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Ivy Cooper encapsulates the St. Louis art scene

 Advance Directive: Peter Pranschke and Dystopia: Paul E "Paul E" is Paul E. Jost, a character who pops up in Pranschke's art more than once, and a good artist in his own right. On view here are more than a dozen smallish framed prints by Jost, incorporating dreamy imagery and wonderful titles ("pack up all the things that you don't deserve" gives you a good sense of it all). But the exhibit rightly belongs to Pranschke, whose ambitious autobiographical cartoon narratives have never looked better. They're all wonderful, despite -- or perhaps because of -- the fact that most are unfinished. Pranschke's shorthand drafting style is packed with expression; he says more in a single drawn line than most writers do in a novelful of words. Most are ballpoint and colored pencil on cut paper, many pasted on graph paper. Also included are clay prototypes for a set of action figures based on Pranschke's characters. The row of works culminates with the memorable Jenny Gordon Commission -- read the whole work; it's well worth it. One of the nicest shows in recent memory. Through October 29 at Mad Art Gallery, 2727 South 12th Street; 314-771-8230. Gallery hours by appointment 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tue.-Fri., 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Sat.

Ron Laboray: After C.E. Laboray combines observations on cultural hegemony with critical takes on formalist art to make some of the smartest, prettiest and funniest works imaginable. Schematic maps and globes are overlaid with melted plastic blobs whose colors signify pop-culture institutions -- from Barbie to McDonald's to Wild West theme parks -- and whose oozy spread suggests an insidious takeover. These paintings engage postmodern theory but aren't weighed down by it; they also suggest what a populist redemption of high-modernist formalism might look like. And there's an interactive digital project that allows visitors to rearrange star constellations. What more could you want from an art exhibit? Maybe just a six-sided gallery guide with a brilliant essay by local art hero Michael Byron. They've got that too! This is a beautiful five-year survey of pieces from one of the best artists working in St. Louis. Through October 15 at Gallery 210, TeleCommunity Center, University of Missouri-St. Louis, 1 University Boulevard (at Natural Bridge Road); 314-516-5976. Gallery hours 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sat.

Textiles as Emotional Landscape Despite the confining title, this first installment of the sixth biennial, multivenue Innovations in Textiles event hints that this year's textile extravaganza will be a good one. There's a lot of variety here: thirteen artists, dozens of works and plenty of stuff beyond what you'd expect. Sure, there are the inevitable quilts, but they're unusual in their richness and experimentation (don't miss Hannah Gilk's Relationship Torment [2005], which contains fragments of images that tell the story of a love gone bad). A handful of aprons take humorous feminist turns, such as Libby Reuter's Two Ways of Being Male (2005) and Dawn Ottensmeier's Has Anyone Seen My Hormones? (2005). Kay Wood and M.J. Goerke have created books out of old photos transferred to fabric and then quilted -- they're the ultimate in family keepsakes. Sue Eisler's pieces, a wire sculpture from 1976 and a paper piece from her "Ongoing Permutations" series (2003), are refreshing to see in this new context. But the most striking works are two sculptures by Jane Birdsall Lander: Ancestor (2005), a wall fetish of knotted waxed linen and thorns, and the astonishing In This County (1992), which taps into the sublimated strains of ritual and sacrifice that run through rural cultures. Through October 5 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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