Current Shows

Ivy Cooper encapsulates the St. Louis art scene

James Brooks: Small Paintings and Works on Paper Brooks was born in St. Louis, so we can proudly call him our own. And while this small retrospective comes to us from its debut at Greenberg Van Doren New York, it's no worse for the wear. As a matter of fact, it nicely complements a handful of other modernist shows on view in St. Louis at the moment and will no doubt spark a wistful longing for the days when arguments about the flatness of the canvas might come to blows, followed by apologetic rounds of "drinks on me." These works date from the 1940s to the 1980s, but like Arthur Osver, Brooks steadily maintained a commitment to modernist color and abstraction, and he remains one of the handful of lesser-known Abstract Expressionists worth pondering. Through March 18 at Greenberg Van Doren Gallery, 3540 Washington Boulevard; 314-361-7600 (www.greenbergvandoren.com). Hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sat.

Greg Edmondson: Simple and Ron Laboray: Keeping Score If you think you know Edmondson's works, think again. Here's a galleryful of whimsical bug sculptures and amoebalike forms that are unlike anything else the local artist has ever done. Also new are the drawings — large works on paper that could be DNA charts of aliens, and small gouache paintings on antique wallpaper that insist on their own seriousness in spite of their obvious sweetness. It's a completely disarming show, marvelous, funny and weird all at once. That description applies just as well to local painter Laboray's works in Philip Slein's back gallery. Laboray charts American pop-cultural hegemony with a paranoia-tinged humor that remains unparalleled among artists I've seen. He's a great cultural leveler, documenting moon missions and multiple-Marge Simpson invasions of Georgia with the same urgency and visual panache. This is tour-de-force work by two incredibly bright local artists. Through March 31 at Philip Slein Gallery, 1319 Washington Avenue; 314-621-4634 (www.philipsleingallery.com). Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sat.

Great Rivers Biennial 2006This second Biennial is exuberant, owing largely to the scale of the works. It's thrilling to see three emerging St. Louis artists let loose and work BIG. Moses has worked big for some time but rarely had the chance to show big; he's usually represented in group shows by thoughtful, smallish assemblages that yearn to grow larger. Here his walls of turntables and stereo receivers are in their proper milieu, allowing viewers to revel in their sheer size or focus in tightly on their fetishized technology — all those sleek buttons, knobs and dials, shiny like money. The Chevy Blazer outfitted with 300 speakers may be the coolest thing anyone's ever made. While Moses explores hip-hop culture, Jason Wallace Triefenbach camps out in white-trash territory with a multifaceted performance/installation whose devil is in the details: the ATM, Zebra Cakes and beer cans, the vinyl John F. Kennedy album, the framed photograph of a dog and meat. Comparisons to Cady Nolan are too facile; Triefenbach is carving out his own territory — and getting it pitch-perfect. Matthew Strauss' canvases make references to high art only to tear it apart; they're smart but wither slightly in the noisy company of his companions. Be that as it may, this is a very, very good show. Through March 26 at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, 3750 Washington Boulevard; 314-535-4660 (www.contemporarystl.org). Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sat. (open till 8 p.m. Thu.), 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sun.

David Hammons: Phat Free Hammons has long been a subtle provocateur, focusing his work on cultural paradigms we build around racial relations. And while this latest in the Saint Louis Art Museum's new-media series is not new — it dates from 1995 — it demonstrates that Hammons' treatment of the volatile subject wears well. The video is dark for several minutes; a noisy, percussive sound fills the viewing space, seeming at times to be scripted musically, at other times like random, grating street noise. When the visual jumps to life, the source of the sound is revealed: Hammons himself, kicking a metal bucket down a busy city sidewalk. Passersby tend to look away and ignore him as he negotiates crosswalks in traffic, kicking the bucket all the way. Finally he lifts the bucket with his toe, catches it in one hand — and the video concludes. Hammons knows how to be a nuisance and make a spectacle of things we'd rather let fade into the background. For the viewer of Phat Free, there's no escaping the raw, scraping sound of metal on asphalt. The question is whether to really listen or act like you don't hear it. Through May 31 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.)

Joseph Havel: Drinks are boiling. Iced drinks are boiling.Havel's spare installation shares a visual sense of reverie with the John Berryman poem "Dream Song 46," from which it gets its unusual title. Drifting through the rooms of Laumeier's museum building, one encounters Black Curtains (2004), freestanding bronze drapes that look like they've been frozen in the act of falling to the ground. They're answered at the conclusion of the show by a freestanding Bed Sheet (2005), snow white and draping gracefully, as if it were being held up by an invisible set of hands. In between these bookends are two other similar works and a series of wire sculptures, partly wrapped in fabric and spelling out fragmented words and thoughts that float freely and cast shadows all around. This American sculptor has begun to specialize in transforming the most mundane domestic linens into uncanny presences, and this exhibition, with its addition of wire word sculptures, is lovely and strange, like many dreams. Through May 14 at 12580 Rott Road, Sunset Hills; 314-821-1209 (www.laumeier.com). Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sat., noon-5 p.m. Sun. (Outdoor grounds open daily from 8 a.m. to a half-hour past sunset).

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