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.

Inside Out Loud: Visualizing Women's Health in Contemporary ArtNow that the hoopla is over -- the opening forum with its cast of art-world luminaries, the Todd Haynes Superstar screening that wasn't -- we can settle in and appreciate Inside Out Loud for what it is: the first exhibition devoted to images dealing with women's health. Smartly curated by Janine Mileaf of Swarthmore College, this broad (ha!) survey offers something of everything, from personal narratives about living with cancer (Hannah Wilke) to Orlan's cosmetic-surgery performances to cautionary agitprop by Gran Fury, Jenny Holzer and Barbara Kruger and beyond. This being the first exhibition of its kind, it tries to cover a lot of ground, and it largely succeeds. A watershed show that ought to engender plenty of interesting, perhaps more tightly focused exhibitions elsewhere. Through April 24 at the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum (in Steinberg Hall on the campus of Washington University), Forsyth & Skinker boulevards; 314-935-4523. Gallery hours 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Tue.-Thu., noon-4:30 p.m. Sat.-Sun.

Inventory Clearance Sale at Elliot SmithThe news of this gallery's closing took everyone by surprise. Director Bruno David has been authorized to liquidate the inventory, much of which hasn't been displayed in years. The works for sale are mostly prints and some paintings, with nice pieces by Robert Indiana, Janet Fish and many others, as well as a patinated brass chair/sculpture by Jim Cole and an enormous, intriguing painting on canvas by Bill Hawk. Through mid-March at Elliot Smith Contemporary Art, 4729 MacPherson Avenue; 314-361-4800. Call for hours.

Material Terrain: A Sculptural Exploration of Landscape and Place Laumeier Sculpture Park is the ideal venue for this exhibition of work by eleven artists who explore the sometimes tenuous relationships between the constructed and the natural, the inside and the outside. The exhibition, curated by Carla M. Hanzal in conjunction with Laumeier for the International Arts & Artists, brings together works by some of the finest sculptors and installation artists working today, including Kendall Buster and Dennis Oppenheim, Donald Lipski, Roxy Paine, Ming Fay, James Surls, Michele Brody and Wendy Ross. Many of these artists have imported extraordinary, earthy stuff right into the galleries, while others have installed constructions in and among Laumeier's rolling terrain. Of the gallery works, Ursula von Rydingsvard's massive cedar Hej-Duk (2003) creates a dense, dignified presence, while Valeska Soares' 2002 steel Fainting Couch emits the sickly sweet scent of the lilies that are tucked into its frame. Outside, John Ruppert's absurdly scaled Aluminum Pumpkins (2004) enliven the winter landscape. Through May 15 at Laumeier Sculpture Park, 12580 Rott Road, Sunset Hills; 314-821-1209. Gallery hours 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sat., noon-5 p.m. Sun.

Needle Art: A Postmodern Sewing CircleIf this exhibition has a pat, pre-fab feel, it's because it is. Organized by ExhibitsUSA, Needle Art is a family-friendly collection of about 50 artworks that engage (but rarely challenge) the category and practice of sewing. Still it's worth a visit, and a few of the pieces are great fun, such as Oriane Stender's Publisher's Clearing House God's Eye (1999) and the send-ups of iconic labor uniforms: Susan Magnus' Felt Dress #3425 (1995) riffs on Josef Beuys, while Erik Mortensen's untitled "social wear" (1996) evokes Russian Constructivist work outfits. And Madeline Nieto-Hope's tapestry, made of stripped bicycle tires, is remarkable. Through March 12 at Gallery 210, TeleCommunity Center, University of Missouri-St. Louis, 1 University Drive (at Natural Bridge Road), Normandy; 314-516-5976. Gallery hours 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sat.

Bea Nettles: Return TripsThis is not an easy show to see if you are a mother, or have a mother, or are related in any way to a woman. But it's revelatory, charting the past and recent work of a woman who has seen a great deal and made eloquent art out of it. The recent pieces juxtapose three small photos with a larger one, in compositions that propose something grand about visual experience, visual incident and coincidence. The older pieces from the 1970s and '80s are books and prints from Nettles' projects with and about her daughter, her mother and herself. Terre Suhre has organized this exhibition with the extraordinary professionalism and sensitivity he consistently brings to his job as curator. Through April 23 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.

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 new appreciation 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.

Warren Rosser: Hide and SeekThe last time Rosser (who teaches at the Kansas City Art Institute) showed in St. Louis, the Contemporary was called the Forum and his paintings were spaced-out neon abstractions about ten feet long, populated by elliptical characters masquerading as chemical symbols. The ellipses are back, as ghosts of their former selves -- echoes that sound through their layers of translucent, indescribable hues of dusty lavender, milky cocoa and hazy blue-green. The "seek" involves staring and moving about the mostly medium-size canvases, watching forms emerge and change; the "hide" is the disappearance of layers behind other layers behind ellipses. It's a carnival for anyone who loves abstract art, which doesn't get any better than this. Through April 2 at the William Shearburn Gallery, 4735 McPherson Avenue; 314-367-8020. Gallery hours 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Tue.-Sat. -- Ivy Cooper

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