It’s tricky trying to encapsulate what makes Kansas City’s arts scene so fertile. But it has something to do with a welcome conflation of creativity, diversity and accessibility.
There’s art everywhere: galleries, museums, restaurants, sidewalks, lawns and public restrooms. And not just every first Friday. That’s especially evident in the summer.
Whether you’re a genuine art expert, armchair aficionado or utter novice, Kansas City produces a mighty harvest of opportunities to appreciate this crucial cultural outlet.
Here are just some of this summer’s visual art highlights:
Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
Philip Haas: “The Four Seasons,” through Oct. 18
According to Philip Haas, the face of summer embodies berries, gourds and a bird’s nest. This particular Summer constitutes one of “The Four Seasons” sculptures that stand 15 feet tall and adorn the south lawn of the museum. (This cumbersome installation necessitated a crane and cherry picker.) Artist and filmmaker Haas (of “Angels & Insects” fame) based his quartet of effigies on the paintings of 16th-century Italian Renaissance artist Giuseppe Arcimboldo. Each envisions the seasons as people: rose blossoms serve as cheeks on Spring; Winter echoes a gnarled tree trunk, accented by branches and moss.
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Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, 4525 Oak St. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday; 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Thursday and Friday. Free. For more information, 816-751-1278 or nelson-atkins.org.
Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art
Adam Cvijanovic: “American Montage,” through Sept. 20
Brooklyn-based artist Adam Cvijanovic provides a collision of cinematic influences and techniques in “American Montage.” His 13 works are exemplified by “Belshazzar’s Feast,” an elaborate piece that unifies 16-foot-high wood panels inspired by the ancient Babylonian court scene from D.W. Griffith’s silent classic “Intolerance.” Cvijanovic also debuts three works that employ his mastery of fracturing and layering: “Flint Hills” (motivated by a trip to Kansas last year), “Hollywood and Sunset” and “The Fall (Capri).” The latter is his first to incorporate a soundtrack — an attempt, he explains, for his paintings to “function as parts of a symphony orchestra.”
Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, 4420 Warwick Blvd. Hours: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday; 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday. Free. For more information, 816-753-5784 or kemperart.org.
Kemper at the Crossroads
Various artists, “No Boundaries: Teen Art Initiative,” through Aug. 9
While most teens have their faces buried in a phone and their hands engaged only with texting, a more enterprising few busied themselves contributing impressive works to “No Boundaries.” This “Teen Art Initiative” gathers 21 students from the KC community and invites them to explore multiple art genres and mediums while utilizing this unique space. The participants, who enjoy full scholarships to the program, range in age from 13 to 15, having earned nominations from their respective teachers.
Kemper at the Crossroads, 33 W. 19th St. 5-9 p.m. Friday and noon-4 p.m. Saturday. New hours begin July 1: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday; 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday; noon-4 p.m. Saturday. Free. For more information, 816-753-5784 or kemperart.org.
Bill Jacobson: “Place (Series) + Lines in My Eyes,” through June 20
Two recent series by photographer Bill Jacobson explore angular shapes as a means of linking the real with the abstract. “Place (Series)” involves placing rectangles of various sizes to create still-life images that balance architecture with nature. “Lines in My Eyes” offers a more observational approach, in which edges in nature, man-made objects and viewer perspective all intersect to create something entirely new. A 92-page monograph accompanies the New York-based Jacobson’s exhibition and is available for purchase at the gallery.
Haw Contemporary, 1600 Liberty St. Hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday to Friday; noon-5 p.m. Saturday. Free. For more information, 816-842-5877 or hawcontemporary.com.
Glenn Kaino: “Tank,” through June 6
The ocean is transported to Missouri — or at least that’s the concept behind “Tank,” a conceptual research piece by Los Angeles artist Glenn Kaino. A three-year collaboration between Kaino and Grand Arts, the exhibition boasts 11 acrylic display cases that house a colony of living corals. Upon closer inspection, the viewer can witness more than 100 exquisite species react, advance and retreat in an ongoing struggle for space and dominance. The exhibition was inspired by Reef-Ex, a government program in which obsolete military tanks are sunk in coastal waters to create artificial reefs.
Grand Arts, 1819 Grand Blvd. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Thursday and Friday; 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday. Free. For more information, 816-421-6887 or grandarts.com.
Leedy-Voulkos Art Center
Emmett Merrill: “The Bridge,” through June 27
Emmett Merrill displays the vivid printmaking skills that are earning him a bachelor of fine arts from the Kansas City Art Institute — and an upcoming three-year apprenticeship with celebrated woodcut guru Tom Huck in St. Louis. Merrill’s moody work takes inspiration from the old German expressionists and the new Outlaw Printmakers. “The Bridge” presents stories told in relief (primarily black-and-white), with human-centric narratives that are as cryptic as they are engaging.
Leedy-Voulkos Art Center, 2012 Baltimore Ave. Hours: 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Thursday to Saturday. Free. For more information, 816-474-1919 or leedy-voulkos.com.
Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art
Mark Cowardin: “The Space Between,” May 28 through Sept. 27
“My work generally starts with the observation of an absurdity,” Mark Cowardin says. The Lawrence-based artist’s “The Space Between” plays on his observations concerning “the disconnect of people and the resources necessary for survival, or more specifically the overconsumption of those resources.” The exhibition comprises two components that illuminate the connection of earth and sky. The primary piece centers on a hollowed-out “tree trunk” sculpture fabricated from two-by-fours that utilizes fluorescent light fixtures that climb to the ceiling; the others are “cloud” sculptures crafted from materials that include porcelain, wood, bronze and aluminum.
Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art at Johnson County Community College, 12345 College Blvd. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday, Friday and Saturday; 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday; noon-5 p.m. Sunday. Free. For more information, 913-469-3000 or nermanmuseum.org.
Kansas City Artists Coalition
Various artists, “Re: Members,” July 10-Aug. 20
Forty years ago, a collection of area artists gathered to figure out how to best benefit professionally via centralization. The outcome of that meeting became the Kansas City Artists Coalition, an artists-run alternative space dedicated to changing the lives of those in the industry who reside in KCMO. In honor of that four-decade milestone, KCAC invites current and former colleagues to submit work to “Re: Members.” This exhibition is open to original work completed in the last five years that has not previously been shown in Coalition galleries. Jurors include Philomene Bennett (whose gallery hosted the original meeting), Jim Sajovic, James Martin and Janet Simpson.
Kansas City Artists Coalition, 201 Wyandotte St. Hours: 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday. Free. For more information, 816-421-5222 or kansascityartistscoalition.org.
Summer Preview 2015
All through May, we’ll be previewing this summer’s entertainment. The lineup.
May 7: Music (now at KansasCity.com)
Today: Visual art
May 21: Theater
May 28: Festivals and events