Fall 2014 brings the much-anticipated “Plains Indian” exhibit of rare masterworks to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.
But the season also offers opportunities for intimate encounters with art you can afford, as well as participatory events, including a popular auction and an outdoor artfest for dog lovers.
The fall calendar features scary art too, courtesy of the Kansas City Symphony.
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It’s not hands-on, it’s gloves-on, at H&R Block Artspace, where the “Kansas City Flatfile” is back for its regular biennial installment. The works on the walls selected by guest curators are what first grab the eye, but the real event is in the 20 drawers of two big flatfiles in the center of the front gallery.
For art lovers, the flatfiles are like Christmas, New Year’s, Fourth of July and your birthday, all rolled into one.
After donning a pair of white gloves provided at the show, visitors can explore folder after folder of works by 159 artists, choosing a folder, setting it on top of the flatfile cabinet, and going through whatever surprises are inside. It might be three works, it might be a dozen. And a few include small freebies.
People who like nostalgia will find much to enjoy in this exhibit. If you’re looking for engagement in the world of issues, not so much.
The exhibit cuts a broad swath through the Kansas City art community, ranging from emerging artists like painter Stephen Proski to well-known names like photographer Deanna Dikeman and the inimitable Johnny Naugahyde.
Dikeman has filled her flatfile folder with photographs of “lost pet” posters, commonly encountered along neighborhood streets. They tug at the heart, like her well-known images of her family and aging relatives. Tucked within this folder of loss is a single “found” poster that seems to bode hope for all the rest, and a plea for contact with the owner of a dog that bit a passer-by.
Naugahyde’s modest-sized collages incorporating foreign stamps, franking, brief lines of text, and images cut from old magazines, are bittersweet and enigmatic, like missives from a vanished world.
Affordability is a big draw for the flatfile. The Naugahyde collages go for $150 to $300; Json Myers’ dreamy block prints with marker and pencil are priced at $30. Jorge Garcia Almodovar’s new minimalist abstractions made from drafting vellum, cut vinyl and enamel are proving a hit with buyers — six of the 14 works in his folder had sold by early August.
At the opposite end of the aesthetic spectrum are the grungy abstractions on mesh fruit bags by Matt Jacobs, along the lines of the lively “Backwards Paintings” he recently showed at the Epsten Gallery. Corey Antis took the flatfiles as an opportunity to experiment, roughing up his aesthetic in a series of raw, totemic mask images on paper plates.
Painter David Rhoads demonstrates that small scale does not preclude big ideas. The paintings in his folder represent a cosmic search — for truth, self and meaning — picking up on themes he explored in his show earlier this year at the 1522 St. Louis gallery.
Rhoads’ imagery draws from the vernacular of T-shirts and children’s cartoons, while also taking formal and conceptual inspiration from artists like William Blake and Charles Burchfield, melding all of these influences into a fusion charged with singular intensity.
Intriguing work is also to be found in the folder of photographer John Hans, whose specialty is landscape viewed through an abstractionist’s eye. “I am always looking at shapes and the way light interacts with those shapes,” he said in a recent email.
Hans’ color photograph of low, gold-painted cone forms in a field of browning grass derives added mystery from its title, “Excelsior Cone Worship.”
Are we looking at a work of earth art? A remnant of some cargo cult ritual? Or, more likely, some kind of industrial installation?
As it turns out, it’s none of the above.
“It’s at the Excelsior Springs Airport,” Hans said in a recent interview. “I was heading up to a winery and I saw that and said, ‘Wait a minute. We’ve gotta stop and I’ve gotta take photograph of this. It’s too strange to think about.’”
And “very whimsical,” he added.
Hans cropped this shot so that the viewer doesn’t see the airport’s wind direction indicator (visible in another image in the folder) that the cones surround. He speculates that they were put there so that “whoever is mowing won’t run into this thing.”
This year’s “Flatfile” is also a gathering of newsmakers. They include the husband-and-wife team of Myers and Megan Gallant, who recently opened The International Trucking Service Gallery in St. Joseph. The current exhibit features work by Kansas City artist Martin Cail.
If you’re charmed by Andy Ozier’s collage portraits in the flatfiles, wait until September First Friday, when the artist will unveil his billboard-sized “Everyone’s Talking About Our Barbecue” on the Missouri Bank Crossroads Artboards.
In mid-September, works by flatfile artist Miki Baird will be featured in the Crystal Bridges Museum’s exhibit of under-recognized American talent, “State of the Art: Discovering American Art Now,” which will also include Kansas City artist Calder Kamin.
Also represented in the flatfiles are Cambria Potter and Hannah Lodwick, who recently completed a Kickstarter campaign to create a cargo container gallery in the West Bottoms, slated to open in January.
15th anniversary celebration
The Kansas City Art Institute will have a 15th anniversary party for Block Artspace from 6 to 10 p.m. Sept. 26, with an outdoor stage and interior environments curated by Mark Southerland featuring food, music and art. Tickets cost $25 at www.donate.kcai.edu or the door.
