February's First Friday art openings: a big slate for a small month

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"Pink Cut Marble" by Brandon Anschultz, at La Esquina
  • "Pink Cut Marble" by Brandon Anschultz, at La Esquina

In December 2012, Kansas City, Kansas, funk icon Marva Whitney died at 68, just before the publication of her memoir. Curator Patrick Alexander honors her memory and gives us a "platform to celebrate, educate and discuss the musical heritage of Kansas City's soul music" with a multimedia exhibition called Art & Soul, It's My Thing, at Kultured Chameleon Street Art Gallery (1739 Oak). Alongside contemporary artwork commissioned from the likes of Alexander Austin, Duncan Burnett, J.T. Daniels, Erra, Ociel Ramos, Luke Rocha and Pat Rocha, Sike, Danny Staton, Aaron Sutton and Will Willmott, you'll find items from local music collectors' personal files of KC soul memorabilia: photos, posters and albums. Listening stations featuring music from Whitney's husband's KC record label turn the gallery into a mini museum the rest of the month. Friday night, DJ Joc Max brings it live.

On January 25, the Kansas City Plein Air Coterie celebrated its 100th session. This fluid band of artists uses its outdoor time as a weekly retreat from studio practice (see Theresa Bembnister's "Field & Street," February 28, 2013). One of its "rules" is to work from observation, which translates to a lot of art. Some of that bulk finds its way into Sunday Painter, opening at Greenlease Gallery at Rockhurst University (54th Street and Troost) from 6:30 to 9 p.m. While the exhibition is up, the KC PAC is slated to complete five more outings and mark the beginning of its third year of continual practice. (Newcomers are always welcome.) Included in the show: Elvis Achepohl, Corey Antis, Jane Ashcraft, Christopher Bell, Wes Benson, Molly Bingaman, Robert Josiah Bingaman, Matt Bollinger, Hillary Carlson, Kelly John Clark, Jonah Criswell, Molly Kaderka, Krystal Kuhn, Melissa Lenos, Tom Matt, Nicole Mauser, Lee Piechocki, Rachel Rolon, Scarlett Schonhoff, Tristan Telander, Jennifer Wetzel, Lucas Wetzel and Ruby Wetzel.

Pratt & Whitney under construction in 1943, at the Belger Arts Center. - COURTESY OF ALBERT KAHN ASSOCIATES INC., DETROIT
  • Courtesy of Albert Kahn Associates Inc., Detroit
  • Pratt & Whitney under construction in 1943, at the Belger Arts Center.

It was a Pratt & Whitney Wasp engine that powered Charles Lindbergh across the Atlantic, and when World War II came, the Connecticut company expanded - a boom that included Kansas City. Today we know its local site as the Bannister Federal Complex (Honeywell, Bendix, Westinghouse, DOD landfill, etc.), but back before war profit was so scorned or anyone worried about contamination and cancer, Pratt & Whitney's plant was a patriotic keystone of national defense. The Belger Arts Center (2100 Walnut) tonight opens Velocity of Change: The Evolution of Albert Kahn's Pratt and Whitney Plant in Kansas City, pairing historical images from the 1942 - 43 construction with large-format photographs charting the plant's evolution through the present day. Unless you know someone who works there or is a Plowshares protester, you might not think about what's going on in your own backyard. Learn from architectural historian Cydney Millstein and photographer Richard Welnowski, who co-curated this exhibition.

Between community-development projects and struggling with City Hall about regulations, Israel Alejandro Garcia Garcia (of Garcia Squared Contemporary, 115 West 18th Street, inside the Bauer Building), finds time to curate. This month he presents Sietes Flatfiles Show, a group exhibition of works by Latino and Latina artists.

We're not sure if he has been hiding in Russia with Edward Snowden, but Johnny Naugahyde returns to the West Bottoms tonight with a new show at 1522 Saint Louis (that's the gallery's address, too). The Soviet Pen Pals of Johnny Naugahyde follows recent group shows at Pierogi Gallery in Brooklyn, New York; Graphic Arts Workshop in San Francisco; and the closing exhibition at the Dolphin gallery (now Haw Contemporary), allowing you to catch up with an old favorite.

Watch an installation take shape at City Ice Arts (2015 Campbell) as four artists from New York and Kansas City get Synchronized. Rob de Oude is skilled at painterly maximalist op-art tricks, making straight lines seem to bend; Mark Sengbusch uses a scrimshaw process on panels, with inlaid results unlike 2-D painting; Robert Howsare also works with tricking our optics into processing visual stimuli; and Gehry Kohler uses a layering technique that requires angled views to process. What will 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 be? Find out, starting at 7 p.m.

In his second local exhibition, Charlotte Street Foundation curator-in-residence Danny Orendorff aims to challenge the hierarchy of fine art's value with The Tyranny of Good Taste, which opened first at Columbia College's Glass Curtain Gallery to good reviews. At La Esquina (1000 West 25th Street), look for lowbrow materials held up by Brandon Anschultz, Mara Baker, Tim Brown, Jared Clark, Julia Anne Goodman, Ben Harle, Michelle Hartney, Jack Henry, Matt Jacobs, Cara Krebs, Bobbi Meier, Garry Noland, Sabina Ott, Matthew Schlagbaum and Dean Roper.


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