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Capsule reviews of current area art exhibitions.


Affected -- "Loss" might make an even better title for these installations by Jamie Davis, a University of Massachusetts art student, since three of the four pieces convey with telling directness the impact that chemotherapy can have on the body. The impression they leave is wide and mostly gender-neutral, if a touch maudlin. There is no mistaking what caused Davis to create "Every Time I've Ovulated." She represents her periods with metal pellets nestled inside small wooden boxes arranged in a series of rows, with a large gap between November 1997 and October 1998. It's an effective way to highlight discontinuity and a sense of lack. Similarly, the nine white cotton jumpers, suspended from the ceiling like ghosts, that form "Dresses for Babies I'm Not Going to Have" call attention to one of the most bitter side effects of cancer. Each one bears a relevant phrase sewn with red thread into the fabric, such as "Even if I am somehow able to have babies, I'm not sure I would." Touchingly, the effect is of Davis apologizing to her unborn children, explaining to them why they may never exist. At the door stands an electric heat lamp slowly burning a hole in the wax surrounding it, graphically illustrating the disease's gradual but steady onslaught. Happily, there is humor to be found in the fourth piece, in which Davis stitches tiny pictures of housewares, animals, and tools into dozens of bandages. This would be confusing, were it not for the positively hilarious title: "I Read About a Man Who Saw Jesus in His Band Aid and I Wondered What I Would See." Through July 8 at the Sculpture Center, 1834 E. 123rd St., 216-229-6527, -- Zachary Lewis

Michael Greenwald: Recent Landscapes -- These new paintings by the Cleveland Institute of Art alum transport viewers to wide-open plains, pastures, and oceans, and manage to do so with consistent originality. Greenwald never seems to repeat himself, despite working in what is a fairly narrow genre. The distinguishing factor is his color palette: bright, sensuous, and nonobjective, but not gaudy or trite. There's something physically engaging about the way Greenwald captures rolling farmland in tones of yellow, red, and brown, with clouds rushing across the sky, or the lava-like reds and near-black he uses to convey a secluded bay at the tail end of sunset. His blending of colors is not seamless, and it works: Rather than fusing so many variations of blue into one large, semi-distinct wash to portray an ocean dappled with sunlight, he lets the shades simply hang next to each other. Clouds and skies make up at least two thirds of his canvases; he gets away with it thanks to his dramatic, impulsive brush strokes and use of yellows and blues alongside various shades of white. Moreover, Greenwald condenses into one square foot the gloomy, purplish magnificence of a Kansas prairie immediately before a tornado. Now that's effective use of space. Through July 9 at E. Gordon Gallery, 2026 Murray Hill Rd., 216-795-0971, -- Lewis

The Worst Art Exhibit in Cleveland -- Most of the pieces here wouldn't make it into a juried elementary-school exhibit, let alone a professional gallery; many, in fact, were retrieved from a dumpster and probably should have remained there. But if you appreciate the humor of This Is Spinal Tap, you'll find this "Worst Art Exhibit" hilarious. Consistently evident are stunning absences of skill, creativity, and taste. A humanlike creature formed out of a muffler is the poster child, along with a huge "Where's Waldo?" rip-off, set in a horribly stereotyped vision of the Middle East. All the anonymous, untitled works have been dubbed "Where's the Unicorn?" in honor of the worst piece: an airbrushed, painfully gaudy unicorn portrait, which someone, somewhere, must have taken seriously and to which pity is the only reaction. Whoever got the brilliant idea that burnt muffins constitute art must have been equally toasted, just as Bill Kray's arrangement of stuffed garbage bags represents perhaps the first high-concept art installation without a clue. And these are the classy entries. In true Dada spirit, someone justified wall space for a blasphemously tacky doormat adorned with Leonardo's "The Last Supper." Shows like this prompt a fascinating debate -- one removed entirely from issues central to "outsider" art: Are there really people out there creating work this bad, or are these simply aberrations produced by otherwise competent artists? The answer probably lies somewhere in between. Through June 30 at Inside-Outside Art Gallery, 2688 W. 14th St., 216-623-8510, -- Lewis


