Current Shows

Ivy Cooper encapsulates the St. Louis art scene

Airstream! An Architectural History of a Land YachtSure, everyone recognizes an Airstream when they see it: that shiny, bullet-shape "land yacht," the American Dream on wheels. But the Airstream trailer is more than just midcentury kitsch. This modest exhibition traces the history of the Airstream from its 1931 Art Deco design to its state-of-the-art aluminum alloy construction to the life of its colorful founder Wally Byam all the way up to contemporary designers Christopher Deam and Nic Bailey, who have proposed contemporary reworkings of the interior. "Building Dreams Is Our Business," a short company film, plays alongside photos of Airstreams on classic family vacations -- to the lake and the forest, to Moscow, Egypt and beyond. What a trip! Through August 20 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.

Brandon Anschultz: Scape Local 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.

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.

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.

Currents 94: Matthew BuckinghamLike so much of St. Louis, the Mill Creek Valley neighborhood just west of downtown was wiped out in the early 1960s in the name of urban renewal. Buckingham has organized a slowed-down sequence of projected images showing us the view from an early-'60s automobile as it drives along Pine Street, once Mill Creek Valley's main artery. The shifting view shows the contemporary cityscape, the featureless office parks and Highway 40, which have replaced the houses where thousands (mostly African Americans) once lived. Accompanying this dreamlike "drive" drones a voice, reporting local headlines and top stories from 1964. Far from dewy-eyed nostalgia, Buckingham's juxtaposition of past and present is calculated to sharpen your critical faculties. The past is speaking here; if we listen, perhaps we won't be doomed to repeat it. Through June 12 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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