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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.

Exposure 8Gallery 210 director Terry Suhre has coordinated another fine installment in this long-running series featuring four area artists. Suhre's selection of Sarah Colby, Andrea Green, Deborah Katon and Linda Vredeveld seems particularly inspired, as the works complement one another while maintaining their autonomy on separate walls in the spacious gallery. Vredeveld's and Green's works in particular pose parallel questions about the body, its traces and memories. Vredeveld combines outlined drawn forms and thin paint, suggesting bodily fluids and tissues. Green's startling combinations of beeswax, hair, lace and latex on vellum are ghostly plays on presence and absence. Katon fills a wall with tiny, variegated blown-glass vials. And Colby exhibits an uncanny skill for evoking adolescent angst with inanimate objects. A re-creation of a young girl's bedroom, Colby's extravagant Let It Be Me involves crocheted knickknacks, store-bought tchotchkes, quilts, toys, pillows and pencils; together they embody the singular pain of pubescent love and longing. Through August 27 at Gallery 210, TeleCommunity Center, UM-St. Louis, 1 University Boulevard (at Natural Bridge Road); 314-516-5976. Gallery hours 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sat.

David Levinthal: Baseball SeriesFor the first exhibition at her new photography gallery, Ellen Curlee plays it "safe," lining up more than a dozen wonderful baseball photographs by David Levinthal, known for his mock-monumental Polaroid prints of toy figurines. Here he's got home-team favorites Ozzie Smith, Albert Pujols and Bob Gibson in poses so real you'd swear they weren't plastic, plus appearances by Jackie Robinson, Yogi Berra and Ty Cobb, among others. With or without peanuts and Cracker Jack, it'd be an error to miss this exhibition. Through September 11 at the Ellen Curlee Gallery, 1308-A Washington Avenue; 314-241-1299. Gallery hours 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Tue.-Sat.

Sarah Colby’s Let It Be Me (2005), on view through 
August 27 at Gallery 210
Sarah Colby’s Let It Be Me (2005), on view through August 27 at Gallery 210
Albert Bierstadt's In the Mountains (1867), part 
of Nature and the Nation: Hudson River School 
Landscape Painting from the Wadsworth Atheneum at the Saint Louis Art Museum
Albert Bierstadt's In the Mountains (1867), part of Nature and the Nation: Hudson River School Landscape Painting from the Wadsworth Atheneum at the Saint Louis Art Museum

Nature and the Nation: Hudson River School Landscape Painting from the Wadsworth Atheneum Anyone who has looked at enough of them knows that landscapes are never innocent mirrors of the land. The landscape is perhaps the most loaded of all painting genres, as it reveals not only the aesthetic practices of its age but also the ideological investment a nation has in its land. This exhibition of about 50 canvases reveals some of what the land meant for Americans in the mid-nineteenth century. The land symbolized promise, certainly, and its beauty and wealth were taken as visual revelations of Manifest Destiny. But the land was also the site of conflict, both philosophical and physical. Here are some of the most beautiful, and most revealing, landscapes ever produced in this country, from Asher B. Durand's romantic views of the Hudson Valley to Frederic Church's dramatic grand visions to Thomas Cole's subtle philosophical convictions about how people could and should live in a balance with nature. The exhibition contains vital historical lessons about this nation's complex relationship to land, and all that it represents. Through September 11 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.)

Savage XMichelle 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.

Christina Shmigel: Chinese Garden for the Delights of Roaming AfarThis third installment in the Kranzberg Exhibition Series brings Shmigel back to St. Louis from Shanghai, where she has spent the past two years. She's been missed, but the change of scenery has done incredible things to her work and her visual sensibility. The exhibition unfolds as the visitor passes through the galleries. Framing elements are a leitmotif: A floating pavilion sets the stage, showing photographs of bamboo scaffolding -- a leitmotif taken from the constant formal flux of Shanghai, a city evidently under permanent reconfiguration. Photos of text messages evoke the city's chaos of communication, but this gives way to calmer, more contemplative and intimate encounters with light, shadow, text and cityscapes. The artist's signature connecting-pipe circuitry pops up here and there, transformed by this new context. Somehow Shmigel manages to make a hundred disparate strains coalesce in a delightful experience of another world, recognizable and yet far from home. Through August 30 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. -- Ivy Cooper

 
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