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Art Capsule Reviews

Our critics recommend these shows.

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Avenue of the Arts "Silly" seems to be the overwhelming theme of this year's Avenue of the Arts, a temporary installation of six public-art pieces along Central Avenue downtown. Kansas City Art Institute printmaking teacher Laura Berman's "Cowboys and Indians" has a 'zine-aesthetic-meets-the-USDA's-latest-fruit-campaign feel, along with a 1950s-nostalgia twist: Large-scale, black-and-white, photocopy-quality images of children in cowboy and Indian costumes are attached to the walls of a parking garage between 10th and 11th avenues, though they have been holding fruit instead of toy weapons. (This piece is reportedly supposed to change as the summer goes by, so keep an eye out.) Mark Cowardin's "Out in the Open," between 13th and 14th streets, consists of (nonworking) kitchen, utility and bathroom sinks rising above the sidewalks with the support of their plumbing. Described as a "tourist viewer," Maria Velasco's "City With a View," a replica of the pay binoculars (free here) often installed near the edges of scenic vistas, sits near the corner of 11th and Central. A look through the piece reveals notable downtown architectural landmarks, such as the Lyric Opera building, with office workers scaling walls and lounging on rooftops. Hesse McGraw, Rachel Hayes and Michael Jones McKean also contribute works. Through September on Central Avenue between 10th and 14th streets. (T.B.)

Amy Cutler The fanciful costumes and absurd situations depicted in Amy Cutler's gouache paintings on white paper often draw comparisons to fairy-tale illustrations, but Cutler finds inspiration in a wide variety of sources: Laura Ingalls Wilder, James Audubon, childhood memories of her father's pet store. For example, in "Dinner Party," young women in elaborate ball gowns use their long braids of hair to strap wooden chairs atop their heads; they then conduct a duel standing on the dinner table, fighting with the chair legs the way elk fight with their antlers. Cutler's highly detailed paintings show only characters and props; that there are no backgrounds to help explain the bizarre situations expands the opportunities for a viewer's interpretation. Through July 11 at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, 4420 Warwick Blvd., 816-753-5784. (T.B.)

Panlocal-GeofunkopolisRising As tradition would have it, artists who share wall space in group shows also share thematic obsessions or geographic residence. That's why we like the Telephone Booth's Summer Salon, Panlocal-GeofunkopolisRising, a themeless group show with work by Kansas City artists and artists who are equally indigenous to other regions. Curator Tim Brown did not demand thematic consistency, and the hilarious, unexpected result is that, if a theme does accidentally emerge in this show, it is the vagina. When you are looking at a pink swimming pool, it is really a vagina. The naked warrior lady with an ax? Your eye will be drawn vaginaward. The skateboard/surfboard made out of wood with a groove down the middle? We probably wouldn't have thought of it were the piece not surrounded by other lady parts, like the professional-looking vagina trophy. We direct those seeking exceptional, nonvaginal works to Rachel Hayes' "stitch bombs" and Taylor Painter's knitted dollar signs. Through July 11 at the Telephone Booth, 3319 Troost, 816-582-9812. (G.K.)

Mary Ann Strandell: The Polygot Series and Nina Bovasso: New Paintings and Works on Paper Although St. Louis-based Mary Ann Strandell describes her own work as a "post-conceptual celebration of hyperspace," it looks like the kind of thing that Crown Center's Bloom would display if that store carried fine art. Strandell's prints blend vibrantly colored flowers, bubbles, birds and waterfalls with Asian-inspired prints and hard-edged geometric shapes. She uses 3-D lenticular printing, which produces an optical illusion: When viewers walk by, her images appear to be moving. This makes a good match for New York artist Nina Bovasso's acrylic paintings composed of small, multicolored circles and squares surrounded by tiny, looping lines. (Her palette includes everything from fluorescents to metallics to earth tones.) The graphic masses of wiry marks seem to swell with a nervous potential energy, as if they were about to bounce across the composition. Through July 31 at the Byron C. Cohen Gallery for Contemporary Art, 2020 Baltimore, 816-421-5665. (T.B.)

Sun Spots The Dolphin Gallery has been a place of mystery lately. It hasn't been putting out brochures for shows, and its windows have demanded only that we vote right by voting left -- good advice, but not very helpful as far as letting the passer-by know what's on display inside. The current art could change at any time without warning, on a whim, with the exception of the Sun Spots display by Don Kottman. This is a wall of painted newspaper pages, most of which appear to be taken from The Calgary Sun. Colorful spots with various degrees of opacity cover the reported text, with ominous bits and pieces legible here and there -- the usual daily-paper stuff about oil companies, parental responsibility and real estate markets. Trying to read the newspaper information really is like looking at the sun -- the recognizable pieces of reality wouldn't be discernible if you didn't already know what was there. One of these pieces probably wouldn't look like much on its own, but a whole wall plastered in them leaves quite an impression. The Dolphin Gallery, 1901 Baltimore, 816-842-5877. (G.K.)

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