There are no December doldrums in the visual arts scene—in fact, this may be the most jam-packed month for standout shows in the entire year. Things kicked off First Friday with Marne Lucas' Sitting City at Woolley at Wonder. Lucas' portraits of local artists include a Borat-esque Storm Tharp reclining poolside with gratuitous mustache and chest hair, always-enigmatic Tom Cramer gazing at his own reflection in multiple mirrors, Molly Vidor baring her lily-white legs, Jayme Hansen on an elaborately lit swing and Paul Green mimicking a pose from one of his own paintings, his dick hanging out of his pants, one hand holding a geode, the other resting upon a plastic stag. The best portrait in the show is a refreshingly simple shot of artist David Inkpen standing on a dock, his expression open, his eyes looking at the camera with a soulfulness that could melt your heart and curdle your blood. In portraiture, elaborate props, locations and setups are no substitute for a good face in good light, which is why Richard Avedon and Arnold Newman were better photographers than Annie Leibovitz is—and why the Inkpen piece is the showstopper of Lucas' show. Also at Woolley, multitalented Arnold Pander displays watercolors, graphite drawings and ink-on-paper works, the latter of which are formally and thematically the freest of his entries. Owing much to the traditions of anime and caricature, these images of cameltoe-sporting California girls in bikinis and designer bling is unabashedly objectifying in a knowing, winky way. 128 NE Russell St., 284-3636. Closes Dec. 30.
At Pulliam Deffenbaugh, G. Lewis Clevenger's aptly titled Under Reconstruction shows the painter in glorious form, enlivening his rectilinear abstraction with (gasp!) curves in works like Foreign Influence and, in Mike's Place, freeing his shapes, allowing them to float in space. This is a refreshing evolution for Clevenger and may be his best show ever. 929 NW Flanders St., 228-6665. Closes Dec. 30.
At Butters, gallerist Jeffrey Butters reminds us he is also a superb painter. His adventurous abstractions, part of a group show, have considerable presence, with their puckered textures, vibrant palette and shimmery dusting of gold leaf. Butters is at his strongest when he allows a dripped or splattered gesture to give his otherwise freeform miasmas of color a sense of compositional direction.
520 NW Davis St., 2nd floor, 248-9378. Closes Dec. 23.