
CIA Faculty Exhibition -- This exhibition's sole disappointment lies in the sheer variety of its media. Daniel Cuffaro's industrial design of a plastic "Vick's Cool Mist Humidifier" offers a marked contrast in materials to Kevin Kautenberger's "Buoy/Stack," made of beeswax, poplar, cedar, pollen, and mirror. Brent Kee Young's "Trap," based on an Asian fishing trap, seamlessly melds representation with abstract forms and is a lustrous example of glasswork, reflecting light at every twist of its flame-worked Pyrex rods. Mary Jo Tole's ammonia-toned gelatin prints of trees are haunting, with their gray-washed backgrounds and leafless, glowing branches. Through October 24 at Reinberger Gallery, Cleveland Institute of Art, 11141 East Blvd., 216-421-7407, www.cia.edu. -- Miller
Drive-In Tales -- One year ago, photographer Karen St. John-Vincent took in a drive-in movie and was inspired to capture the essence of the audience. While certain images, such as "Double Feature I" and "Double Feature II," present a believable mood with their relaxed, captivated characters, others appear posed; the stylish young couple featured in "Yellow Car," for example, look like fashion models. Vincent's slick images include other edgy youths as well as shots of middle-aged spooning, rustic landscapes, and a variety of bodily expressions ranging from absorption to angst. Her work makes the subject matter more cinematic than its theme. Through October 2 at ArtMetro, 530 Euclid Avenue, 216-696-1942. -- Miller
Hermeneutic Circle -- Jurgen Faust's multimedia installation relays various views of a marketplace in southern Italy. On one wall of the gallery, a time-lapse projection shows pedestrian and vehicle traffic within the market square. Throughout the footage, shadows change the facade of the main building from early in the morning until it becomes artificially illuminated at night. On another wall, three monitors show detailed views of the square, such as the stone pavement or a corner of the market building. Digital stills show even greater detail, from garbage trucks and workers to the writing on a postbox. Although Faust's varied images provide a greater sense of the marketplace than a single image could do, the meaning and depth of the work, beyond its expansive representation of a locale, remain elusive. Through October 3 at Heights Arts, 2173 Lee Rd., 216-371-3457. -- Miller
Matthew Robinson -- These small, understated, and tasteful compositions of black line on white paper appear to be created on a computer and printed, with a photograph as the source material. The line traces the shapes of absent shadows and variations of tone; its nervous energy is amplified by the appearance of the human figures, some of whom are talking on cell phones or smiling. The isolation of the line is echoed by the figures, which have neither background nor surroundings. The figures themselves project an image of confidence, but the perfectly unvarying and consistent line has a lifeless, mechanical quality. Its path, subordinated to the images of people, betrays a degree of uncertainty in its nervous, restless activity. At Buzz Gallery until October 1. 1836 W. 25th St., Suite B, 216-522-1836. -- Kelley
Motion and Texture -- Elise Newman, a Cleveland artist, doesn't try to overcontrol her media. She works with them, letting watercolors run, pastels be chalky, and handmade fibers be bulky, while creating wonderfully vibrant and intuitive works of abstract art. In a small watercolor collage on paper titled "The Garden," Newman creates an intimate work with colorful detail. Her artwork is paired with that of Venezuelan sculptor Gisela Raffalli, whose bronze sculptures feature strong, voluptuous women. "Estirandose" is a figure of a woman stretching from a golden hoop. Only the barest essentials of her figure are defined, turning her hearty figure into a lush outline of green patina. The contrast of styles and media works well in this exhibit. Through October 20 at La Cachette Gallery, 20 E. Orange St., Chagrin Falls, 216-401-8920 -- Miller
Nature Sublime: Landscapes From the Nineteenth Century -- On display are Japanese prints from the 1800s and paintings, drawings, and prints from France, England, Germany, and America, all of which capture the spirit of Romanticism. Witnessing the industrial revolution, these artists yearned for a simpler life close to nature and sought inspiration in landscapes. Simultaneously in France, prints from Edo, Japan (now Tokyo) were prized, and Western artists adopted Japanese compositional devices like asymmetry, the approach to perspective and attention to decorative detail. The similarities are apparent in the colorful lithographic prints of Henri Rivière: Planes of color, rather than strokes or lines, describe landscapes, lending a cartoon quality to his and the Japanese prints. Edo was a city mostly of men; the samurai left the countryside for the pleasure district of Edo because the firmly established authority of the shogun precluded armed rivalries, making the samurai virtually obsolete. The prints reflect this lifestyle, referred to as "Ukiyo-e," the floating world, and a life without any real foundation, depicting the transitory nature of life. Through November 14 at the Cleveland Museum of Art, 11150 East Blvd., 216-421-7340, www.clemusart.com. -- Kelley
Personal Prism: The Art of S.C. Versillee -- On the wall label accompanying a painting of a blue morphos butterfly, Versillee compares the insect's ability to filter blue prisms of light into the scales of its wings to her own ability to filter beauty into her paintings. Created with oil on canvas and digital art, Versillee's images do attain a certain degree of opulence with their rich, earthy palettes, but her subject matter remains a cliché. Pictures of exotic women, angels, horses, and unicorns are executed in an illustrative style, ideally suited for the covers of sci-fi thrillers. The artist tends to flatten her figures with decorative backdrops and keeps most of her works symmetrically balanced. In the painting "Ishtara," the focal point, a female's striking profile, loses its dimensionality against the geometric pattern painted on the wall behind her. Through October 3 at the Shaker Heights Public Library, 16500 Van Aken Blvd., 216-991-2030. -- Miller
