St. Louis Art Capsules

Malcolm Gay encapsulates the local 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, Meditations on Limitations/One-Hour Sculptures is 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, 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

Annual Faculty Exhibition Webster University's May Gallery kicks off 2008 with its annual faculty show. Featuring the landscape photography of fifteen photographers, the exhibition is a study in contrasts, with some photographers cranking down their apertures to take in sweeping panoramas while others narrow their depth of field, concentrating on a single environmental element set against an abstract background. Standouts include Curt von Diest's very pretty landscape with horses amid Utah's sandstone formations, and a dynamic close-up of prairie grasses that Dan Dreyfus caught swaying. Through February 29 at the May Gallery, 8300 Big Bend Boulevard (on the second floor of the Sverdrup Building), Webster Groves; 314-246-7673 (www.webster.edu/maygallery). Hours: 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Mon.-Fri., noon-5 p.m. Sat.-Sun. (MG)

Deborah Aschheim: Reconsider In earlier projects Los Angeles-area sculptor Deborah Aschheim has explored the relationship between the cyborg and the surveillance state, most notably in her critically acclaimed multi-part installment Neural Architecture. More recently the artist has been exploring the nature of memory. Alzheimer's disease runs in Aschheim's family, and initially the artist embarked on her current project as a defense against forgetting. She submitted a list of her 25 favorite words to Bay Area musician Lisa Mezzacappa, who (along with other musicians) created songs for each word. Aschheim, in turn, created sculptures designed to play the songs. The idea: Our linguistic and auditory memories use separate neural pathways. By creating new sensory associations for these words, Aschheim might be able to protect them from the ravages of memory loss. The result is a series of boldly colored hanging sculptures — made of plastic tubing, LEDs, monitors and funnels — that resemble in circuitry of the human nervous system. Through May 11 at Laumeier Sculpture Park Museum Galleries, 12580 Rott Road, Sunset Hills; 314-821-1209 (www.laumeiersculpturepark.org). Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Fri., noon-5 p.m. Sat.-Sun. (MG)

Black Line Fever! St. Louis' master of pop art, Philip Slein, opens the 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. 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)

Dan Flavin: Constructed Light Limiting his palette to mass-produced fluorescent tubes of varying lengths and colors, Dan Flavin, who died in 1996, made a career distilling these ubiquitous artifacts of bureaucratic life into their purest form. The result: a body of reserved, minimalist work that at once extracts these relics from their workaday commercial context and reformulates the sites they inhabit with their refulgent glow. As installations, many of Flavin's works are site specific, leaving the stewards of his estate with the thorny question of whether in re-creating his works they are, in effect, creating new works of art. For this show, Tiffany Bell, director of the Dan Flavin catalogue raisonné project, and Steve Morse, who worked as Flavin's chief technician for many years, have chosen several works that rely more on architectural situations than on specific sites. The result is a meditative show that both accentuates and quarrels with the natural grace of their setting. Through October 4 at the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts, 3716 Washington Boulevard; 314-754-1850 (www.pulitzerarts.org). Hours: noon-5 p.m. Wed., 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sat. (MG)

Four Aces: Large-Scale Prints from Four Universities The title just about says it all. This touring exhibition, which has made stops at universities around the nation, features works from graduate students and faculty members at Washington University, Louisiana State University, the University of Texas and the University of Wisconsin. Though the schools have presented joint touring shows for a few years now, this is the first year that printmakers from Wash. U. have been included. That's due in no small part to the presence of Carmon Colangelo, the prolific dean of the Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Art. Colangelo's deeply biographical prints are included in the show, as are the works of more than 40 other artists. Through March 8 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. (MG)

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 interviewed visitors to the gallery on opening night; a video of those interviews runs alongside the Abdul-Nabi interview. 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 film, 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). 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)

Our Commodity The Gallery at the Regional Arts Commission enters 2008 by featuring works of three artists that explore the intersection of art and commerce. Fresh off of his win at the Great Rivers Biennial, Chavez here expands on his series of "live drawings," in which, working from a television monitor, he attempts to draw a moving image on a fixed sheet of paper. The sculptural work of St. Louis artist Sarah Frost repurposes the detritus of a consumer society, refashioning, say, a tangle of electrical cords whose consumer potential has been exhausted, into a sculptural column. Leslie Mutchler works the Apollonian end of the spectrum, creating cleanly structured digital images of empty cabinets and shelving. Curated by Shannon Fitzgerald, the show runs through March 23 the Regional Arts Commission, 6128 Delmar Boulevard, 314-863-5811 (www.art-stl.com). Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Fri., noon-5 p.m. Sat.-Sun. (MG)

