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Ivy Cooper encapsulates the St. Louis art scene

New Works: Jesse Thomas and Andrea Green Snowflake's inaugural exhibit at is spare, clean and smart, like the gallery itself. Gleaming wood floors, white walls that stretch to a high, high pressed-tin ceiling — Snowflake is a perfectly lovely space and a welcome addition to the burgeoning Cherokee Street art scene. Jesse Thomas' six painted portraits owe much to the likes of Bronzino, Titian and Caravaggio, but Thomas trades in the Renaissance garb for outfits and props inspired by — no kidding — the 1980 film version of John le Carré's Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Brilliant! Six new pieces by Andrea Green are also on view. Small in scale, they hold their own thanks to their quiet intensity: faint bite marks in paper, a bridal dress zipper cloaked in beeswax — Green handles evocative materials with a subtle surety. Through mid-February at Snowflake, 3156 Cherokee Street; 314-865-1557. Call for viewing appointments.

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

James M. Smith: DrawnVisitors to this large exhibition of Smith's drawings may at first wonder what distinguishes them from this local artist's paintings. These works, like his paintings, feature Smith's signature rough-hewn canvases, with strips of fabric sewn or safety-pinned in ragged patterns over their surfaces and raw patches of color added liberally throughout. What distinguishes these works, all produced in 2005, is not so much the medium as the foregrounding of the process of drawing — in all its various forms. Smith draws marks on his canvases, to be sure; but he also draws with the edges of his canvas strips and generates rich lines with the deep shadows and peaks of folded and draped fabric. These works are rich with lines, inscribed and described by marks and layers and applied forms. Four pieces from the "Nickel" series feature conventional drawn masses floating in open canvas fields, while works such as G-November employ and imply lines in a series of smaller canvas frames hung by wire. These works are breathtaking, somehow heartbreaking, and they will forever alter your notions of drawing in art. Through March 11 at Gallery 210, TeleCommunity Center, University of Missouri-St. Louis, 1 University Drive (at Natural Bridge Road); 314-516-5976 (www.umsl.edu/~gallery). Gallery hours 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sat.

Social Commentary in Black and White This modest exhibition of prints by Tom Huck, Bill Fick and Richard Mock delivers a serious punch and a chance to see works by three of the finest, sickest printmakers working today, in one place. The show also features works by University City High School students who worked with Huck during his residency at the school. Printmaking is an immediate, forceful medium of communication. Huck's works are some of the finest prints being made, and he clearly has a talent for communicating with young artists, whose efforts carry jarring imagery and heartfelt messages. Through March 26 at the Center of Creative Arts, 524 Trinity Avenue, University City; 314-725-1834 (www.cocastl.org). Hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Mon.-Fri., noon-5 p.m. Sat.-Sun.

Alfred StieglitzThis small (eleven prints) stairwell exhibition is a lovely survey of photography's early high period, as well as a telling tribute to an artist who is remembered as much for his editorial and curatorial work as he is for his own photography. Ranging from his late-nineteenth-century work in Germany to his far more abstract images from the 1930s, the works on view here include some of Stieglitz's best- and least-known photographs: the nostalgic November Days (1886) and The Old Mill are soft, glowing platinum prints; The Terminal (1893) is shown in its photogravure printed form in a 1911 issue of Camera Work; the small, moody "Equivalent" cloud images from the 1920s verge on total abstraction; and From the Shelton West (1935), a gelatin silver print of New York skyscrapers, captures the dramatic urban lines and contrasts that fascinated modern artists at the time. Whether you know a little or a lot about Stieglitz, this show is well worth a long pause in the stairwell. Through March 26 at the Saint Louis Art Museum, 1 Fine Arts Drive (in Forest Park); 314-721-0072 (www.slam.org). Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sun. (10 a.m.-9 p.m. Fri.)

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