Alicia Basinger: Shiver and Craze -- This recent Cleveland Institute of Art graduate is the latest headliner in MOCA's Emerging Artist Series, and she deserves the spotlight. A ceramist, Basinger makes clay seem like a brand-new medium by mixing it with previously unrelated elements. In "Timber," her most physically impressive work, tall cylinders of wire mesh form the skeletons of tree-like structures with clay skins; each stalk has its own personality, a unique combination of height, width, colors, and blemishes. Standing together in a pod, some of them approaching the ceiling, they take on a sacred, ritualistic aura akin to that of Stonehenge. Basinger also finds success in "Conversion," her deliberate failure to bake a thin layer of clay onto a large slab of steel; the clay peeled away, giving the surface an aged, worn look that's far livelier than the original. Using thicker, two-tone clay for "Passages," she ends up with a raised, heavily cracked surface resembling a patch of desert. One could stare for ages at "Bridge," a pretzel-like knot of blue porcelain loops so complex, they defy comprehension. "Vestiges," meanwhile, consists of a curious series of smaller and usually roundish objects comprising metal, ceramic, and ossified paper. They're survivors, all right: sturdy, nubby remnants of intense heat and profound chemical changes, like meteors that have fallen to earth. Through August 28 at the Museum of Contemporary Art, 8501 Carnegie Ave., 216-421-8671, -- Lewis

Michaël Borremans: Hallucination and Reality -- The world envisioned by this young Belgian artist is not an appealing place, even if his skill is in portraying it. In this large exhibition, Borremans outlines, in the most delicate hand, a dark, mechanistic, submissive society in which man and nature are traded and altered like commodities. His pencil drawings, overlaid with light watercolor and other media, such as white ink and tape, recall comic books of the 1940s. At that pre-nuclear time, certainly, his frames of scientists juggling tiny blue and red balls, of powerful men tinkering with fundamental matter, might have been perfect for some pulp novel. Yet it also speaks to current times, when stem-cell research, cloning, and terrorism are hot-button issues. "Slight Modifications," a veritable catalogue of human facial deformities, might be an illustration of the ills scientists now seek to eradicate; alternatively, "Cerebral Office" and "Boxing Heads" -- in which human heads are bought, sold, and stored on racks, as if they were shoes -- argue against genetic tampering. And the giant women towering over a model city, notepads at the ready, in "Terror Watch," demonstrate the ultimate in governmental invasiveness. Incidentally, the piece also exemplifies the strongest tool in Borremans' arsenal: perspective, or exaggerating differences in size. He does this most effectively in "Trickland," a vision of oversized humans crawling over a landscape and rearranging it as if it were a toy train set. Through September 4 at the Cleveland Museum of Art, 11150 East Blvd., 216-421-7340, -- Lewis

Nina Bovasso -- Stepping inside the new painting installation by New-York-based artist Nina Bovasso at the Museum of Contemporary Art is as exciting as going for a ride on the Tilt-a-Whirl. Her huge design on the rotunda gallery's curved wall looks like paisley gone mad; it surrounds the viewer with an almost dizzying spinning effect. The eye scans the perimeter and flits about the room, frantically seeking visual balances on either side of the circle between a psychedelic array of tall flames, dots, branches, buttons, and swoosh patterns, while the brain seizes almost subconsciously on matching colors across this huge carnivalesque palette. Bovasso fixed her own pictures to the wall like large 21st-century diptychs, then painted new designs that grow around, toward, and away from them like ivy. One near the window is a big, red explosion of paint that seems to spew more design fragments into the atmosphere. No two perspectives are alike in this gallery. Views and responses to those views change according to the focal point and the viewer's position in relation to it. Bovasso spent a week climbing up and down ladders to complete the installation. It's a wonder it didn't take her longer -- and that she didn't fall off. Through August 28 at the Museum of Contemporary Art, 8501 Carnegie Ave., 216-421-8671, -- Lewis

