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Each week, KCUR's Adventure! newsletter brings you a new way to explore the Kansas City region.

These are the 6 Kansas City art exhibits you need to explore this summer

Three paintings by the artist PHYBR.
Upper Level Gallery
Installation view of PHYBR's “COGITATUM" at the Upper Level Gallery.

If you're looking to escape the brutal Kansas City summer heat, there's no better escape than these innovative and exciting exhibitions spanning the local art scene.

This story was first published in KCUR's Adventure newsletter. You can sign up to receive stories like this in your inbox every Tuesday.

Kansas City knows how to have fun in the well-cooled indoors, from our growing distillery scene to the metro’s forever-intriguing vintage and thrift stores.

Kansas City’s independent galleries have their own surprises for you this season. Whether you’re looking to escape this year’s bitter summer heat in a meaningful way, or trying to find that perfect date idea, add these six summer art exhibits in the list to your itinerary.

"Squint" by Wolfe Brack

A grid of bright colored rectangles, each with a miniature face, magnifying glass, and handwritten text.
Wolfe Brack
Wolfe Brack's "Squint" on display at the Smalter Gallery.

This June, art lovers can enjoy an intimate art experience at Wolfe Brack’s solo exhibition, “Squint,” on display now at the Smalter Gallery on W. 39th Street.

A work called “Quirks” consists of numerous rectangular pieces of paper with a miniature head and a hand-written description, along with a pair of adjustable magnifying glasses. Kansas City-based Brack ignores the conventional belief that art should be admired from afar and never touched, and instead invites the audience to get up and personal with these pieces.

Each piece of the collection represents “the thoughts, experiences, habits and things overheard that make up our everyday realities, personalities and personal idiosyncrasies,” the piece description says. Here, you’ll find private rants and quips, small glimpses of individual lives.

For example, one piece says, “Jarius is an open book, but the writing is illegible.” Another says, “Celia’s feeling spicy today and is just looking for a reason to reinforce some stereotypes.” Maybe, if you look closely, you’ll find a quirk that reminds you of your neighbor, your friend, your coworker – or yourself.

  • When: Now through July 13, 2024
  • Where: 1802 W 39th Street, Kansas City, MO 64111

Ophtograph Gallery Inaugural Annual Art Exhibition

A framed photograph of a person in a gray sweatshirt, orange hat, orange facemask and sunglasses, standing in front of a sign that reads Stop the Genocide Save the Children in red letters.
Robert Reed
/
Ophtograph Gallery
Robert Reed's “7 Days” at Ophtograph Gallery.

Ophtograph Gallery is a newly established artist-run space inside The Hobbs Building in Kansas City’s West Bottoms. Its inaugural exhibition captures the very fabric of Kansas City’s community — its people — through intimate portraits, thought-provoking landscapes, and candid snapshots.

In “Childhood,” taken by gallery director and Kansas City street photographer Robert Reed, a white elderly woman takes center stage, smiling at someone outside the camera’s framing. The bubbles in the picture suggests the potential presence of a child off-screen, making the viewer consider the meaning of the title.

In another one of Reed’s pieces, “7 Days,” we see someone standing in front of a large white banner with red text reading “STOP GENOCIDE.” The individual wears a bright orange beanie, holographic sunglasses, and a red bandana as a mask, while the bold text in the background casts a painful shade over the colorful composition.

  • When: Now through Aug. 15, 2024
  • Where: 1427 W 9th Street, Suite 502, Kansas City, MO 64101

“Passing Moments” at Belger Crane Yard Studios

Artwork by Gina Pisto, a circular ceramic sculpture of depicting succulent plants, painted black.
Gina Pisto
Gina Pisto's “memory portal II” at Belger Crane Yard Studios.

Once a year, Belger Crane Yard Studios in the 18th & Vine District showcases works created by its current residents. Titled “Passing Moments,” their 11th such exhibition includes work by Joel Pisowicz, Gina Pisto, and Logan Reynolds.

The pieces on display reflect each artist’s experience and growth over their residency, while serving as vessels for nostalgia and memorials.

For instance, Gina Pisto’s “memory portal II” resembles the literal circular shape of a portal with a smooth, glimmering center. The center is surrounded by various blooming florals with a matte finish, making its glaze an irrefutable temptation, hypnotizing the audience and drawing them closer.

