Current Shows

Ivy Cooper encapsulates the St. Louis art scene

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.).

Perret and Le Corbusier: A Dialogue in Reinforced Concrete Who knew concrete could make for fascinating viewing? In the hands of architects Auguste Perret (1874-1954) and Le Corbusier (1887-1965), this most mundane of building materials is transformed into expressive, space-shaping form. The exhibition itself isn't particularly pretty or inviting, consisting primarily of a bunch of photographs, dense text panels, placards and even samples of the varieties of concrete these progressive architects employed (yes, there's more than one kind of concrete). But the photographs capture the marvelous forms and textures that Perret and his onetime apprentice, Le Corbusier, achieved in public and private buildings throughout the world. Perret's wonderful apartment building at 25 Bis Rue Franklin (1903-4) in Paris uses concrete to make the building's structural frame visually explicit, while in Le Corbusier's later works, such as the church at Ronchamp, France (1950-54), the concrete takes on a muscular malleability. These images will spark a newappreciation for the Sheldon's concrete neighbors, the Pulitzer and the Contemporary. Through April 16 at the Bernoudy Gallery of Architecture, Sheldon Art Galleries, 3648 Washington Boulevard; 314-533-9900. Gallery hours noon-8 p.m. Tue. and Thu., noon-5 p.m. Wed. and Fri. and 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sat.

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. -- Ivy Cooper

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