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Ivy Cooper encapsulates the St. Louis art scene

 Currents 93: Rivane Neuenschwander The Saint Louis Art Museum's show of works by this young Brazilian artist is the nicest surprise of the new year. Neuenschwander spent the past two years traveling about the world, collecting verbal wishes, which she prints onto ribbons in an homage to the practice at a church in São Salvador, where pilgrims take away a ribbon bracelet (their own wish comes true when the bracelet falls off). The early press about the show evoked the irritating current fad of wristbands-for-causes, but thankfully Neuenschwander doesn't distribute these new ribbons. She merely exhibits them, allowing visitors to revel in their variety (one is for world peace; another announces, "I wish I will be a rock star") and relish their gorgeous color. Also included are a series of "Ze Carioca" paintings, copies of Brazilian comic-book pages minus characters and text; and "Love Lettering," a DVD of fish making poetry that must be seen to be appreciated. Through March 20 at the Saint Louis Art Museum, 1 Fine Arts Drive; 314-721-0072. Museum hours 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sun. (open Fri. till 9 p.m.).

Grupo Gennaio The "January Group" of the show's title includes Gallery Urbis Orbis co-owner Alan Brunettin, along with local artists Jenna Bauer, Stephen Cook, Daniel Jefferson and MeloBruno, who turn in some vivid, muscular canvases. Cook's stark Robert #1 faces the street and gives a hint of the expressionist leaning of the works inside. Recent works by MeloBruno (The Argument, Water Break) recall distinct moments of Jackson Pollock's works (and they were evidently done on the floor, like Pollock's; shoeprints abound). Brunettin seems enthralled with electric energy, making it a leitmotif of works such as Power Grid and a series that depicts the Gateway Arch. Jenna Bauer's two Untitled Gesture prints are a bit too calm amid these riotous canvases -- but then a little relief from the fray isn't a bad thing. Through January 30 at Gallery Urbis Orbis, 419 North Tenth 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., and by appointment.

Hubblevision: New Sculptures New 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 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.

Sol LeWitt Sol LeWitt's wall pieces are like symphony scores: He wrote them in notation form; they're performed by different people for audiences all over the world. It's funny that people still get bothered when the artist's hand isn't literally involved in the work's realization -- evidently it's hard for some to extend to conceptual artists the same generosity they extend to composers. Thankfully, no such complaints have been generated by the black-and-white Wall Drawing #1141 and Wall Drawing #1142 (both 2004), now on view in the Laumeier Sculpture Park galleries. These are brilliant, bold eyefuls of overlapping arcs and lines that activate the entire space. Also on view are several lovely gouache paintings titled Lines in Color (2003-04) and a maquette for the mazelike sculpture Intricate Wall (2001-04), installed outdoors (on long-term loan from the artist). All this aside, the best work in the exhibition is A sphere lit from the top, four sides, and all their combinations (2004), a grid of 28 photographs of, well, exactly that. This is conceptual/minimalist art at its finest: repetitive, non-hierarchical, non-narrative, quasi-documentary and possessed of the classical, formal beauty that the best minimalist works try -- and, happily, fail -- to suppress. Through January 16 at Laumeier Sculpture Park, 12580 Rott Road, Sunset Hills; 314-821-1209. Hours 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sat., noon-5 p.m. Sun.

Yoshitomo Nara: Nothing Ever Happens Thank goodness for the Contemporary, which can always be counted on to provide much-needed subversion and humor just when things in the world seem their bleakest. Nara knows all about twisted humor: His angry kid characters adorn paper, sculpture and oversize dinner plates and complain about the most banal contemporary ills. They smoke, curse and laze around in that irresistible “superflat” way. Couple this with a look at Laylah Ali’s absolutely surreal cartoon drawings and local artist Danny Yahav-Brown’s animated plastic grocery bags, “And Then They Danced,” and you’ve got an afternoon chock-full of revelations and rowdy good fun. Through February 27 at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, 3750 Washington Boulevard; 314-535-4660. Museum hours 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sun. (open Thu. till 7 p.m. and Sun. till 4 p.m.).

Traditions Transformed: Murrini Glass Artists Sam Stang returns to St. Louis from his Augusta glass studio to curate a show about something he knows well: the murrini technique, which employs cross sections of colorful glass rods fused together to create vibrant, colorful patterns. The eighteen artists shown here work in Italy, Japan and the U.S., and the range of murrini approaches is startling. Stang's own trademark bowls and vases are of course on hand, along with dozens of dazzling surprises. Ro Purser's glass orbs hold objects and painted scenes in suspended animation; Ralph Mossman's technique results in tiny pixels of color that float in clear glass; and Laura Pesce and Peter Secrest are represented by substantial wall pieces. The works here range from gigantic to tiny in scale, and from opaque to milky to translucent in character. They attest to the incredible versatility of glass as a medium -- in the proper hands, of course. Through March 6 at Craft Alliance, 6640 Delmar Boulevard, University City; 314-725-1177. Gallery hours 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Mon.-Wed., 10 a.m.- 8 p.m. Thu.-Fri., 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sat. and noon-6 p.m. Sun.

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