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Ivy Cooper encapsulates the St. Louis art scene

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.

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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