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Ivy Cooper encapsulates the St. Louis art scene

Inside Out Loud: Visualizing Women's Health in Contemporary Art Now 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.

Junko Chodos: The Breath of Consciousness This California-based artist enjoys her first Midwest showing with this exhibition, curated by museum director Terrence Dempsey. It's a beautiful survey of three decades of work engaging heady questions of spirituality and the intersection between living beings and machines. Junko, who grew up in Japan during World War II, has plenty of visual and visceral experiences from which to draw inspiration for her wildly expressive prints, paintings and drawings. The "Concerning Art and Religion" series (2003) plots photographs of engines amid a roiling chaos of inky waves and drips -- it's nigh apocalyptic, and quite effective in the context of the museum's ecclesiastical design. "Compact Universe" features smaller versions of earlier abstract paintings and collages enclosed in CD jewel cases -- the ultimate in portable art. Most intriguing of all are the elegiac paintings in the "Requiem for an Executed Bird" series, and the collection of collages that layer minuscule cutout images into dense, frenzied fields. Through July 31 at the Museum of Contemporary Religious Art, Fusz Hall, Saint Louis University, 3700 West Pine Boulevard; 314-977-7170. Gallery hours 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Tue.-Sun.

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.

Bea Nettles: Return Trips This 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 (1903-04) 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. --Ivy Cooper

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