On the Wall

Malcolm Gay encapsulates the St. Louis art scene.

All Systems Go and Meditations on Limitations/One-Hour Sculptures White Flag Projects exhibits two young artists from out of town. In the main gallery is All Systems Go, a suite of meticulously rendered paintings and drawings by Kansas City artist Linnea Spransy. Spransy's quarry is theological, and her paintings — which involve organic, line-based systems brought to their not-so-logical conclusion — explore the inherent tension in belief systems that seek to ward off chaos while at the same time producing it. Upstairs is Meditations on Limitations/One-Hour Sculptures, a collection of whimsical pieces by Los Angeles-area artist Zach Kleyn. Originally conceived as a one-hour creative warm-up in which Kleyn cannibalized earlier failed works, using their remains to create entirely new sculptures, the show is a mash-up of everyday elements tossed uncomfortably together: a mossy rock wearing a Beatles wig, a plastic revolver exploding with insulating foam. Through February 16 at White Flag Projects, 4568 Manchester Avenue; 314-531-3442 or www.whiteflagprojects.org. Hours: noon-7 p.m. Wed., noon-5 p.m Sat. and by appointment. — Malcolm Gay

Black Line Fever! St. Louis' master of pop art, Philip Slein, opens the new year with a show that features two artists whose shared interest in legend prompts them to create wildly different pictures. Bill Kreplin commands the front of the house. His cycle of restrained, black line paintings — reproduced from earlier drawings and highlighted with planes of temperate solid color — are heavy on symbolism as they reinterpret the legend of the Holy Grail in an antiseptic world of 1950s America. The rear of the gallery holds the large-scale wall drawings and attendant paintings of Cameron Fuller. A recent graduate of Washington University's M.F.A. program, Fuller uses a grab bag of media — black masking tape, India ink, acrylics — often applied directly to a wall, in order to reinterpret the phantasmagoric world of "The Willow-Wren and the Bear," a Brothers Grimm fairy tale in which the animals of the air battle the animals of the ground. Opens January 18 and runs through February 23 at Philip Slein Gallery, 1319 Washington Avenue; www.philipsleingallery.com or 314-621-4634. Hours: 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Tue.-Sat. (MG)

The Embedded Image and Close Work Webster University professor and art department chair Tom Lang fills dual roles this season at Craft Alliance. Working first as a curator, Lang has compiled The Embedded Image, an international group show of contemporary papermaking. While their styles vary considerably — the show features everything from handmade books to a marvelous still-life photograph of fruit constructed from toilet paper — the artists share an interest in paper's pulpy physicality and its ability to make fleeting thoughts and ideas permanent. In the rear gallery, Lang, who teaches both printmaking and papermaking, exhibits his own work in the aptly titled Close Work. Using thickly layered pulp, Lang has created a series of paper bas-reliefs that seek to return the material to its original arboreal state. The result is a series of highly textured details — bark, branches — that Lang has highlighted with iridescent colors. Through February 24 at the Craft Alliance Gallery, 6640 Delmar Boulevard, University City; 314-725-1177 or www.craftalliance.org. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Thu. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Fri.-Sat., 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sun. (MG)

Pedestrian Project Each January Boots Contemporary Art Space goes into hibernation as owner Juan Chavez turns his attention to publishing Boot Print, an international journal devoted to emerging contemporary art. (A copy can be downloaded at www.bootsart.com/html/bootsbootprint.html.) Though his small gallery is closed, Chavez converts its picture window into the Pedestrian Project, for which he invites an installation artist to create a work for passersby. This year that artist is Brett Williams, who, except for a small circular opening, has painted over the entire window. The circle of clear glass invites you to view Future Hole, a four-foot tube at the end of which Williams has placed a video monitor that displays four short video animations. The videos, which range from a retro-futuristic composition of erratically patterned lines to a cascade of stars, are accompanied by a lulling soundtrack that emanates from a speaker above. Plays continuously through February 3 at Boots Contemporary Art Space, 2307 Cherokee Street; 314-772-2668 (www.bootsart.com). (MG)

Ann Pibal and John Dilg: Recent Work Ann Pibal, a New York artist who works in a meticulous geometric style, paints fine repeating lines on a monochromatic background. Often working on small sheets of Dibond, a thin aluminum composite, her paintings — clean, cool and reserved — hug the wall, allowing viewers to project the works' internal geometric logic across the entire room. John Dilg, an artist from Iowa City, also works with solid-color backgrounds. Dilg, though, uses solid colors and lines to create organic pictures of misleading simplicity — the keys to which are often contained in a single element: a lion with glasses and a prominently featured penis; an abstracted female form whose only recognizable feature is a vagina; an abstract landscape made recognizable only by a tree. Opens January 18 and runs through February 16 at Schmidt Contemporary Art, 615 North Grand Boulevard; www.schmidtcontemporaryart.com or 314-575-2648. Hours: noon-5 p.m. Wed.-Fri., 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sat. (MG)

Protoplaces The Center of Creative Arts (COCA) opens 2008 with an exhibition of the work of Washington University architecture professor Iain Fraser. Working in the crosscurrent of architecture and sculpture, Fraser fashions structures of welded metal, wood and glass. Like the architectural model, Fraser's expressive constructions beg to be imagined on a grand scale (in Fraser's case, the size, say, of an airplane hangar). But unlike their more utilitarian cousins, Fraser's models — foreboding, sharp-angled and often adorned with or supported by precariously hung iron webbing — are free of function's dictates. Here a construction's potential use is only hinted at once it has been assembled, inviting the viewer to imagine a world in which such a structure might exist. Through February 24 in the Millstone Gallery at COCA, 524 Trinity Avenue, University City; 314.725.6555 (www.cocastl.org). Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Fri, noon-5 p.m. Sat.-Sun. (MG)

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