Current Shows

Ivy Cooper encapsulates the St. Louis art scene

Jeff Aeling: Landscape Paintings, and works by Tom Reed and Cheryl WassenaarAeling's landscapes are classical, the kind you learn about in art-history class. Superbly detailed, they pitch together dramatic forces of nature and freeze them into moments of sublime stillness, recalling American Luminists such as Martin Johnson Heade or John Kensett. But these are leaner, and almost completely emptied of references to humans or buildings; only one, Thunderstorm and Power Plant, announces its postindustrial time frame. This Kansas City-based artist's work doesn't mimic but sits quite comfortably among its historical forebears. In Slein's back galleries are several collages and prints by Tom Reed, an accomplished visual prankster and maker of cartoon-like cautionary tales about our mistreatment of the wilderness. Six works by our own Cheryl Wassenaar round out the show nicely, continuing her brilliant study of the arbitrary meanings suggested by sign fragments. Through May 7 at Philip Slein Gallery, 1319 Washington Avenue; 314-621-4634. Gallery hours 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sat.

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.

Brandon Anschultz: ScapeLocal artist Anschultz is well-known around town for his slick, smart, painted pastel shapes on varnished plywood -- they're very neo-pop, very "now" -- but for this show, he has only included one of those works and surrounded it with nearly twenty other versions of landscapes. Some are tiny, printed and framed; some are fairly conventional oil works on canvas. There are op-artsy relief prints, such as LS Pattern (2004), that offer up a minimalist yet hallucinatory suggestion of a landscape. The project spills over from its closet-like space in the Contemporary Projects Gallery into two other spaces: In one City in a Bubble (2004-05), a large graphite line rendering of a composite cityscape on plywood, hangs alone; in the second a digital projection of Red/Green America (2005) offers dreamy landscapes fading in and out of focus. All told, it's an extremely well-conceived installation. Through June 5 at the Saint Louis University Museum of Art, 3663 Lindell Boulevard; 314-977-3399. Museum hours 1-4 p.m. Tue.-Sun.

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.

Gail Cassilly: Figurative Sculptureand Deborah Douglas: Recent Paintings Cassilly's bronze and plaster figures make for a mixed bag here. The smaller bronze harlequin and circus figures are schlock, but the larger painted plaster (hydrocal, to be exact) female figures possess a twisted humor. It's Douglas' paintings that make this gallery trip worthwhile. The basement display room (Xen Sub Terra) is filled with nine new canvases that mostly move away from the more nostalgic character of her past work to a new level of pop playfulness. Bold, decorative flowers populate large areas of these works, balanced against illustrations of kittens, cherries and swans. Douglas isn't just copying cute imagery, she's using it, playing illustrative qualities off decorative ones to demonstrate how the imagery communicates. But the paintings are so fun to look at, it's easy to forget there's some serious aesthetic investigation going on. Through May 13 at Xen Gallery, 401 N. Euclid Avenue; 314-454-9561. Gallery hours 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tue.-Sat., 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sun.

Dzine: Punk Funkand Ruby Osorio: Story of a Girl (Who Awakes Far, Far Away) and Alexander Ross: Survey Three shows perfectly suited to one another and to the bright, airy spaces of the Contemporary. Chicago-based Dzine's psychedelic mural-size paintings look good enough to eat. They sound great too, accompanied as they are by music from the Parisian DJ Cam. In the next gallery, Alexander Ross' paintings are more calmly cerebral, but no less fun, suggesting fantastic cell structures, fungi and plants inhabiting cool-colored backgrounds. But it's Ruby Osorio's works that will hold your attention the longest. In her first solo museum exhibition, the LA-based Osorio covers the gallery walls with elfin girl characters in fantastical, flowery habitats. Osorio pins paper elements directly to the wall, or cuts and folds back paper segments of her works, producing brilliant effects that make the works come alive. Also not to be missed are the fabulous paintings by Katherine Kuharic, the latest in the Contemporary Project Series. Through June 12 at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, 3750 Washington Boulevard; 314-535-4660. Museum hours 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sun. (open Thu. till 7 p.m. and Sun. till 4 p.m.).

Iain Fraser: Places of Mind Fraser'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.

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 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.

Luanne RimelLocal artist Rimel is one to watch. This collection brings together photography and textile art in order to examine processes of memory, change and time. On layered panels of silk, Rimel prints photos, mainly of beaches and swirling eddies of water, and backs them with silks dyed with gorgeous watery colors. Interspersed among these layers are embroidered texts, incantations that double back and repeat themselves like waves. The loose hanging panels likewise float out and settle back to the wall on air currents, evoking tissues of memory, intermingling but separate. Only rarely do concepts and media coalesce so neatly and so completely. Through May 7 at R. Duane Reed Gallery, 7513 Forsyth Boulevard, Clayton; 314-862-2333. Gallery hours 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Fri., noon-4 p.m. Sat.

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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