Current Shows

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.

Ars Botanica: Works by Leslie J. Laskey Redoubtable, 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. Through January 27, 2007, at the Sheldon Art Galleries, 3648 Washington Boulevard; 314-533-9900 ( Hours: noon-8 p.m. Tue. and Thu., noon-5 p.m. Wed. and Fri., 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sat. — Robert Duffy

Bound Visions: Artists' Books Try 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 the 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. (RD)

Michael Eastman: America Series Michael Eastman has employed technical virtuosity time and again to impress his keen sensibilities as images on paper. With the exception of an equine detour I never quite got in the saddle of, his eye and intelligence have been trained toward buildings and built environments. Although few human beings physically appear in these images, they're palpably present. Look, for example, at Eastman's photograph of a New Orleans library, an accommodation of a diverse accumulation of books and pictures and Mardi Gras regalia and other shards of an existence's mirror. This and similarly affecting images reveal Eastman's ability to evoke the sad and silent eloquence of rooms and buildings, and to observe them not simply as material and space but also as resounding symbol. Through October 21 at R. Duane Reed Gallery, 7513 Forsyth Boulevard, Clayton; 314-862-2333 ( Hours 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Fri., noon-4 p.m. Sat. (RD)

The Graphic Imperative: International Posters for Peace, Justice and the Environment — 1965-2005 Posters blur the boundaries between advertising and art. They've long performed effectively in getting consumers to buy this necktie or that automobile, or in getting theatergoers into this seat or that one. They encourage you to take public transportation or to take your kids to the circus. Posters are everywhere, or seem to be, anyway. "Post No Bills" was meant for them. As important as they are in keeping commercial activity humming, posters have also proved invaluable to politicians and to anyone advocating for one cause or another, or against something regarded as heinous. These posters in this powerful show are guaranteed to give any committed conservative a rip-snorting case of fantods, but for those who navigate the political middle and the left end of the continuum, they are vehicles of wisdom and truth, expressed in powerful graphics and economical use of words. Examples go back to the heyday of Another Mother for Peace and that movement 's ubiquitous "War is not safe...." poster. Sharing the same space is the haunting silhouette of the tormented, humiliated prisoner in the black hood at Abu Ghraib. There's enough visual gunpowder enough in this show to blow the roof off 1627 Washington. Its energy is expressed in a beautifully designed exhibit, hung by Tom Bussmann, art preparator-extraordinaire and co-owner of the Philip Slein Gallery. Through October 21 at the Des Lee Gallery, 1627 Washington Avenue (University Lofts Building); 314-621-8735. Hours: 1-5 p.m. Wed.-Sat. (RD)

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