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Ivy Cooper encapsulates the St. Louis art scene

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.

Six Shooters/Six Visions The "shooters" are six women photographers (Susan Dietz-Schmidt, Marianne Pepper, Joan Proffer, Naomi Runtz, Harriet Fisher Thomas and Kay Wood) who have frequently shown as a group since 1997. Their works are wildly divergent and often incorporate a variety of media in addition to photography (as is the case here). The standouts: Runtz's "Say Cheese" series of enlarged photobooth portraits from the 1960s and '70s, and Dietz-Schmidt's stark black-and-white images of tree branches. Thomas' manipulated Polaroids and Wood's Polaroid transfers explore conventional "women's" subjects -- flowers, baby shoes -- to mixed effect. In her "Turkish Relief" series, Pepper sabotages the power of her source material with extraneous decoration. Sustaining an artists' group requires considerable camaraderie and cooperation, and it's encouraging to see Six Shooters succeed at this level. Whether their exhibitions succeed is another question; this one is hit-and-miss. Through July 31 at the Gallery at the Regional Arts Commission, 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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