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Ivy Cooper encapsulates the St. Louis art scene

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.

Ernest Trova: Three Drawings and Paul Shank: Recent WorkOne of the best-known and most highly esteemed of all St. Louis artists, Trova still has the power to surprise and delight. With a mere three "drawings," he energizes the back gallery at Elliot Smith. Red Head and Black Head (both 2002) are painted aluminum outline images that charge their negative space and achieve a grace one does tend to associate with drawing. If the heads seem to converse with one another across the gallery, Variation (Hand) (2002) mediates the conversation. A thick, stacked steel form, the hand rests on a pedestal and gestures gently. Trova's inclination toward the boundaries of abstraction is taken to another level by Paul Shank, whose nineteen gouache and pastel works on paper animate the main gallery. Shank's compositions swing between flatness and depth, control and spontaneity. Rapid-fire strokes are hemmed in by an overriding logic. The clear reference here is Kandinsky, but Shank's finely tuned sensibilities and a sense of quiet color are all his own. Through January 8, 2005, at Elliot Smith Contemporary Art, 4729 McPherson Avenue; 314-361-4800. Gallery hours 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Tue.-Sat. -- Ivy Cooper

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