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Robert Duffy encapsulates the St. Louis art scene

Capsule reviews of current exhibits are written by Riverfront Times arts writer Robert Duffy, with occasional contributions by the RFT staff. Brandon Anschultz: Fission, Friction, Fiction How many times in the contorted continuum of art history has painting been declared dead? Let's not count. Let's do consider, however, the genuine satisfaction gained from the work of young artists of vitality and vision who not only understand that painting is not dead and never will be, but also appreciate painting's limitless potential for thrashing out ideas and making fascinating discoveries. In this vivid and unfailingly rewarding exhibition, Brandon Anschultz shows not only his remarkable facility with paint but also his pure delight in painted images. With a wide repertory of ideas and impulses and a penchant for pushing color to extremes, Anschultz's work adds a lustrous new piece to the incremental puzzle that is painting. Through October 7 at Philip Slein Gallery, 1319 Washington Avenue; 314-621-4634 (www.philipsleingallery.com). Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sat.
— Robert Duffy

Ars Botanica: Works by Leslie J. LaskeyRedoubtable, formidable, irascible, brilliant. For nearly a half-century, Leslie Laskey held forth with self-assured conviction in the School of Architecture at Washington University. He gathered disciples and detractors by the dozens and never doubted the rightness of his opinions and pedagogy — or, at least, he didn't let on if he had a doubt. All the while he was teaching, he was also working as painter, sculptor and printmaker, as a designer of jewelry and of lighting fixtures and furniture. He has exhibited frequently in galleries around town, at Wash. U. and at Frank Schwaiger's south-side Xanadu, in New York and in North Carolina. He has also shown before at the Sheldon, and now Sheldon art curator Olivia Lahs-Gonzales has mounted a telling examination of Laskey's work that concentrates on plants and flowers. Just as Laskey was loath to admit that he might be less than correct in his pronouncements, he developed a firm, authoritative and recognizable style early on and stuck with it. Within this rigorous, disciplined aesthetic and stylistic framework, Laskey produces art of great intellectual depth and lyricism, and — as do all artists who understand that the architecture of living things is the foundation on which all art is constructed — plants are a means to his understanding of the world, and of his interpreting it for the viewer. (Laskey will discuss his work at 11 a.m. Saturday, October 7, at the Sheldon.) Through January 27, 2007, at the Sheldon Art Galleries, 3648 Washington Boulevard; 314-533-9900. Hours: noon-8 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday, noon-5 p.m. Wed. and Fri., 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sat., and one hour before all performances at the Sheldon and during intermissions.
(RD)

Bound Visions: Artists' BooksTry to put a date on the birth of the book, and you'll pick a big, fat scholarly fight. Nevertheless, bookmaking is ancient human industry, and the first book-like things probably were invented — guess where? — in Mesopotamia, which is now being ravaged. Professor Ken Botnick, head of the Book Art Department at Washington University, and Robert Ebendorf, a distinguished professor at East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina, have mounted an absorbing exhibition about contemporary manifestations of the art of the book. This survey presents everything from illustrated books of rather traditional natures (books that look, y'know, books) to books that move beyond accepted and expected conventions. This liberation of the book allows the form entry into an entirely more experimental territory, where narrative is read more viscerally than literarily. Books of this new bibliography are more like blank slates, bare canvases, lumps of clay or masses of stone, ready to be manipulated and moved from shelves onto walls and into vitrines. Through November 5 at Craft Alliance Gallery, 6640 Delmar Boulevard, University City; 314-725-1177. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Thu., 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Fri.-Sat., 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sun. Closed Mon.
(RD)

Carmon Colangelo: Configured/Disfigured Although we recently learned from St. Louis' Only Daily that no self-respecting artist employs collography in his work, Carmon Colangelo, the new dean of the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University, puts this dynamic technology to good use in combination with other traditional printmaking processes and digital innovations. His prints, as well as drawings in ink and gouache, seduce the viewer with what initially appears to be comic book-colored whimsy, a sassy sense of humor and humanity, and a keen appreciation of the bizarre. Steadily the viewer finds himself ensnared in a nightmare where Popeye, Howdy Doody, bunnies, viruses, spiders, moths, human body parts turned every which way and various Boschian grotesqueries establish themselves as a population dwelling in its own universe. Hints, such as the words "mental illness" spelled out like the markings of a psychological EEG, point to a typology of the chaotic, confounding mine fields of the mind. (Full disclosure: In my role as a part-time instructor at Wash. U.'s architecture school, Colangelo is technically my boss.) Through October 7 at Bruno David Gallery, 3721 Washington Boulevard; 314-531-3030 (www.brunodavidgallery.com). Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Wed.-Sat. and by appointment.
(RD)

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