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Ivy Cooper encapsulates the St. Louis art scene

The Curious Teapot Every city large enough to support one or two craft centers gets treated to an annual teapot show. It's the craft-center moneymaker, the sure thing that will bring out everyone from the collectors to the curious to the people convinced they don't like "art." St. Louis is no different, and Craft Alliance puts on a teapot show every year, and there's nothing curious about it, except for the fact that it remains perennially popular. The teapots this year are fun, amusing, nonfunctional and functional, "wacky" and "wild" — in other words, just what you'd expect. (As Marge Simpson might exclaim: "A teapot with Scrabble letters stuck to it? Whatever!") The standouts here are the twisted takes on the classic objet d'art, such as Annette Corcoran's faux Fabergé eggs and Rain Harris' absurdly baroque fetish pots. Through March 5 at the Craft Alliance Gallery, 6640 Delmar Boulevard, University City; 314-725-1177 (www.craftalliance.org). Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Thu., 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Fri.-Sat., 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sun.

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 (www.slam.org). Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sun. (10 a.m.-9 p.m. Fri.)

Dan Gualdoni: Recent Paintings These 41 paintings from the artist's 2005 "aer/Eire Series" capture the crystalline light and atmosphere Gualdoni observed during a residency fellowship in Ireland. The paintings, which range in size from small to medium format (the largest is seventeen by fifteen inches), are composed of many delicately colored, translucent layers on board. Low-horizon landscapes glow through the quartz-like depths, though what the landscapes describe is difficult to determine: Here and there hills and water are clearly visible, while other works seem to depict empty, eerie landing fields or industrial parks cleared of vegetation. Some scenes feature misty skies worthy of Turner's most romantic moods; others appear completely airless. They're all beautifully strange, and Gualdoni is to be congratulated for delivering up a good measure of ambivalence that must accompany any contemporary depiction of Ireland. Through February 11 at William Shearburn Gallery, 4735 McPherson Avenue; 314-367-8020 (www.shearburngallery.com). Hours: 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Tue.-Sat.

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 (www.philipsleingallery.com). Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sat.

Kim Humphries: Certain Areas Kim Humphries once again proves to have the best eye in the business for oddities of American vernacular habits and habitats. While his 2003 installation at the Contemporary's Great Rivers Biennial was bombastic and excessively good fun, this group of nineteen works is smaller in scale but not in effect. A Crock-Pot filled with a spicy Cognac brew scents the air and sets the stage for encounters with certain areas — that is, tableaux of found materials or photographs of found places that are startling and all-too-familiar at once. In one corner The Mississippian offers up a hoosier workout station with pulleys for lifting paint-can weights and tree-stump seats for relaxing. Three Angle of Repose assemblages burden slight wooden stands with impossible piles of white-trash collectibles: shells, driftwood, rocks. The photographs on display are tours de force — still-life arrangements of basement furniture layouts and ad hoc shrines Humphries has collected over the years. Don't miss Certain Things (the hard to follow mix), a slide show of odd scenes on a revolving pedestal of fake wood paneling; it's utterly mesmerizing. Humphries maintains a nice tone throughout the exhibition, never stooping to condescension, as a lesser artist would. Through February 4 at Bruno David Gallery, 3721 Washington Boulevard; 314-531-3030 (www.brunodavidgallery.com). Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sat. and by appointment.

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