Once Familiar -- Claustrophobia may be your first reaction to this exhibition in the museum's sky lounge of works by four local artists. If you use the museum's spiral staircase, you will watch the ceiling get closer and closer, until you enter by poking your head through Carol Hummel's utterly unforgettable installation. Like Spider-Man on drugs, Hummel has spun a thick, multicolored web of yarn over both the gallery's open areas, complete with grandmotherly cozies over parts of the railings. Simultaneously abstract and immediately tangible, Hummel's work here questions the tame identity of yarn as well as its history as a medium. It won't seem quite so familiar after this. (A corresponding video project by Carey McDougall and sculptures by Dylan Collins were not yet in place, as of an early visit.) Just as devilishly creative and playfully subversive as Hummel's installation, though, is a series of faux-antique chairs by Stephen Litchfield, positioned like sentinels around the yarn. Narrow and wobbly, with cracker-sized seats and disproportionately high backs and long legs, Litchfield's humorous constructions are quite useless for sitting -- at least for human sitting. Otherwise, they're made to look exactly like their practical counterparts and would be considered fine furniture in the real world. Through August 14 at the Museum of Contemporary Art, 8501 Carnegie Ave., 216-421-8671, -- Lewis

Out There: Landscape in the New Millennium -- Traditional landscape painting may be fading into the sunset, but there's still a bright future for landscape art in general, as this new exhibition of contemporary international works makes clear. Corsican artist Ange Leccia's hypnotic, beautifully disorienting video installation titled "La Mer" features a camera positioned directly above a seashore, filming white-capped waves breaking and retreating on dark sand; displayed onscreen, the wave pattern looks strangely like a slow, undulating geyser. American Jennifer Steinkamp also works magic through video in "Dervish 14," a digitized time-lapse loop of a tree as it winds and unwinds through the seasons. The rest are all photographs: American Tom Bamberger depicts the wide, imposing front edges of dense natural mini-environments, whether thick clumps of "Brown Grass" or a field of high-tech windmills. Ellen Kooi posits people as intrinsic elements of the Dutch countryside in her large, haunting photographs; a row of people emerges directly out of the ocean and onto the land to form a wall in "The Dike," while in another picture, a man frozen in a seemingly impossible backflip forms a bridge over a creek. Rosemary Laing, in four images from a series called "One Dozen Unnatural Disasters in the Australian Landscape," draws intriguing comparisons between fire as a destructive force and the harsh climate of her land. Through August 28 at the Museum of Contemporary Art, 8501 Carnegie Ave., 216-421-8671, -- Lewis

Pop the Top -- A bubble machine greets visitors at this cozy new Lakewood gallery; owner Richard Cihlar is probably next door, painting in his attached studio, which will soon be available to other artists. Looking beyond the imitation Warhol and Keith Haring on permanent display, it seems that the gallery's primary interest is not necessarily in pop art in the academic sense, but in the cultivation of local art. It's also clear that Pop the Top bodes well for Cihlar's taste as an exhibit coordinator. The show features 12 artists, most of whom live and work in Cleveland. Cihlar's work is interesting in its own right: elaborate, brightly colored, three-dimensional collages illustrating religious concepts and various aspects of our consumerist, disposable society. But the offerings get even better -- most notably with Steve Ziebarth's compelling "Portrait Piece," a set of 12 utterly distinct and realistic faces, painted in dark tones and arranged in a grid. Paul Jacklitch captures the over-the-top, carnivalesque traits of Vegas in his pure and digitally altered photographs. The show's biggest thrill comes courtesy of Stephanie Craig's "Five Pods": large gourds, singed and otherwise damaged so they resemble giant cocoons. As it happens, Craig, of Vancouver, is the only non-local artist here. Through July 2 at the Pop Shop, 17020 Madison Ave., Lakewood, 440-724-9261. -- Lewis

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