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Ivy Cooper encapsulates the St. Louis art scene

 Betwixt and Between: Christina Shmigel Most artists invited to install work in the Saint Louis Museum of Art's Contemporary Projects Gallery choose to black out the space and show off their work under discreet, tasteful lighting; the space is that awkward. Along comes Christina Shmigel, who takes the former utility closets and lights them up hard, adding her signature scaled-down versions of industrial tubing, pipes and architecture. The result is a sublime disorientation. Shmigel plays off existing plumbing, power lines and drains, installing her own little silos, wire circuitry and trestle bridges. We're left to wrestle with scenarios that are either miniatures of industrial landscapes or enlarged interpretations of the secret architecture betwixt and between the buildings we daily inhabit. Through July 11 at the Saint Louis University Museum of Art, Contemporary Projects Gallery, 3663 Lindell, 314-977-3399. Gallery hours Tue.-Sun. 10 a.m.-3 p.m.

Currents 91: Francis Cape, "Forest Park" Sadly, viewers seem to have a tough time warming up to this piece. Cape has designed three boldly colored, freestanding wall pieces in one of the Saint Louis Art Museum's upstairs galleries. Titled "Forest Park," the pieces together unite and divide the room, describing their own perfectly square floor plan while echoing the museum's subtle architectural detailing. They inscribe a space-within-a-space, and do us the extra favor of inviting us behind their pristinely painted surfaces to check out the normally hidden details of construction. Given that the museum itself was constructed as part of the 1904 World's Fair, it's engaging to watch another artist reinterpret the construction process within its walls. Through June 13 at the Saint Louis Art Museum, 1 Fine Arts Drive, 314-721-0072. Museum hours Tue.-Sun. i10 a.m.-5 p.m. (Fri. 10 a.m.-9 p.m.)

Michael Lin and William Pope.L "In Sickness and in Health" is Michael Lin's exuberant installation at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis. With students from Washington University, Lin handpainted an enlarged Taiwanese floral textile design on floor panels that bisect the enormous gallery space; then he added striking window designs. The installation was the backdrop for one lucky local couple's wedding. Its post-nuptial purpose will elude some, but it certainly is beautiful. Lin's "Spring 2003" fills the second gallery with flower-covered modernist furniture and a painted "carpet" incorporating symbols found in Afghani rugs during the Russian occupation (bombs, tanks, grenades, etc.). This is art of a post-post-industrial era, a sitting room in a William Gibson novel. William Pope.L's "eRacism" DVD-projection shows the artist performing "whiteness" as street theater -- it's potent stuff, and humorous. Through May 27 at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, 3750 Washington, 314-535-4660. Gallery hours Tue.-Sat. 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

Rito, Espejo y Ojo (Ritual, Mirror and Eye) The Museum of Contemporary Religious Art has gathered photography by three important Latin-American artists -- Luis González Palma (from Guatemala), María Magdalena Campos-Pons (born in Cuba) and Pablo Soria (born in Argentina) -- whose work observes intersections of religion, mythology and cultural identity. The range of technical approaches is broad, from large scale Polaroids to sepia-toned gelatin silver prints to the use of collage and transparencies. Much of the work is arranged in multiple parts, evocative of altarpieces. Palma's works possess the richness of mestizo cultural artifacts, while Campos-Pons' lusciously colored staged images make a convincing argument for the superiority of the Polaroid among film media. Through May 30 at the Museum of Contemporary Religious Art, Saint Louis University, John E. Connelly Mall, 314-977-7170. Gallery hours Tue.-Sun. 11 a.m.-4 p.m.

Sara Good: If Anything's a Garden... Good's exhibition features "gardens" constructed of found objects that have one foot in nature and one in artifice. Bricks define garden edges, but they also crumble back into raw, red earth; metal "trees" support flower pots as they simultaneously undergo natural processes of rust and decay. All the garden tools are strangely sculptural, while a charming grove of flowers is fashioned out of the most abject materials. Everything here is in transition, suggesting that our control in the garden is illusory; nature is somehow always in charge. Through May 22 at Gallery 210, University of Missouri-St. Louis, 8001 Natural Bridge, 314-516-5952. Gallery hours Tue.-Sat. 11 a.m.-5 p.m.

Tim Liddy: A 10-Year Survey This smallish exhibition gives retrospective credit to one of St. Louis' greatest artistic imaginations. Liddy, a professor of art at Fontbonne University, possesses a formidable grasp of art history and employs it when he works with found pieces of steel. He grafts images from Jacques-Louis David, Michelangelo and the like onto decaying surfaces, combining them with dreamlike symbols, advertising icons and evocative text. Whether large or small in scale, Liddy's works reach in multiple directions and refuse to settle down. His imagination is boundless; his imagery will work its way into your dreams. Through July 11 at the Center of Creative Arts, Anheuser-Busch Gallery, 524 Trinity, 314-725-6555. Gallery hours Mon.-Fri. 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Sat.-Sun. noon-5 p.m.

 
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