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Ivy Cooper encapsulates the St. Louis art scene

Phyllis Galembo, Dressed for Thrills: 100 Years of Halloween Costumes and MasqueradeDon't write this off as a Halloween gimmick; Galembo's Cibachrome photographs of historical Halloween costumes and masks are brilliant objects unto themselves. As a collector, Galembo clearly has an eye for the visual and the historical novelty of these costumes; but as a photographer she possesses uncanny skill and intuition for lighting, composition and color, and her images transport these things into another dimension. The Deluxe Disguise Kit(2001), a relic of the 1950s, looks straight out of a horror movie; the homemade Depression Era Ghost Mask (2000) can't help but evoke a KKK hood; even the cheesy, plastic 1965 Hairy Skeleton mask is unimaginable in the context of 21st-century Halloween costumes. Granted, Halloween costumes are designed to be strange; but in Galembo's hands they appear to have come from another world, or at least the most surreal depths of this one. Through November 19 at Philip Slein Gallery, 1319 Washington Avenue; 314-621-4634. Hours: Tue.-Sat. 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

Kimiko Yoshida: Birth of a Geisha Juxtaposed against the Contemporary's Cindy Sherman show (see above), this exhibition poses some interesting questions. Yoshida's large, laminated C-print bride self-portraits obviously align themselves with the Japanese tradition of ritual dressing of the geisha and the bride. At the same time, it's hard to imagine these photographs would ever have been made without Sherman's precedent. Her role-playing self-portraiture has so profoundly imprinted itself upon contemporary photographic practice, it's tempting to read most of the genre in terms of its relation to Sherman's work. Yet Yoshida's works have plenty to distinguish them: Each of these sixteen images glows in its own saturated color, and her stunning bridal props range from Pokémon masks to feather headdresses to white afro wigs. Yoshida offers herself up as a free-floating cultural signifier — one part of her rooted in the controlled Japanese geisha aesthetic, another exploring cultural practices in Africa, Asia, Brazil and the U.S. And where Sherman's recent works are willfully repulsive, Yoshida's are lovely, if quite strange. Also on view is a video projection piece, Birth of a Geisha. Through November 26 at Ellen Curlee Gallery, 1308A Washington Avenue; 314-241-1209. Hours: 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Tue.-Sat. Ivy Cooper

 
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