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Ivy Cooper encapsulates the St. Louis art scene

Along the Mississippi: Photographs by Jo Ann Walters Road trips have produced some of the most valuable documentaries of American life we have, from Mark Twain's Life on the Mississippi (in which the river stands in for the road) to Jack Kerouac's On the Road to photographic projects such as Robert Frank's The Americansand Alec Soth's Sleeping by the Mississippi (which was featured in the 2004 Whitney Biennial). Alton native Jo Ann Walters has been taking road and river trips since the 1980s, and she has amassed a formidable and fascinating collection of photographs -- a medium-size collection of which is on display here -- that speaks volumes about who we are and how we live along the Mississippi and the eastern seaboard. Don't miss the photo of the girl in St. Louis curling her eyelashes; it's an unforgettable coming-of-age portrait. Through September 4 at the Sheldon Art Galleries, 3648 Washington, 314-533-9900. Gallery hours 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Tue., 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Wed., 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sat.

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 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Tue.-Sun.

Dystopic Visions What this exhibition lacks in size, it makes up for in theoretical and critical ambition. Curated by artists Jason Hoeing and Cary Horton as part of the Critical Mass exhibition program, it brings together works by six artists who criticize, contemplate and/or caricature facets of contemporary consumer culture. These visions are dystopic indeed -- particularly the installations by Jason Wallace Triefenbach, faux-scientific studies on preventing beach erosion on the fictional Isle of Confusion; and Khanh Le's prints and tiny books, which pose spiky questions on efforts to modernize Vietnam. Daniel E.C. Nunez-Shown's Home-Less and Tim Waldrop's Model Homes are quiet but devastating statements on the vacancy of the American Dream; Amy Harmon's Unnatural Selection offers up beauty accessories from consumer hell. Through July 31 at the Regional Arts Commission, 6128 Delmar, 314-863-5811. Gallery hours 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Mon.-Fri., noon-5 p.m. Sat.-Sun.

Exposure VII: Mind Games Ron Laboray has made his reputation as a smart local artist who takes on sites, maps and psychological characteristics of place. Here he takes on a dual role as artist and curator; Mind Games is a quirky collection that features a group of Laboray's paintings that populate maps of Springfields throughout the U.S. with creepy abstractions of The Simpsons. Also included are DVD works by Brian Goetz, including the brilliant Nosey Parker effort "Radiation Always Wins." Rounding out this little show -- which just might be the exhibition of the year -- are Brian Burnett's scary photos of big-box storefronts with names digitally scrambled like criminals' faces; Michael Keller's superb text paintings; and other works. Through September 11 at Gallery 210, University of Missouri-St. Louis, Building 44 (TeleCommunity Center); 314-516-5976. Gallery hours 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sat.

Tim Liddy: A 10-Year SurveyThis smallish exhibition gives retrospective credit to one of St. Louis' greatest artistic imaginations. Liddy 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. 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 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Mon.-Fri., noon-5 p.m. Sat.-Sun.

Raedeke: Always Almost New The first in the new Kranzberg Exhibition Series at Laumeier is summer's hottest art ticket, a euphoric celebration of synergy and the synthetic. Daniel Raedeke has parlayed his earlier colorful, painted contemplations on consumerism into actual consumables: four little characters that appear throughout the exhibit in painted, sculptural, animated and packaged forms. From eerO, the gloopy version of the Arch, to Layz, Woggy, Landscapy and phasO -- you'll want to collect them all! Raedeke's work is much more than eye candy; it invites all kinds of cultural theory questions and analysis. But it's also just good, clean, visual fun, the flip side of the dystopia on display at the Regional Arts Commission. Through July 16 at Laumeier Sculpture Park, 12580 Rott, 314-821-1209. Gallery hours 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sat., noon-5 p.m. Sun.

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