Current Shows

Ivy Cooper encapsulates the St. Louis art scene

Brancusi and Serra in DialogueThe Pulitzer is getting a lot of mileage out of Richard Serra, particularly a few large-scale pieces (Joplin and Standpoint in particular) that have graced the main gallery since the Serra solo show opened two years ago. (They're really heavy; I wouldn't move them either.) Now Serra's sculptures and drawings are paired with sculptures and photographs by Constantin Brancusi, whose interests intersect with Serra's in some fascinating ways. Their approaches to materials couldn't be more different -- Brancusi hacked away at wood and polished stone and bronze to a high, classical finish -- but all kinds of intriguing observations emerge out of this "dialogue," including the ways in which both artists treat (or dispense with) the pedestal, their interest in stacking pieces and relating individual parts to the sculptural whole. The small Cube Gallery now features an intense confrontation between Serra's Pacific Judson Murphy (1978), a black paint-stick piece that spans two walls; and Brancusi's Agnes E. Meyer (1929), a stately, totemic polished work of black marble. It's an inspired pairing, equaled by the strong juxtapositions throughout the show. Through July 23 at the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts, 3716 Washington Boulevard; 314-754-1850. Museum hours noon-5 p.m. Wed., 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sat.

Keith Bueckendorf: Elsewhereand Steve Brown: EdgesLocal artist Keith Bueckendorf's works play out in a consistently engaging modernist scrawl, highlighted with cheery colors and figures that float, fly and morph into their own formalist schemes. Brown's photos, meanwhile, march in lockstep along the wall: six black-and-white images of garden implements, implying a violence to the land that is required by First World rules of real estate and property values. Deadpan, funny and revelatory, these two shows should not be overlooked on your way to the galleries upstairs. Through June 4 at the 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., 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sat.

Currents 93: Rivane Neuenschwander This young Brazilian artist spent the last two years traveling the world, collecting verbal wishes, which she prints onto ribbons in a homage to the practice at a pilgrimage church in São Salvador, in which visitors take away a ribbon bracelet -- their own wish comes true when the bracelet falls off. Her show at the Saint Louis Art Museum includes an entire wall of these variegated ribbons printed with a vast array of wishes for everything from world peace to the achievement of rock stardom. An earlier version of this review noted, quite incorrectly, that the ribbons are for display only. In fact, they're meant to be taken away by visitors, and museum staffers replenish the stock daily. The whole affair comes a little too close to the irritating wristbands-for-causes fad, but the charm of being able to take away a piece of the artwork will likely outweigh that issue for most visitors. Also on view are Neuenschwander's "Ze Carioca" paintings, comic book pages minus characters and text; and "Love Lettering," a DVD of fish making poetry (you have to see it to appreciate it). This is a lovely show: Go get your ribbon. 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.).

Iain Fraser: Places of MindFraser's steel sculptures invoke the improbable architecture and the daring, imperative projects of Russian Constructivism. Ranging in height from less than two feet to more than five, the structures are poetic proclamations about past or potential cityscapes, with cantilevered branches, suspended rooms and contingent support systems. Fraser, a professor of architecture at Washington University, has clearly put a considerable amount of thought into the works and their content, as evidenced by the powerful quotes from Gaston Bachelard and Italo Calvino that accompany the pieces. The sculptures don't always rise to the level of the literature quoted, but this is truly food for thought. Through May 7 at the 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., 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sat.

Candida HöferThe shows at the Sheldon keep getting better and better. This selection of German photographer Höfer's work comes from the collections of Barbara and Tom Eagleton and Ulrike and Tom Schlafly, as well as a San Francisco and a New York City gallery, and it's an absolute gem of a show. Höfer is best known for photographing interior spaces, employing that somewhat chilly aesthetic that is the legacy of the German team of Berndt and Hilla Becher, with whom she studied. These works, from 1983 to 2003, present interiors of libraries, museums, archives and schools, perfectly and palpably devoid of human presence. But surrogate beings haunt them -- in the form of portraits, furniture and taxidermy. Anatomisches Institute der Universität Basel (2002) is sumptuously sterile, its overwhelming whiteness punctuated by the human skeleton hanging on a rack; Palazzo Zenobio Venezia III (2003) contains an extremely rare self-portrait reflected in the central ornate mirror. Through April 9 at the 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., 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sat.

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