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Capsule reviews of current area art exhibitions.


George Mauersberger -- The Cleveland State drawing instructor reinvigorates the floral genre by forcing pretty flowers to share the attention, rather than hog it, in these large pastel and charcoal drawings. Unlike traditional still lifes, Mauersberger's flowers tend to be just one of many elements to regard, and his settings are not of the usual fragile, inhumanly perfect variety. Most are drawn in the ultra-lifelike trompe l'oeil style and appear to be taped to a wall. Big, beautiful, and vibrantly colorful as the roses are, the tape is often of equal or greater visual interest: Mauersberger lavishes care on the qualities that distinguish one sort from another, such as the gooey thickness of electrical tape or the thread veins in packing tape. Mauersberger titles all these unconventional, seemingly accidental compositions "Wallflowers." He also expounds on the idea in a pair of drawings titled "Black as Silk" and "White as Milk." Metal scissors and plastic hangers add to the array of textures, while a white nighttime-sky scene on a black background lends a surrealistic feel. Different they may be, but the quality of the drawings is high, as it is in every piece here. Through March 26 at the Bonfoey Gallery, 1710 Euclid Ave., 216-621-0178, -- Zachary Lewis


Drawn With Light: Pioneering French Photography -- Digital cameras are ubiquitous as cell phones, but in the 19th century, capturing an image on film was an advanced and highly technological art. This exhibit of 19th-century French photography lauds the accomplishments of those who were on its cutting edge. Eugène Atget's photos exude the joy he must have felt, freezing the opulence of a wealthy Parisian's garden on paper. He did so with such crisp detail and bold outline, one can imagine the textures of the trees and stones. Others, such as Édouard Baldus and Louis-Remy Robert, had figured out how to convey the architectural majesty of cathedrals: Baldus offers a panoramic view of the Parisian Notre-Dame in all its buttressed glory, including details as fine as a nearby pile of bricks and the church's reflection in the Seine; Robert, meanwhile, presents the cathedral fountain in Saint-Brieuc as the yellowed relic of an ancient era. Gustave LeGray's "Portrait of Edmond Cottinet" is artfully blurry on the edges, but holds its subject in a softened but clear light. A picture by Frank Chauvassaignes contains one of the most unusual effects in the show, a somewhat impressionistic rendering of a stream receding beyond sight into the background. It must have been a photographic triumph. Through June 8 at the Cleveland Museum of Art, 11150 East Blvd., 216-421-7350, -- Lewis

From Leipzig -- The seven young artists here are all representational painters associated with the Leipzig Academy of Visual Arts, yet there is tremendous variety among the show's seven paintings, covering a wide palette of styles and subjects. Martin Kobe and David Schnell are fascinated with perspective: In Schnell's acrylic, "Stangen im Mai," a grid thickly populated with trees and other vertical objects extends beyond sight in every direction; Kobe's untitled acrylic resembles a surrealistic architectural design, in which the walls, floors, furniture, and blank space have been dipped in red and stretched to infinity. A surrealism more versed in the tradition of Magritte reigns in "Automat," Matthias Weischer's four-panel oil on canvas: Here, a peculiar object -- a cross between a bed and a pinball machine -- stands like a shrine inside a ruined open-air temple that no one ever visits. It's strange and compelling in its odd stillness. German political and industrial history is the subject of "Prozession," the oil-on-paper narrative-style painting by Neo Rauch, who at 44 is the oldest artist in the show. An atmosphere of decay pervades the unusual composition: Giant men in top hats hold small men in their hands like slaves, while others trudge into a factory that's billowing smoke into an already darkened sky; the impression is of a bleak labor sector in which the workers hold little power. With only one work from each artist and all displayed in a single gallery, From Leipzig whets the appetite for more from each. Through May 1 at the Cleveland Museum of Art, 11150 East Blvd., 216-421-7340. -- Lewis