Nelson-Atkins goes to the dogs
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art will wind up its 25th anniversary celebrations of the Donald J. Hall Sculpture Park with a Bark in the Park festival for dogs and their owners. The afternoon event will include a photo contest and an opportunity to create a doggie T-shirt with sculpture park-inspired designs. Steer clear of the Roxy Paine tree as you walk the paths, and prepare to maneuver a doggie version of the “Glass Labyrinth.” The festivities run from 1 to 4 p.m. Oct. 11. Admission is free.
Nerman Museum electrified
“Electric” is the theme of this year’s “Beyond Bounds” fundraiser auction at the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, which has provided more than 125 regional, national and international artists with electric blue mediums to make works for the event.
One of them is Matthias Merkel Hess, who already has completed an electric blue version of the signature ceramic gas cans he showed at the Nerman in summer 2012. Tickets to the Oct. 18 event, which include gourmet refreshments, live entertainment, a live auction and a silent auction, cost $45 for museum members and $60 for nonmembers. Silent auction bids start at $50, making it a favorite venue for budget-conscious collectors.
This could be the year that brings “Beyond Bounds” to the $1 million mark. Since it started in 1992, the event has raised more than $800,000 for the college and the museum. For tickets: 913-469-3835 or www.nermanmuseum.org.
Just in time for Halloween, the Kansas City Symphony will show the classic German Expressionist silent film, “Nosferatu,” with music by organist Dorothy Papadakos. “Here is the story of Dracula before it was buried alive in clichés, jokes, TV skits, cartoons and more than 30 other films,” film critic Roger Ebert wrote in 1997.
Directed by F.W. Murnau and renowned for its technical achievements, “Nosferatu” brings an artist’s touch to the horror film genre, while not sacrificing the thrills and chills of stock ingredients including a ghost ship and haunted castle, rats, coffins, corpses and, of course, a vampire. Tickets start at $25 and costumes are encouraged.
Shows to see
Sept. 11: “Charlotte Street Foundation Fellows 2014: Amy Kligman, Garry Noland, Sean Starowitz” opens at the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art at Johnson County Community College and continues through Dec. 21. Free.
Donuts, discarded foam slabs from the Lake of the Ozarks and tacky ceiling fans all have roles in this exhibit of works by the Charlotte Street Foundation’s latest round of award winners.
Sept. 15: “Recent Acquisitions” opens at the Spencer Museum of Art at the University of Kansas in Lawrence and continues through Nov. 2. Free.
Don’t miss former Kansas City artist Ke-Sook Lee’s “Green Hammock,” a hammock created from a recycled army nurse’s uniform inspired by the artist’s childhood memories of the Korean War.
Sept. 19: “The Plains Indians: Artists of Earth and Sky” opens at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and continues through Jan. 11.
Gaylord Torrence, the Nelson’s senior curator of Native American art, selected 140 paintings, drawings, embroideries, feather works, clothing and ceremonial objects spanning 2,000 years for this blockbuster show, which opened in Paris and will stop at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York after Kansas City. Tickets cost $12 for adults, $10 for seniors older than 55, $6 for students and free for children younger than 12 and museum members. For tickets, 816-751-1278 or www.nelson-atkins.org.
Visiting curator Sonie Joi Ruffin organized this exhibit of photographs, video and visual art, which looks at “the transition of jazz from the past to the present, its influence and cultural contributions, the communities it has touched all over the world and the many talented artists that came from the art form.”
Oct. 10: “Summoning Ghosts: The Art of Hung Liu” opens at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art and continues through Jan. 11. Free. Organized by the Oakland Museum of Contemporary Art, this retrospective of the Chinese-born artist, who lived through the Cultural Revolution and moved to the U.S. in 1984, will feature 80 works, including two from the Kemper’s permanent collection. For information, 816-753-5784 or www.kemperart.org.
Oct. 24: “Kate Gilmore” opens at the H&R Block Artspace at the Kansas City Art Institute and continues through Dec. 13. Free.
This should be fun. Gilmore did the video of herself trying to climb up a column of drywall while wearing a dress and high heels that was part of the 2010 Whitney Biennial, and she’s bringing new videos and a performance to Kansas City.
Oct. 29: “Screenland at the Symphony: Nosferatu,” 7 p.m., Helzberg Hall, Kauffman Center. Running time: 94 minutes. Tickets start at $25.
Nov. 7: “Loving After Lifetimes of All This,” curated by Danny Orendorff, opens at La Esquina and continues through Jan. 3. Free. This is the last in a series of four group shows looking at trends and issues in art and life by the Charlotte Street Foundation’s 2013-14 curator-in-residence.
Nov. 14: “Xaviera Simmons: Number 16” opens at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art and continues through April 5. Free.
Simmons, a veteran of museum shows, is known for photography, performance, video, sound, sculpture and installation. “Simmons, as an artist, doubles down,” artist Adam Pendleton wrote in Bomb magazine. “She captures the fiction/truth dialectic as well as anyone, disarticulating assumptions about the quietly composed and staged images she makes.”
Ongoing: “Sonie Joi Ruffin: Let the Church Say Amen” continues at Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral, through Sept. 5. Ruffin once again delivers on her reputation for dazzling works in fabric that are uplifting and informative.
Ongoing: Kansas City Flatfile continues at H&R Block Artspace at the Kansas City Art Institute through Sept. 27. Free.