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Ivy Cooper encapsulates the St. Louis art scene

Abstract Painting: Six Points of ViewGuest curator Belinda Lee has assembled a modest but rich collection of works by some of St. Louis' best artists, some emerging and some well-established. Gary Passanise's Structure of War (2004) is an indescribably dark, moving work, which seems locked in sorrowful engagement with a series of four untitled Barry Leibman pieces that comprise layers of charred wood, paper, fabric and floor tile. The mournful chord these works strike is delicately counterbalanced by colorful, recent pieces by Christopher Kahler, Ron Laboray and Laura Beard Aeling. Two of Michael Byron's "Generic Dada Abstractions" (from 2000 and 2001) round out a very strong showcase. Through November 24 at the Gallery at the Regional Arts Commission, 6128 Delmar Boulevard; 314-863-5811. Gallery hours 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.- Fri., noon-5 p.m. Sat. and Sun.

Currents 92: Anna KuperbergAfter receiving her BFA at Washington University, Anna Kuperberg spent much of her time in south St. Louis, snapping images of neighborhood kids. These astonishing photos show the kids playing, crying or lost in their thoughts; they reveal moments of sheer joy, straight-faced seriousness and -- quite often -- disquieting ambiguity. Like street photographers of the 1950s and '60s, Kuperberg works the old-fashioned way, with a 35mm camera and without cropping the negative, which means it's all in her eye. And but for the stray contemporary logo, these photographs could have been made 50 years ago. Through November 28 at the Saint Louis Art Museum, 1 Fine Arts Drive; 314-721-0072. Gallery hours 10 a.m.- 5 p.m. Tue.- Sun., 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Fri.

Hubblevision: New SculpturesNew York-based Jill Viney has produced some startling hybrid forms that seem to morph undersea creatures with structures for exploring outer space. Drifter 2 (1999), Vigil 3 and Vigil 4 (both 2004) appear to float in the gallery like manned satellites, but their fiberglass skins look fleshy and organic. Out on the gallery's lawn, a multicolored fiberglass Dwelling (2004) invites you to enter its uncanny, bejeweled interior. Whether these things belong to this world or another is not altogether clear, but it is a world of wonder -- dreamlike, a little creepy and totally enchanting. Through January 15, 2005, at Gallery 210, TeleCommunity Center, UM-St. Louis, 1 University Boulevard (at Natural Bridge Road), Normandy; 314-516-5976. Gallery hours 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sat.

Image and Identity: Portraits by Philip Kwame Apagya, Samuel Fosso, Seydou Keita and Malick SidibeThe theme of identity in postcolonial Africa continues to be all the rage at art venues across the nation; this photography exhibition provides a fresh look at some lesser-known African artists. Viewers may be familiar with Keita's small, black-and-white images from the 1950s, but they look altogether new in the context of Apagya's large-scale, staged color scenes, such as After the Funeral (1998) and So What? (1996). Fosso's self-portraits as karate expert, businessman and pirate are disarming; Sidibe's snapshots from the 1960s and 1970s possess a fascinating, unscripted realism. Through January 8, 2005, at the Sheldon Art Galleries (Gallery of Photography), 3648 Washington Boulevard; 314-533-9900. Gallery hours noon-8 p.m. Tue. and Thu., noon-5 p.m. Wed. and Fri., 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sat.

Keith Piper: CrusadeBritish artist Piper had never been to St. Louis and was only vaguely aware of the Dred Scott case when the Contemporary invited him to town. It's a testament to his keen eye, intelligence and wit that he has put together one of the most striking artistic commentaries on St. Louis' complicity in the slave trade and the Underground Railroad. Using the crusade as a metaphor for Manifest Destiny, slavery, colonization and subjugation, Piper combines in stunning tableaux high-resolution moving images and digitally collaged photographs of the city and its surroundings. Also on view is New Video, New Europe, video works from 39 artists from Eastern Europe. Through November 21 at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, 3750 Washington Boulevard; 314-535-4660. Gallery hours 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sat. (10 a.m.-7 p.m. Thu.), 11 a.m.- 4 p.m. Sun.

Showcase 3: St. Louis Photography and Video InvitationalThe last of a yearlong series of exhibitions to spotlight local artists is an uneven affair, with some odd juxtapositions and scattershot themes. Eric Shultis' Small Thoughts and Memories (2004) plants tiny male nude images under magnifying glasses and in daguerreotype frames in a haunting, surreal wall arrangement. It's a strong work, inviting quiet contemplation. But two frenetic video loops share its space: Nanette Boileau's "Arcade" and Van McElwee's "Modular Meander" (both 2004). Boileau's piece employs a video montage that corresponds nicely to Carol Crouppen's large Polaroids of mixed-media collages. Works by Nanette Hegamin, Susan Pittman, Jennifer Colten Schmidt and Eric Post are somewhat bland by comparison; they may as well belong to another exhibition altogether. Through February 12, 2005, at the Sheldon Art Galleries (Gallery of Photography), 3648 Washington Boulevard; 314-533-9900. Gallery hours noon-8 p.m. Tue. and Thu., noon-5 p.m. Wed. and Fri., 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sat. -- Ivy Cooper

 
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