February offers a stimulating mix of new shows, from the riveting “American Soldier” photography exhibit at the Nelson-Atkins, to the Bill and Christy Gautreaux collection of international contemporary art at the Kemper.
The Nerman Museum continues its focus on contemporary American Indian art and issues with exhibits of new work by Natalie Ball from Oregon and Lawrence-based Gina Adams opening with a reception from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday.
And February’s First Friday brings one more: “Making Histories,” at the Kansas City Art Institute’s H&R Block Artspace.
Artspace director Raechell Smith teamed up with University of Kansas art history professor and critic David Cateforis to assemble an intelligent and demanding selection of paintings, fabric works and videos that revisit important events and developments in the 20th century by a global roster of artists.
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In her essay for the exhibit, Smith cites the “deepening concern shared by many contemporary artists for the ways history is represented” and notes their shared use of “historical sources that include photographs, print media, film footage, artifacts, texts and documents, as well as the experiences and first-hand accounts of events from witnesses and participants.”
“Making Histories” offers the Kansas City audience its first chance to view important and influential pieces such as Jeremy Deller’s “The Battle of Orgreave,” re-enacting the 1984-85 British miners strike, and Norwegian artist Lene Berg’s “Stalin by Picasso or Portrait of a Woman With Moustache” (2008).
Cateforis is greatly enthused by the opportunity to present Berg’s 30-minute video about a portrait of Josef Stalin that Pablo Picasso created following the leader’s death in 1953. Initially, the work provoked a storm of controversy from French Communists, who thought the depiction was disrespectful. Five and a half decades later, the portrait engendered controversy for entirely different reasons when Berg hung a banner incorporating the image of the cruel dictator on New York’s Cooper Union building, where she was having a show.
Several works in the exhibit, including Mary Reid Kelley’s performance video made with Patrick Kelley about female sex workers in World War I, resonate with exhibits and events happening elsewhere in the city.
“Making Histories” includes eight text pieces from eminent African-American artist Hank Willis Thomas’ “I Am. Amen.” (2009) series, inspired by the “I Am a Man” signs carried in the 1968 Memphis sanitation workers’ strike. A piece by Thomas also commands a prominent spot in curator Nii Quarcoopome’s engaging reinstallation of the African galleries at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, where the artist will speak Feb. 26.
Smith and Cateforis’ “Making Histories” also will include time-based works by Anri Sala and Chen Shaoxiong, a performance by Tim Youd and quilts by Anna von Mertens. Youd will retype Evan S. Connell’s “Mrs. Bridge” and “Mr. Bridge” in a continuation of his characteristic retypings of famous novels. Von Mertens’ quilts commemorate some of the most horrific moments in recent world history by depicting the star patterns in the sky above events such as the bombing of Hiroshima and the Martin Luther King Jr. assassination.
Wars and treaties at the Nerman
Quilting’s cozy image also takes a drubbing in the Nerman Museum’s presentation of Gina Adams’ quilts, featuring texts drawn from historical treaties between the U.S. government and American Indians.
As museum director Bruce Hartman points out: “Hundreds of treaties were signed, and many were broken or sometimes coerced. They continue to define relationships between the United States and Indian nations.”
Three of the quilts in Adams’ installation directly relate to Kansas, Hartman said, as they address treaties signed in Medicine Lodge, Kan., in 1867.
During the week before the Nerman’s opening, Natalie Ball was engaged in mounting more than 300 coyote teeth on the walls of an adjacent gallery as part of her installation, “Mapping Coyote Black.”
Including two of the artist’s stunning painted quilts, the installation traces a history of the Modoc peoples from their creation story to the Modoc war to the present, personified by Ball herself. One wall of the gallery will feature the artist’s collection of historic newspapers containing articles about the 1872-73 Modoc war, which was led by Ball’s great-great-grandfather, Captain Jack.
Belger Arts Center
▪ “Possible Impossible: Terry Allen Study Drawings for Public Works”
When: Open until 9 p.m. on First Friday; “Perimeter” through Feb. 7
Hours: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Wednesday through Friday; noon-4 p.m. Saturday
Where: 2100 Walnut St.
Belger Crane Yard Gallery
▪ “Lauren Mabry: Passages”
When: Open until 9 p.m. on First Friday; through April 18
Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesday through Friday; 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday
Where: 2011 Tracy Ave.
▪ “February Group Exhibition”
When: Friday (reception 6-9 p.m.) through March 2
Hours: 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and by appointment
Where: 118 Southwest Blvd.
H&R Block Artspace at the Kansas City Art Institute
▪ “Making Histories”
Friday (reception 6 to 8 p.m.) through April 4
Hours: noon-5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday.
Where: 16 E. 43rd St.
Info: 816-561-5563 or kcai.edu/artspace
The Late Show
▪ Jeff Jerman
When: Friday (reception 6-10 p.m.) through Feb. 28
Hours: 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and by appointment
Where: 1600 Cherry St.
Leedy-Voulkos Art Center
▪ “Carlos Setien: Past to Present: 45 Years of Work — Beyond Boundaries Sculpture, Paintings and Monoprints”
▪ “Haley Chaffin: Compos Mentis, Fiat Lux”
▪ “David Goodrich: Remembered”
▪ KC: America’s Creative Crossroads: A National Lifestyle Campaign by the Kansas City Area Development Council featuring Portrait Photography by Cameron Gee
▪ “Justin Baldwin: Quotes From Underground”
When: Friday (reception 6-9 p.m.); all shows through Feb. 28
Hours: 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Thursday through Saturday
Where: 2012 Baltimore Ave.
Main Street Gallery
▪ “On Track,” a train-themed group show
When: Friday (reception 6-9 p.m.) through Feb. 28
Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. daily
Where: 1610 Main St. (upstairs at Anton’s Tap Room & Restaurant)
Mid-America Arts Alliance
▪ Jamie Burmeister: “LUV U” and “Message Matters”
When: Friday (reception 6-8 p.m.); LUV U through Feb. 27; “Message Matters” through Feb. 28
Hours: 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Thursday and Friday
Where: 2018 Baltimore Ave. (and additional locations for light installation)
Info: 816-421-1388 or maaa.org
Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, Johnson County Community College
▪ “Natalie Ball: Mapping Coyote Black”
▪ “Gina Adams: Its Honor Is Here Pledged and To Honor the Unidentified”
When: Thursday (reception 6-8 p.m.) through May 13
Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Friday, Saturday; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday; noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.
Where: 12345 College Blvd., Overland Park
Info: 913-469-3000 or www.nermanmuseum.org
▪ “Shelby Keierleber and Elizabeth Allen-Cannon: Wanting to Know but Not Wanting to Ask”
When: Thursday (reception 5-7 p.m.) through March 7
Hours: noon-5 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and by appointment
Where: 21 E. 12th St.
Sherry Leedy Contemporary Art
▪ “Vera Mercer: Still Life Photographs” and “Anne Austin Pearce: New Paintings”
When: Friday (7-9 p.m.) through March 21
Hours: 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and by appointment
Where: 2004 Baltimore Ave.
Todd Weiner Gallery
▪ “Martin Cail: Storms & Forms”
When: Friday (reception 5-10 p.m.) through Feb. 28
Hours: 11 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, 11-3 p.m. Saturday and by appointment
Where: 115 W. 18th St.