As you stare into the center, ask yourself: Are you the type who’d peek into the dark well in the middle of the woods? And, if the answer is yes, what do you see?

  • When: Now through Sept. 7, 2024
  • Where: 2011 Tracy Avenue, Kansas City, MO 64108

“Butter and Oil” by Mary Clara Hutchison

Artwork by Mary Clara Hutchison
Xiao Faria daCunha
/
KCUR 89.3
Installation image from Mary Clara Hutchison's “Butter and Oil” at Vulpes Bastille.

“Butter and Oil,” a solo exhibition by Kansas City-based Mary Clara Hutchison, is dedicated to giving the mundane a new meaning. Now on view at Vulpes Bastille in the Crossroads, the exhibition repurposes household objects like clothes, old furniture, and even slices of toast as sculptures and installations.

By doing so, Hutchison emphasizes the repetition within our daily routines and explores the intimate relationship fostered between ourselves and our environment.

In one of the installations, Hutchison hung fabrics and textiles resembling outfits, linens, towels, and blankets on a metal grid to create an abstract mix of textures.

In another, a matrix of toast slices is hidden behind two large curtain panels, inviting the viewers to step closer and peek through the cover. Both works quantify ordinary things to make the viewer curious about what the simple actions of making ourselves breakfast or washing our clothes mean on the larger scale of feeling a sense of stability and comfort.

  • When: Now through June 27, 2024
  • Where: 1737 Locust Street, Kansas City, MO 64108

“Fictions” by Andrea Burgay

A sculpture by Andrea Burgay displaying a distressed paperback book.
Xiao Faria daCunha
/
KCUR 89.3
Andrea Burgay's “The Authentic Touch” at the Kansas City Public Library Central Library.

In a bookish mood? Stop by the Kansas City Public Library’s Central Library Branch this summer to see vintage paperbacks repurposed into mixed-media sculptures, in Brooklyn-based Andrea Burgay’s solo exhibition, “Fictions.”

Burgay’s process is the literal presentation of “digesting a book.” She begins with layering texts she’d sourced from thrift stores or used book sales with collage elements like paint splashes, paper scraps, and fabric. Then, Burgay takes the books apart and reassembles them repeatedly, meshing stories across different genres: sci-fi, romance, action, nonfiction, etc.

These books ended their previous life and regenerated new tales and identities, morphing out of their original content: a cunning comparison to how human beings can part ways from our previous forms to grow anew from our experiences.

The only pity, perhaps, is that you cannot hold the books and flip through them. Nonetheless, you can see the recomposed stories bursting through the covers: some are ravaged scraps with illegible texts, and others are audacious colors demanding attention.

  • When: Now through Aug. 17, 2024
  • Where: 14 W 10th Street, Kansas City, MO 64105

“COGITATUM” by PHYBR

If you love the bold colors and expressions of street art, stop by the Upper Level Gallery in the Crossroads and explore the world of Kansas City street artist PHYBR. In his solo exhibition, “COGITATUM,” PHYBR created a distorted dreamscape with acrylic paintings capturing the movement and reflectiveness of metal shimmers.

A large portion of the exhibit is dedicated to abstract works highlighting how light interacts with a metallic, fluid material while referring back to the human anatomy. “Vita Post Mortem” takes the contour of a pregnant woman and turns her into a golden honey river flowing within her shape. At one angle, it looked like a gold skull resided in her body. At another, you may see a vague ghostly face where the fetus should be.

PHYBR’s portraits are equally impressive, using the same high-contrast palette to create a futuristic and surreal ambiance for his characters. In “Key to the Universe,” PHYBR illustrates a Black woman shimmering with glitter and bright pools of colors on her cheek, chin, and neck. Her eyes gaze into the sky with confidence.

  • When: Now through June 29, 2024
  • Where: 504 E 18th Street, Kansas City, MO 64108

Originally from China, Xiao daCunha covers arts and culture happenings in the Midwest, specifically focusing on the Kansas City metro and Chicagoland. She has written for KCUR, The Pitch, Sixty Inches from Center, and BRIDGE Chicago, and spent three years as Managing Editor at a Chicago digital publication, UrbanMatter. A practicing visual artist herself, Xiao combines her artistic talent with her writing to contribute to public art education and explores topics relevant to BIPOC artists, gender identity, and diasporic identity. You can reach her on Instagram and Twitter.
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