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Ivy Cooper encapsulates the St. Louis art scene

Betwixt and Between: Christina ShmigelMost 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. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. (Fri. 10 a.m.-9 p.m.)

El Ojo Fino/The Exquisite Eye: Nine Women PhotographersAn extensive exhibit of works by three generations of Mexican artists. While the arrangement is fairly dry, the work is marvelous, subtly indicating the transmission of techniques and themes among natives and immigrants working in Mexico. These women depict street scenes, heavily symbolic staged arrangements and politically charged situations. Among the standouts are Yolanda Andrade's surrealist street tableaux; less interesting are Flor Garduno's stagings, which are somewhat strained. Also included in the exhibition are Alicia Ahumada Salaíz, Lola Alvarez Bravo, Maya Goded, Kati Horna, Graciela Iturbide, Angeles Torrejón and Mariana Yampolsky. Through June 19 at the Sheldon Gallery of Photography, 3663 Lindell, 314-977-3399. Gallery hours Tue. 9 a.m.-8 p.m., Wed. 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

Graciela Iturbide's Mujer Angel from El Ojo 
Fino/The Exquisite Eye: 9 Mexican Women 
Photographers.
Graciela Iturbide's Mujer Angel from El Ojo Fino/The Exquisite Eye: 9 Mexican Women Photographers.

Link: Photography with St. Louis ConnectionsThis show will make you think twice about how well you know St. Louis. Cary Horton's surreal black-and-white montages are rooted in St. Louis, but their odd spirit transcends the city. One of the most effective is Horizon Distance, which shows a betting parlor at Fairmount Park. Portrait photographers Stefan Hester and Matt Marcinkowski each weigh in with impressive, insightful images; Hester's scenes of MacArthur Bridge dropoffs, sewer department barricades and East St. Louis smokestacks are haunting. Marcinkowski takes weird color scenes of a nighttime downtown you'll have to work to recognize. Through June 26 at Mad Art, 2727 South 12th, 314-771-8230. Gallery hours by appointment.

Louise Bourgeois: Nine DrawingsThese nine drawings by Louise Bourgeois were all donated anonymously to the Saint Louis Art Museum in 1995. Those familiar with Bourgeois know that her drawings rival her sculpture in terms of power and acerbity; even this small collection brings the point home. "Sainte Sebastienne" (1992) offers a female version of the saint, with arrows darting toward the headless body as if it were a medical illustration. An untitled oil and watercolor image from 1986 unites large and small pairs of scissors by an umbilical cord. And a 1943 ink drawing has a woman tucked underneath a bell jar; her smile is uncanny. This is vintage Bourgeois. Through June 20 at the Saint Louis Art Museum, 1 Fine Arts Drive, 314-721-0072. Museum hours Tue.-Sun. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. (Fri. 10 a.m.-9 p.m.) Tim Liddy: A 10-Year SurveyThis 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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