Current Shows

Ivy Cooper encapsulates the St. Louis art scene

David Scheu: Forest Park 12.30.04Left Bank Books delivers another small, lovely basement show: twelve digital photographic prints by David Scheu, evidently illustrating a single day in the life of Forest Park in winter. In particular, Scheu focuses on water and captures an amazing array of light effects and reflections that produce visual ambiguities and gorgeous illusions. In several images the water becomes a steely gray ground, against which reeds and stems rise up and fall back, meeting their own reflections in a stunning mirror effect. In some the water's surface is simultaneously reflective and refractive, allowing for views of the sky above and the rocks below; in others, the water may as well be oil, casting an unctuous gloss onto everything it touches. Through May 15 at Left Bank Books, 399 N. Euclid Avenue; 314-367-6731. Store hours 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Mon.-Sat., 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sun.

James Siena: Ten Years of PrintmakingBest known for his paintings and drawings, New York artist Siena has produced a fine body of delicate prints dating back to 1995's Recovery, an engraving he made while laid up with an injury. His printed work grows out of his continuing interest in patterns, networks and algorithms. The works in this show feature threadlike lines that seem to defy gravity and their own fragility, to build complexly structured patterns. The three stone lithographs are fairly robust, but Siena's fine linear etchings and engravings are more satisfying, particularly the pieces in the color series "Nine Prints" (2000-01). Two works, both titled Upside Down Devil Variation, are astonishing studies in linear form. Through May 14 at William Shearburn Gallery, 4735 McPherson Avenue; 314-367-8020. Gallery hours 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Tue.-Sat.

Space Exploration: Ken KonchelAny city that demolishes a historic building to make room for a parking garage and calls it "progress" probably doesn't deserve Ken Konchel. But just a stone's throw away from the ruins of the Century Building, the Baseline Gallery features several of his graceful, formalist photographic studies of architecture in St. Louis and elsewhere. Konchel's camera selects passages of buildings and transforms them into visual music -- jazzy, staccato rhythms of space, shadow and mass; arcs that crescendo skyward; and bouncing, baroque vaulting abound. Konchel wouldn't be your first choice to document the city's waning architectural treasury; he's more interested in lyrical abstraction than historical comprehension. But his work is another reminder that buildings are much more than disposable boxes. Through April 28 at Baseline Gallery, 1110 Washington Avenue; 314-621-9188. Gallery hours 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Fri., noon-4 p.m. Sat.-Sun.

Sum and SubstanceSculptural works by Mary Sprague are coupled with recent paintings by James Smith in one of the largest RAC shows in recent memory, occupying two large gallery spaces plus the hallway joining them. Sprague, better known for her paintings, shows off her ceramic works, many of which depict fallen horses in porcelain. These are strong, elegiac pieces, suggesting vulnerability and decay. But they lose some of their voice in the presence of Smith's paintings, which are so powerful they wipe out everything in their path. His paintings absolutely kill: raw canvas panels encrusted with paint, attached like bandages to one another with safety pins and big, loose handmade stitches. The works, which possess the sad desperations of Alberto Burri's postwar sewn canvases (Joseph Beuys is lurking somewhere too), make their sadness imperative: They insist upon their humanist message and won't let you forget them anytime soon. Through May 20 at the Regional Arts Commission Gallery, 6128 Delmar Boulevard; 314-863-5811. Gallery hours 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Fri., noon-5 p.m. Sat.-Sun. -- Ivy Cooper

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