Current Shows

Ivy Cooper encapsulates the St. Louis art scene

Fresh! and Daniel Barton: Post-Modern Primitive Round out your summer tour of work by underexposed and overachieving artists with a visit to Philip Slein, where you'll see tantalizing new work by K.L. Robinson, Shane Simmons, John Watson, Bryan Reckamp and Cassie Simon. Robinson and Reckamp make richly engaging paintings that play around with opposite ends of the semiotic spectrum: Reckamp employs overdetermined, commercial text and imagery, while Robinson relies on fragmented forms and typographic hieroglyphs. Simon's mixed-media works on paper smuggle in some fairly loaded content beneath their decorative surfaces, and Simmons' acrylic works are strangely joyful, ebullient messes. Watson, the sculptor among the group, contributes clumsy constructions made of too many plywood strips, screwed together obsessively and verging on overkill. Yet they're endearing -- like incompetently built soapbox derby cars. In the back gallery, Barton shows off his ability to paint as if he'd never gone to art school -- sort of the reverse of the toddler who can turn out a Pollock. Good postmodern fun. Through August 6 at Philip Slein Gallery, 1319 Washington Avenue; 314-621-4634. Gallery hours 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sat.

Hurrell's Men As chief photographer at MGM Studios in the 1930s, and as owner of his own studio after that, George Hurrell (1904-1992) developed a signature style that epitomized glamour, grace and the glory of old Hollywood. Though he photographed dozens of women throughout his career, this exhibition concentrates on his gorgeous, bronze-toned portraits of actors. Hurrell's subjects -- like Clark Gable, Johnny Weissmuller, Tyrone Power and Ramon Navarro -- are posed and in character, yet they appear intimate and genuine at the same time. Anyone who can make David Soul look sexy has got to be a genius! Don't miss the text panel on Pancho Barns, the flamboyant aviatrix who befriended Hurrell in the 1920s and collected all these photos. Through August 13 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.

Russell Kraus: Midwestern Modernist Russell Kraus graduated from the Washington University School of Art in 1940 -- an interesting point in the history of American art. While abstract modern painting had taken firm hold on the East Coast, the Midwest scene was still dominated by the more realist works of the likes of Thomas Hart Benton and Grant Wood. Kraus starts out painting in the realist vein, then moves through experiments with surrealism, American-style cubism (think Stuart Davis) and expressionism. (Then there's the astonishingly bad "children" series, started in 1972 and carrying into the 1990s, which defies categorization and is best left alone.) The most interesting work in this large retrospective is actually Kraus' illustration and design, and in particular the stark graphics of the World War II posters produced for the Work Projects Administration. The entire affair is useful as a review of mid-century modern art and design, St. Louis-style. Through July 23 at the Des Lee Gallery, 1627 Washington Avenue; 314-621-8735. Gallery hours 1-4 p.m. Sat. and by appointment.

Amber Marshall and Micah Roufa: Blown Glass Lighting These blown-glass lighting fixtures are extraordinary, ranging from brilliantly colored table lamps to vertical hanging lights and a chandelier composed of glass "shades" and mirrored globes. This last piece is a real knockout, pairing the icicle texture of modern Scandinavian glassware with super-mod globes -- sparkly effects abound. The more restrained vertical tubular lights hover just inches from the table or floor. They're all installed alongside conceptual furniture -- wooden frames that just hint at the shape of tables, beds and sofas. It's an impressive installation, and comes with a bonus work: In the grassy lot next door, dozens of mirrored globes on rebar posts create a wavy pattern that shifts gracefully as you walk or drive past. Through July 16 at Third Degree Glass Factory, 5200 Delmar Boulevard; 314-367-4527. Gallery hours 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Sat.

Savage X Michelle X has reinterpreted tarot card imagery using live models and staged photographic tableaux. The images are dark and vaguely sadomasochistic -- bare breasts, someone licking the barrel of a gun, and the like. You can buy your own custom card set (if you must). Added to this are "new" interpretations of the seven deadly sins and the seven righteous virtues. Strictly for the least discriminating of the Goth set -- and even they will have seen it all before, in the 1990s, via Marilyn Manson and Trent Reznor. Through August 31 at the 3rd Floor Gallery, 1214 Washington Avenue; 314-241-1010. Gallery hours noon-4 p.m. Wed.-Sat.

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