Current Shows

Ivy Cooper encapsulates the St. Louis art scene

Currents 96: Tim EitelThe paintings of German artist Eitel draw on historical and contemporary artworks to generate scenes of extreme enigma. The four large canvases in this show isolate figures in spare environments described only by somber gray and black fields. Helicopter (2005) has the aircraft hovering motionless just above the ground in a seemingly airless environment; Lying Figure transports Edouard Manet's Dead Toreador of 1864 to a similarly empty, vaguely interior setting. The maximum scale of the large works combines with their minimal elements to make for intriguing scenes of surreal isolation. A series of small, square oil-and-egg-tempera works on linen lines the gallery's fourth wall; these scenes are more populated but just as tight-lipped in terms of what they say to the viewer. Eitel's works are simultaneously cold and oddly irresistible. Through March 5 at the Saint Louis Art Museum, 1 Fine Arts Drive, Forest Park; 314-721-0072. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sun. (10 a.m.-9 p.m. Fri.)

Tom Huck: The Bloody BucketMore memories of Potosi from this proud native son. This time the starkly absurd, shockingly beautiful large-scale prints the artist is known for focus on the fantastic goings on at the Bloody Bucket, a Potosi watering hole that existed from 1948 to 1951. The scenes are of drinking, fighting, blood, guts, beasts, lactation — typical Huck fare, operatic and apocalyptic and completely mesmerizing. Three original carved wood blocks illuminate Huck's technique, which is becoming finer and more sensitive over time, even as his content gets more excessive. Philip Slein has included some earlier works, including selections from Huck's "2 Weeks in August: 14 Rural Absurdities" (1995-98), which allow for direct comparison. The older works reveal sharper, shorter lines, while prints from "The Bloody Bucket" contain graceful, long lines and more tonal range. By now it should be obvious: Tom Huck is one for the ages, up there with his influences — Dürer, Hogarth and Crumb. Through January 28 at Philip Slein Gallery, 1319 Washington Avenue; 314-621-4634. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sat.

Alicia LaChanceLocally based LaChance produces paintings with dense surfaces of fresco and oil, divided into separate panels. While the imagery is clearly contemporary in design, the thick, heavily worked application of paint evokes archaic styles. Especially strong are the paintings that combine botanical silhouettes with areas of joyful abstract patterns. One or two false steps (such as a Mark Rothko redux) can be overlooked in a show that includes strong pieces like Tupelo Meadow Lark and a lovely grid of twelve square panels called Botanicals. Through February 4 at Houska Gallery, 4728 McPherson Avenue; 314-454-0959. Hours: 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sun.

Minimalism and Beyond This exhibition is perfect. The stacked and repeated boxes of Donald Judd, Dan Flavin's fluorescent lights and Richard Serra's stacked and leaning works cast new light on the minimalist idiom, which is simultaneously thematically connected to works by more recent artists like Felix Gonzales-Torres, Roni Horn, Rachel Whiteread and Robert Gober. OK, these connections have been drawn out before — but not amid Tadao Ando's minimalist architecture. Whiteread's Untitled (Gray) (1996/2003), a cast-concrete bathtub, quietly anchors the exhibition, making sensual reference to the smooth concrete of the building's walls and floor, while nearby Roni Horn's Untitled (Yes), a block of cast black optical glass, looks positively liquid in relation to the Pulitzer's water court, and Gonzales-Torres' pyramidal pile of candy in shiny silver wrappers acts as a foil to the somber character of the small Cube Gallery. The endless, subtle surprises embedded in the exhibition's layout will beckon viewers back again and again. Through April 26 at the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts, 3716 Washington Boulevard; 314-754-1850. Hours: noon-5 p.m. Wed., 10 a.m.-4 p.m. 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 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.

Philippe Parreno: The Boy from MarsThe fourth installation in the Saint Louis Art Museum's "New Media" series is the most exciting to date from the standpoint of contemporary art. French artist Parreno has produced a video piece that's meditative, mysterious and somehow otherworldly. A billowing, tentlike structure, glowing gold from within, stands peacefully in a swampy, verdant setting among water buffalo. As evening descends, strange lights rise in the sky. The film reads like the documentation of an advanced culture on another planet, or Earth in an enlightened future. This is not far off the mark, for the site is an artists' community in rural Thailand, where a host of artists have come to work and contribute to the self-sustaining system that supports the place. Along with architect François Roche, Parreno designed the building, a central gathering place within the community and the mute protagonist of this film. It's strange and enigmatic, while staking a clear claim for the possibility of communities this beautiful, this harmonious, here on this planet. Through February 12 at the Saint Louis Art Museum, 1 Fine Arts Drive, Forest Park; 314-721-0072. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sun. (10 a.m.-9 p.m. Fri.)

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