Masterworks From the Phillips Collection -- Touring this group of highlights from the renowned Phillips Collection is like taking an art-history survey course on Impressionism and Abstraction, and the list of artists reads like the textbook's index: Monet, Manet, Courbet, Morisot, Cézanne, Delacroix, Corot, Ingres, Van Gogh, Goya, Bonnard, Braque, Matisse, Renoir, Degas, Picasso, Kandinsky, and Klee. Duncan Phillips, founder of the collection and wealthy heir of a steel magnate, displayed amazingly prescient taste, buying works by artists whose true worth was not always recognized at the time. Organized by period and subject matter, the show consists of 59 paintings that originally hung in the Phillips home, now a major national museum in Washington, D.C., in addition to 18 comparable works owned by Cleveland. Renoir's magnificent "Luncheon of the Boating Party" may be the best-known piece, along with a handful of Degas' ballet paintings and Matisse's "Etruscan Vase," but the exhibition is not short on less familiar works and less familiar names. Cubism gets a weighty nod via still lifes by Braque and Picasso, but the show ends on a whole note of pure abstraction with Feininger's elegantly geometric "Village" and four exotic musings by Klee. This is not a class to cut. Through May 29 at the Cleveland Museum of Art, 11150 East Boulevard, 216-421-7350, -- Lewis

Misha Kligman: Icons for the Nonbelievers -- Whether he sells one or every picture on display, 2001 Cleveland State graduate Misha Kligman should count his first solo exhibition a success. His oil paintings are derived by stripping fashion magazine covers of their ink and overlaying them with entirely different colors; the results are shadowy portraits that would be appropriate in a cathedral, if only the figures were biblical. In "April," one of only two titled works, a bird stands on the shoulder of a girl with slick hair pulled back over a face as white as a mime's. The pictures look like relics of a bygone era, oddly tinted daguerreotypes of people who, as models, had perfect skin, hair, and bone structure, but never quite existed among the living. Their skin now appears far too sallow to be traditionally beautiful, their haunting oval eyes -- one of few traits that remains recognizably human -- burn through the layers in ways both alluring and frightening. Meanwhile, Kligman's dark tones render their glamorous poses silly and their once-lavish costumes as coarse rags. This show marks a strong start for an artist worth knowing better. Through March 26 at the E. Gordon Gallery, 2026 Murray Hill Road, 216-795-0971. -- Lewis

Pulse: Energy Forms/Jim Hodges -- In Pulse: Energy Forms, Icelandic artist Hildur Ásgeirsdóttir Jónsson uses silk, a thin and delicate material, to convey wide-open spaces and nature's most violent physical processes. Stars explode, radiating waves of light, all within the confines of painstakingly stitched six-inch-square panels. Intricate black squiggles densely packed on vellum outline the movement of tectonic plates, perhaps mapping the progress of an earthquake. Applying fabric dye to larger panels of woven silk in the compositions called "Glacier Tongue" and "Floating Iceberg," Jónsson suggests the grandeur of a fog-enshrouded valley or the towering immensity of the arctic icepack with breathtaking likeness. These powerful images cannot soon be forgotten. Jim Hodges, featured in MOCA's other new exhibit, also uses nontraditional materials, but to different ends and with more mixed results. His drawings, mirror paintings, and other sculptures realize complex mathematical, scientific, and self-reflective psychological concepts in beautiful ways, yet his wacky, multicolored light-bulb constructions are frustratingly abstract. "On We Go," a silver-chain spiderweb hung across a corner, gets darker near its origin and looks as if it could replicate itself forever. In an untitled picture, Hodges deftly cuts out portions of a large photograph, causing the leaves of a sun-dappled tree to appear to undulate in the wind or fall softly to the ground. It is the artist's most recently completed work and also his most stunning. Through May 1 at the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland, 8501 Carnegie Ave., 216-421-8671. -- Lewis

Urban Passages -- Tucked into the second floor of the Tri-C West library, Urban Passages features two artists making intelligent visual points and counterpoints. William Chill offers views of factories and other urban landscapes that declaim Cleveland's waning status as an industrial city. He demonstrates great variety within his theme: The show opens with stunning semi-abstract charcoal drawings suggesting smokestacks and heavy industrial machinery. The wispy graininess of the charcoal creates an almost tactile effect of smoke and grime baked onto metal, while vast areas of white space contrast sharply with smaller but dense patches of bold black. Chill also offers photorealistic scenes of downtown showing the city's architecturally modern, well-organized -- even sleek -- side. Pam Gilliland, too, submits dynamic views of curvy highways and bridges. Unfortunately, the structural excitement of her designs is spoiled by a color palette that heavily favors pastels. In her paintings of intersecting telephone and electric lines as viewed from street level, some lines overlap to form pleasing geometric patterns, while others are less orderly. One or two of these might be called formally balanced compositions, but none presents a compelling subject, even in design terms. Through April 9 at Cuyahoga Community College West Library, 11000 Pleasant Valley Rd., Parma, 216-987-5322, -- Lewis

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