St. Louis Art Capsules

Malcolm Gay encapsulates the St. Louis arts scene.

Great Rivers Biennial The city's most important juried exhibition awards three promising young artists with a joint show at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis and a cash prize worth $20,000 (up $5,000 from previous exhibitions). Whereas in years past the competition has featured everything from multimedia installations to oil painting, this year's winners are all firmly rooted in draftsmanship. Though each may incorporate drawing, their works are quite different: Recent Washington University grad Corey Escoto presents drawings and sculptures featuring the "Global Repair Service," a satirical global relief agency the artist has modeled on the United Nations; Michelle Oosterbaan, a visiting professor of art at Wash. U., contributes a fanciful series of drawings and installations that explores the ever-shifting landscape of memory; and Juan William Chavez, director of Boots Contemporary Art Space, brings a series of multimedia drawings inspired by Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange. Through April 20 at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, 3750 Washington Boulevard; 314-535-4660 (www.contemporarystl.org). Hours:10 a.m.-5p.m. Tue.- Wed., 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Thu.,10 a.m.-5 p.m. Fri.-Sat.,11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sun. (MG)

The Interview A former TV journalist, Turkish artist Isil Egrikavuk's work concentrates on the distinction between reality and the presentation of reality. For The Interview, a seven-minute video featuring KETC-TV (Channel 9) reporter Anne Marie Berger and Anmaar Abdul-Nabi, an Iraqi physician living in St. Louis, Egrikavuk presents two competing narratives: one in which Berger interviews Abdul-Nabi about the cure he has ostensibly discovered for avian influenza, and another in which Egrikavuk coaches Abdul-Nabi on how best to answer Berger's questions. As the two narratives dovetail, bird flu emerges as a metaphor for immigration, and the effect is to humanize Iraqis in light of the current political situation. In conjunction with the project, Egrikavuk and Berger will interview visitors to the gallery on opening night, and a video of those interviews will subsequently run alongside the Abdul-Nabi interview. Opens February 8 (reception begins at 8 p.m.) and runs through March 30 at Boots Contemporary Art Space, 2307 Cherokee Street; 314-772-2668 (www.bootsart.com). Hours: noon-5 p.m. Sat.-Sun. (MG)

Miao Xiaochun: The Last Judgment in Cyberspace What do the subjects in a painting see? That question lies at the heart of the Museum of Contemporary Religious Art's first exhibition of 2008. Working from Michelangelo's Last Judgment, Chinese digital artist Miao Xiaochun has re-imagined the towering fresco in which Christ separates the blessed from the damned, from the internal perspectives of some of the fresco's subjects. This allows the viewer to, say, view the scene from the angst-ridden point of view of a cowering man awaiting judgment. Moreover, whereas the original work features muscular male and female figures, Miao's work, rendered in black-and-white digital photographs, features the same computer-generated nude in each role: Miao himself. The exhibition includes a short animation, allowing viewers to explore the entire three-dimensional work. The effect is as mesmerizing as it is vertiginous. Through May 11 at the Museum of Contemporary Religious Art, 3700 West Pine Boulevard (on the Saint Louis University campus); 314-977-7170 (http://mocra.slu.edu). Hours: 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Tue.-Sun. (MG)

My Psychological Activities to the Environment Using an expressive brush, painter Dongfeng Li, a professor of art at Morehead State University in Kentucky, renders his human subjects front and center. Many, placed in indeterminable surroundings, stare frankly out from the canvas as though they've been interrupted, or have only just noticed the painter. But though the human subjects clearly command the artist's attention, it is the incidentals — the errant sheep, the paint that's allowed to drip haphazardly across an otherwise self-contained portrait — that prove most compelling. Also, Li's treatment of light: cool, verging on clinical, in stark contrast to these otherwise intimate portraits. Through February 29 at Fontbonne University Gallery of Art, 6800 Wydown Boulevard (in the Fine Arts Building), Clayton; 314-889-1431 (www.fontbonne.edu). Hours: 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Mon.-Fri. (open till 7 p.m. Tue. and till 2:30 p.m. Fri.); noon-4 p.m. Sat. (MG)

Odavde/Otuda (From Here/From There) Co-curated by Jeffrey Hughes and Dana Turkovic, this show features the works of seven Bosnian artists -- some who immigrated to St. Louis following the Bosnian War, others who live internationally and still more who stayed in Bosnia. Not to be missed is a series of large-scale portraits taken by London-based Margareta Kern. Reminiscent of the environmental portraits by the Mexican photographer Daniela Rossell, Kern's work captures a series of young Bosnian women projecting themselves headlong into maturity. Other standouts include the work of Scandinavian-based video artist Damir Niksic, who here presents a funny and biting short fil, If I Wasn't Muslim; and a marvelous photograph by Dubai-based Isak Berbic of his uncle's cavity-ridden tooth (which said uncle pulled from his own mouth and presented to his nephew). Opens February 8 (reception 6-8 p.m.) and runs through March 14 at Webster University's Cecille R. Hunt Gallery, 8342 Big Bend Boulevard, Webster Groves; 314-968-7171 (www.webster.edu/depts/finearts/art). Hours: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Mon.-Fri. (open till 8 p.m. Tue.-Wed.) and by appointment. (MG)

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