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Robert Duffy encapsulates the St. Louis art scene

Rockin Reuter Review There were times in the cultural history of St. Louis when a fellow'd have the feeling that plenty of mainstream stuff was going on but precious little to make you want to stay out late to watch art go toe-to-toe against the Man. No underbelly to speak of, no opium dens, no absinthe bars, no Blue Note. Still, Bob Reuter often rode to the rescue, making music, flipping more platters and less chatter — and producing photographs of extraordinary vitality. Nowadays the Grove — the honky-tonk stretch of Manchester west of Vandeventer — possesses a counterculture quality that's appreciated, and the Atomic Cowboy's show of Reuter's sexy, smoke-veiled, late-night, rock & roll images hones the district's edge. Reuter's work has qualities similar to Tom Wood's and Robert Frank's; like them he has a way of vanishing into the smoke in order to penetrate façades. In the end, this work is all Reuter: rhino tough, bristling with energy, sympathetic in its way — and true. Through October 31 at Atomic Cowboy, 4140 Manchester Avenue; 314-775-0775 (www.atomic-cowboy.com). Hours: 5 p.m.-3 a.m. Wed.-Sat.
(RD)

Bernar Venet: Recent Sculpture, Drawings and Prints After attending the dedication of an installation near the Grand Basin in Forest Park of a group of large Cor-Ten steel sculptures by the French artist Bernar Venet, William Shearburn returned to his gallery in a well-deserved state of exhilaration. It was Shearburn, after all, who brought these large coiling sculptures to St. Louis, bankrolled their installation and navigated the approval process governing the placement of art in the park. And there couldn't be a more appropriate artistic contribution to our treasured refuge. Aspects of the Slinky present themselves in these steel extrusions, and to regard them as exuberant and playful is not to suggest they are less than genuinely serious. They are fluid expressions of the artistic line drawn in majuscule, expressions of enormous tension, like gigantic springs in some cosmic clock. At his gallery Shearburn has hung drawings, collages and prints by Venet, along with three sculptures. The works conduct a lively dialogue, showing similarities here, differences there and articulating Venet's wondrous ability to produce work that springs from the playful to the profound and back again. Through October 14 at William Shearburn Gallery, 4735 McPherson Avenue; 314-367-8020 (www.shearburngallery.com). Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sat.
(RD)

Mel Watkin: InsurgencyMel Watkin was one of the smartest of the bright, dedicated crowd that shaped influential exhibitions on next to no money in the good old days of the old Forum for Contemporary Art. She now directs the Public Policy Resource Center at UMSL, but she continues to make art on her own. This haunting exhibition of drawings is a deliberate subversion of the folding road maps that even in the Internet era find their ways into glove compartments. Some are worn to the texture of chamois by frequent handling; some after a hundred refoldings acquire the enigmatic qualities of palimpsest. Watkin draws on them, and what she draws corrupts the map's established function: Geography is erased, redefined, overgrown with the flora of the draftsman's compass and the artist's fecund imagination. The commercial road map — so deliberately informative, so thoroughly artless and commonplace — thus becomes anarchic. Watkin's work will challenge your notions of time and space through February 3, 2007, in the Nancy Spirtas Kranzberg Gallery of the Sheldon, 3648 Washington Boulevard; 314-533-9900 (www.sheldonconcerthall.org). Hours: noon-8 p.m. Tue. and Thu., noon-5 p.m. Wed. and Fri., 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sat.

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