Current Shows

Ivy Cooper encapsulates the St. Louis art scene

 Accidental Mysteries: Vernacular Photographs from the Collection of John and Teenuh Foster This traveling exhibition poses an interesting counterpoint to the splashy color photos currently dominating the gallery circuit. It's no wonder that found collections — old photos, random notes, cast-offs of all kinds — are so popular. They're relatively easy to come by and they've earned their art cred thanks to the hard work of luminaries like Kurt Schwitters, Pablo Picasso and Marcel Duchamp. (The Web site www.foundmagazine.com features a new "find" every day.) And there's something utterly magical about encountering an orphan object, something that once held meaning for someone somewhere but is now a free-floating non-signifier. This exhibition features dozens of found photographs from the collection of John and Teenuh Foster, who have scoured flea markets and estate sales with an eye for the particularly surreal. None of these images is titled, but some are grouped to suggest odd relationships. Still others are enlarged, which only enhances their mystery. Through January 6, 2006, at the Sheldon Art Galleries, 3648 Washington Boulevard; 314-533-9900. Hours: 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Tue., 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Wed., 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sat.

John Baldessari: Person with Guitar William Shearburn throws in a light December treat with this small show of six Baldessari screen-print constructions, each titled Person with Guitar (all 2004) and each inserting boldly colored guitar shapes into photographs of guitarists. Their heads are missing, though, so it becomes a game to try and identify who might be whom via clues from clothing, setting and the like. Baldessari has been known since the 1960s for making fairly heady conceptual art, but he's also mastered the art of making serious art funny. The latter is the case in this show, which is highly recommended for its sheer cleverness and light touch. Through December 24 at William Shearburn Gallery, 4735 McPherson Avenue; 314-367-8020. Hours: 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Tue.-Sat.

Stuart Elster: New Paintings & Drawings A small show, and a gem. The five works on view provide a nice introduction to Elster's slightly twisted take on American money — bills and coinage, to be precise. One large untitled oil on canvas appears at first glance to be a coppery-gold op art offering. Scrutinizing it further, a profile of Abe Lincoln emerges — on its side, stretched taffy-like, but unmistakably taken from the portrait on the U.S. penny. Two drawings, Happy and Sad (both 2005), perform related hijinks on George Washington's dollar-bill portrait, this time in ultrafine graphite scribbles. The quarter gets its own treatment in two oil paintings. There's humor here, certainly, but the work is saved from one-linerness by the remarkable, enviable skill and sophistication of Elster's execution. Through January 14, 2006, at Schmidt Contemporary Art, 503 N. 20th Street; 314-575-2648. Hours: 1-5 p.m. Wed.-Sat. and by appointment. Call for holiday closing times.

Fly over to the Sheldon for Accidental Mysteries.
Fly over to the Sheldon for Accidental Mysteries.

Aaron Karp: New Paintings Karp's style is slightly wider ranging than this show suggests. He's made a name for himself engineering complexly layered perforated forms in acrylic on canvas. These works are complex, to be sure, but all in more or less the same way. It would be going too far to say "seen one, seen them all," but there's a great deal of homogeneity here. Still, no one does this dazzling, practically hallucinogenic tour through meshes of flowers, waves and squiggles better than Karp, so for those not acquainted with his work, this show is worth a visit. Through January 14, 2006, at R. Duane Reed Gallery, 7513 Forsyth Boulevard, Clayton; 314-862-2333. Hours 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Fri., noon-4 p.m. Sat.

Marked Men and Eric Woods The Marked Men of the show's title are six of the most influential tattoo artists working today: Nick Bubash, Scott Harrison, Thom de Vita, Michael Malone, Don Ed Hardy and John Wyatt. Their talents beyond skin art are on view here. Bubash's mixed-media assemblages are wildly funny; Sante Bozo (2005) looks like something Joseph Cornell might have made on an LSD bender. Harrison's water colors are absurd tour-de-force illustrations. Wyatt's black and white photographs of people sporting tattoos are the show's only ho-hum note. In the back room, a slew of wonderful works by local artist and Firecracker Press printer Eric Woods show off his wide-ranging talents. Some of the posters are extremely affordable — collectors, take note. Through December 24 at Philip Slein Gallery, 1319 Washington Avenue; 314-621-4634. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sat.

Garry Noland: Unorganized Territory Noland's messy, dystopic paintings and assemblages are apt metaphors for the state of current American foreign relations. In one series the artist binds National Geographic magazines in colored tape and arranges the pieces to spell out messages in Morse Code. Elsewhere Noland gouges maps into impossibly thick impasto paint. Best of all his works are the TV assemblages: stacks of dusty, pre-cable TV sets adorned with various effluvia and broadcasting mostly snow, punctuated by recognizable imagery. The works read like desperate attempts at post-apocalyptic communication, witty and disturbing. Also on view is a video work by Chris Coleman and flower photographs by Gene Moehring. Through January 21, 2006, at Gallery 210, TeleCommunity Center, University of Missouri-St. Louis, 1 University Drive (at Natural Bridge Road); 314-516-5976. Gallery hours 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sat.

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