Current Shows

Ivy Cooper encapsulates the St. Louis art scene

 Brancusi and Serra in Dialogue The 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: Elsewhere and Steve Brown: Edges Local 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.

Contemporary Women Artists XIII It sounded like such a good idea.... The St. Louis Women's Caucus for Art snagged feminist art icon Judy Chicago to judge this exhibition, which was open to women artists all over the world. The resulting show should have been a glimpse into the rich range of media and conceptions employed by women in the post-post-feminist 21st century. Instead, this one is destined for the dusty annals of art history, filed under "H" for "Huh?" There are good works here, to be sure, including two large works by St. Louisan Janice Nesser, from her "living within the boundaries of nine squares" series; and the humorous, conceptual project titled The Hardly Hard Business: the dress to get hired in and the dress to get fired for, by AnniAbbi of Brookline, Massachusetts. Judy Chicago's interest in local artist Agnes Pal's Holocaust-inspired work is understandable, given Chicago's own work on that theme. But many of the works are retrograde, warmed-over feminist statements that would look more at home at Cal Arts in the 1970s. A few pieces are third-rate takes on women's folk art. And a couple of these beauties appear to have been dusted off from BFA shows circa 1986. Finally, will someone please explain what is going on with the woven tapestries by Linda Friedman Schmidt of Franklin Lakes, New Jersey? Two of them? Are they for real? Even the judge herself seems unimpressed by the work. From her juror's statement: "I had hoped that there would be some more radical work... but perhaps my expectations are too high; I still want art that changes the world -- God knows the world needs to change." Indeed! Through March 30 at Mad Art Gallery, 2727 South 12th Street; 314-771-8230. Gallery hours by appointment 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tue.-Fri., 10 a.m.-1 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.).

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