The Pilgrimage: The Land Beyond Cellphones -- David Rankin's watercolor paintings have been exhibited at the Smithsonian Institution's Conservation and Research Center as well as locally in the collection of the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. Rankin specializes in portraits of birds and big cats as well as exotic landscapes and endangered animals, all of which are painted from real life. This exhibition displays several of Rankin's big-cat watercolors and landscapes. "In the Heat of the Day" features a tiger resting in the sand, beneath bamboo trees. Elegantly painted, the relaxed tiger is almost lost among the undulating shadows of the bamboo in the sand. "Noon Sky Recipe," a simple landscape, is an example of the three-layer process of applying watercolors that has become Rankin's signature. Through October 10 at Ohio City Gallery & Circle Studios, 1940 W. 45th St., 216-961-1307 -- Miller
The Reverend and Michaelangelo -- Reverend Albert Wagner has been painting for 30 years, ever since a leak in his radiator led him to an epiphany by the side of the road. With no formal training, he has created a massive body of work that has received national attention. His images, made of whatever materials he can find, recall the art of Picasso and the German Expressionists with its abstract forms, bold colors, and heavy black lines. Titles such as "Look to Mama" and "Baby, Please Take Me Back" allude to the personal nature of his work, yet their themes remain universal. Michaelangelo Lovelace, a friend of the reverend's, looks to him as a mentor. Relying heavily on text in the form of billboards and business signs, Michaelangelo's stretched canvases with acrylic paint critique the paradox-laden urban environment: Police cars drive alongside drug dealers, while 12-step programs are located next to bars and strip joints. Together, the two artists create a dynamic and affecting exhibition. On view through September 26 at Headfooters Gallery, 12610 Larchmere Blvd., 216-795-1668 -- Miller
Seeing Spots? -- This show features new work by the versatile Cleveland artist Laurel Herbold. Painted mostly on Masonite board with latex paint, Herbold's recent images consist of several layers of washes applied and rubbed out, followed by loose grids of dripped paint and then tightly applied details. Frequently, central images are trapped within the built-up layers. This intricate process lends her work a sense of age, as the contained subject matter attains an archaic quality. Such is the case in her painting titled "Upstream." In it, several tiny fish and other creatures tunnel through the center of the work, bounded on both sides by a murky web of earth-toned hues, reminiscent of the textures of a riverbed. In another work, an elaborate eye floats at the center of the painting, suspended beneath lines of dripped paint and minutely applied geometric forms. The extent of minuscule details within Herbold's paintings can be likened to the intricacies of a microchip. Through October 30 at Vivid Art Gallery in the Colonial Artcade, 530 Euclid Ave., 216-241-7624. -- Miller
Still Center -- New York-based artist Katarina Wong's installation is at once simple, joyous, and profound. Painting directly onto four walls, she has created a steel blue background for numerous stickpins, each topped by a glob of wax similar in shape to the thick dab of a paintbrush. The pins collect, gather, and move away from each other in effortless lines. White on the outer edges of their pattern, the wax tips turn to black as they culminate, and back to white again as they disperse. The effect of the design is migratory, as if the artist is tracing the passage of birds across the sky. The graceful, delicate movement of the lines and the shape of the wax reflects the artist's interest in Chinese brush strokes. The accompanying wall text reveals that the wax tips of the pins are actually molds cast from fingertips. The installation can be appreciated without this knowledge, but the artist's interest in the Buddhist concept of interdependency lends another dimension to the work. Through October 15 at SPACES, 2220 Superior Viaduct, 216-621-2314, www.spacesgallery.org. -- Miller
The Teacher and the Student -- Russian émigré Ilya Kabakov has created a Beaux Arts museum within Cleveland MOCA's gallery walls. Complete with art-history timelines, detailed wall labels, quotations from artist's letters, and citations of artistic influences and movements, this visual production tells the story of the fictitious artist Charles Rosenthal, his influence on the protégé he never met, and the efforts made by both artists to reconcile Soviet realism with abstraction in their paintings. A huge undertaking on all counts, this immense installation disappoints only in the "real" artwork. Much like actual examples of Russian Suprematist painting, the artworks are conceptually interesting but aesthetically bland. Rosenthal's canvases are largely a stark white, with small squares of realist images painted in the corners. Horizontal rectangles of solid color are placed haphazardly throughout the compositions, although they are in fact intentionally positioned, according to the dictates of Suprematist art. The protégé's canvases concentrate on larger realist images, bordered on various sides with murky black edges and infiltrated by random floating geometric shapes. The attraction of this exhibition lies in its intellectualized artifice, rather than its visual vitality. On view through January 2 at MOCA Cleveland, 8501 Carnegie Ave., 216-421-8671, www.MOCAcleveland.org. -- Miller
Trophies of the Hunt: Capturing Nature as Art -- Beautifully rendered photographs from the Cleveland Museum of Art's permanent collection celebrate the macabre ethos of the hunt. Intended to capture nature, several of the images instead relay death. The most disturbing image is Joel-Pete Witkin's 1990 photograph "Feast of Fools." Arranged as a still life, the photo includes decaying fruit and vegetables amid severed hands, feet, and even an infant corpse. Drawing on a long tradition of imagery in still-life painting, this picture is reminiscent of the work of the French painter Géricault. Other, less haunting items are snapshots of individuals who display such prizes as a fish, a swan, and a pig's head. One charming photograph, by Cleveland native Barbara Bosworth, shows fireflies in a jar. Comparing hunters and photographers, the show effectively relays how grim subject matter can become a visual feast. Trophies of the Hunt will be on view through November 3 at the Cleveland Museum of Art, 11150 East Blvd., University Circle, 216-421-7340 -- Miller
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