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Ivy Cooper encapsulates the St. Louis art scene

Art St. Louis XX: The ExhibitionArt St. Louis shows tend to be mixed bags and this is no exception, save for the fact that it was juried by New York-based Chakaia Booker, one of the finest artists working today in mixed-media sculpture. Booker's criteria appear to have been diffuse, as the exhibition includes just about everything but the kitchen sink. Nevertheless, it's all quite strong and there's always something to be said for variety. Jesse Thomas' large oil painting The Studio (2003) makes a scathing, humorous comment on art and popular culture, and painter Chris Kahler (Colony 69, 2004) just can't go wrong these days. Several very strong ceramic artists are represented, among them Ron Johnson, Tim Eberhardt, Jimmy Liu and Brock Rumohr. Among the five Awards of Excellence winners are the polymer photogravure by Khanh H. Le and the mixed-media piece by Sharon Davie-Barrett. Through January 7, 2005, at Art St. Louis, 917 Locust Street, Suite 300; 314-241-4810. Gallery hours 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sat.

Jenna Bauer: As Everything Becomes One...These new paintings by St. Louis artist Bauer represent both a change in artistic gears and a coming together of forms and ideas that have long inhabited her work. Bauer is well known for her softly translucent, minimalist prints, which she relates to landscape features -- light, horizon lines and color. These bold oils foreground muscular gesture and earthy, rich tones in swirls of tumbling energy. Work: Light pitches the eye through a riotous tunnel of energetic brushstrokes and into a calm, distant patch of land. Morning Lea presents a thicket of icy blue and pink rooted in steely gray and black. These works connect earth and sky, energy and color, movement and stasis, and combine them all into a joyous multitonal statement. Through December 31 at Gallery Urbis Orbis, 419 North 10th Street; 314-406-5778. Gallery hours 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Tue.-Thu., noon-7 p.m. Fri., 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sat.

Teo González: Recent ExplorationsThe sixteen paintings by this Spanish-born, Brooklyn, New York-based artist vary in dimension, but each features a similar format: a square grid of cell-like structures with dots of paint in each. What sounds so simple in description, however, is astonishingly complex in reality. Untitled #290 is a large, dazzling arrangement, with dots of gold paint in white cells, while the much smaller Untitled #336 features more densely arranged black dots against a stunning red grid pattern. Beyond color, there is the random accident in each piece that catches the eye -- each cell in each grid, and each dot in each cell, is handpainted, so what appears to be a general uniformity is actually, on closer inspection, complete irregularity. González's work is far from mere op art redux; it's intimate, gently insistent and not at all interested in visual game playing. Through December 4 at William Shearburn Gallery, 4735 McPherson Avenue; 314-367-8020. Gallery hours 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Tue.-Sat.

An untitled grid from Shawn Michelle Smith's Hey, 
Little Man series, on display at the Sheldon Art 
Gallery.
An untitled grid from Shawn Michelle Smith's Hey, Little Man series, on display at the Sheldon Art Gallery.
The Studio by Jesse Thomas, now at Art St. 
Louis
The Studio by Jesse Thomas, now at Art St. Louis
David Levi's Bio-Tree continues to flourish at 
Mad Art Gallery.
David Levi's Bio-Tree continues to flourish at Mad Art Gallery.

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.

New Paintings/New Glass Don't let the bland title fool you: This is an extraordinary exhibition installed by the meticulous Ron Buechele, director of Mad Art Gallery. New works by two of the finest American glass artists working today, Sam Stang and David Levi, are arranged alongside a dozen or so luminous oil paintings by local artist Jaime Gartelos. Stang and Levi have a strong St. Louis connection -- both grew up in University City and attended Washington University and (along with U. City-born cohort Dimitri Michaelides) founded Ibex Glass Studio here in 1985. Stang long since relocated outstate to Augusta, while Levi moved to Washington. Their styles, too, have diverged: Levi's works are dramatic, sculptural, and sometimes whimsical (see the Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner pieces, as well as his pop art-style glass curtain. Stang, meanwhile, concentrates on more traditional bottle and bowl forms, along with some lovely freestanding rondel pieces, all executed in the murrini technique, which yields brilliant, mosaic-like patterns. Gartelos' paintings recall Helen Frankenthaler's splashy abstractions and play off the opulent color of the glass works. Through December 31 at Mad Art Gallery, 2727 South Twelfth Street; 314-771-8230. Gallery hours (by appointment) 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tue.-Fri., 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Sat.

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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