Outside the Box For its first show of 2008, phd gallery features 40 paintings from New Jersey artist Eric Gibbons' "Box Series." Confining himself to a monochromatic palette of grays, Gibbons gives us nearly life-size neoclassical nudes crouching, sitting and kneeling in uniform three-by-three-foot boxes. Many of the paintings, deftly rendered with fluid, muscular strokes, tackle mythological subjects. In Hera the wife of Zeus joins sword to chalice; in Bacchus, a tribute to Caravaggio (whose natural figures rendered in dramatic chiaroscuro clearly made an impression on Gibbons), a heavy-lidded youth seductively engages the viewer while offering a goblet of wine. Each work can certainly stand alone, but viewed together they permit viewers to create their own associations, allowing the paintings to grow in expressive strength. Through March 8 at phd Gallery, 2300 Cherokee Street; 314-664-6644 (www.phdstl.com). Hours: noon-4 p.m. Thu.-Sun. (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. 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)

Poetic Constructions Katy Stone's work, clearly inspired by the robust glass-arts scene of her native Seattle, involves layered strips of transparent Dura-Lar (a clear, plastic-like sheet) painted in bright blues and greens. Shimmering at the slightest breeze, the wall-mounted works are evocative of the natural world; many bring to mind the rushing water of a stream or a spray of cattails. Using pins and plastic bolts, Stone constructs her pieces in several layers, giving them depth and allowing shadows to transform them. The work, highly fluid, skirts the line between painting and sculpture, further reminding viewers of the constant flux that is the natural world. Through March 8 at Atrium Gallery, 4729 McPherson Avenue; 314-367-1076 (www.atriumgallery.net). Hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tue.-Sat., noon-4 p.m. Sun. (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)

re-construction and Wrestle Nebula St. Louis photographer Jamie Kreher's new works at the Ellen Curlee Gallery feature single, mass-produced elements found in car-based environments — a dismantled diner sign that has been abandoned, a gas station sign bare of prices — which Kreher reproduces across the span of the picture. The result is an asymmetrical patterning that from afar looks almost like fabric; closer up, the hundreds of identical images reveal themselves, now jostling for space in a crowded landscape. Running concurrently is the gallery's "next door: Video Series" installment, Wrestle Nebula, a work by Chicago video artist Travis LeRoy Southworth that depicts a dozen or so old-school WWF-ers smacking down in deep space. Through March 8 at Ellen Curlee Gallery, 1308A Washington Avenue; 314-241-1299 (www.ellencurleegallery.com). Hours: 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Tue.-Sat.; First Friday 11 a.m.-9 p.m. (MG)

Resilience: The Sculpture of Philip Hitchcock and Revelation The Saint Louis University Museum of Art exhibits two local artists with wildly different takes on Biblical themes. Using a technique to cast gypsum, Philip Hitchcock has assembled a series of highly detailed (and highly idealized) nude figures, here recast in homoerotic Biblical roles — a strapping nude Jesus embracing the cross, a semi-recumbent Adam receiving the breath of life. The figures, remarkable in both their detail and frank sensuality, are often concentrated on one portion of the anatomy — the front of a muscled male torso, the front of a pregnant woman's torso — that ends abruptly, leaving the viewer to wonder if what's unseen hides an imperfection. Upstairs, Revelation is a collection of painstakingly rendered pen-and-ink drawings executed over a 30-year period by illustrator Russell Kraus, illustrating scenes from the hallucinogenic Book of Revelation. The drawings, highly mannered and quite beautiful, often blend long-limbed, graceful angels with a psychedelic background. Resilience runs through February 15, Revelation through March 30 at the Saint Louis University Museum of Art, 3663 Lindell Boulevard; 314-977-2666 (www.slu.edu/x16374.xml). Hours: 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Wed.-Sun. (MG)

Signs of Time Art Saint Louis offers more than 140 works by 86 area artists. Juried by artist Kim Mosley and open to almost any medium (sorry, no Web-based artwork), Signs of Time required artists to submit works that explore the passage of time. Approach, technique and quality vary wildly; standouts include Robert Treece's Glass Still Life, a disorienting self-portrait clearly inspired by M.C. Escher's reflecting-sphere lithographs; and The Maplewood Dust Collector: Dismantled 2007, an urban landscape by oil painter Steve Turner. Through February 28 at Art St. Louis, 9917 Locust Street, Suite 300; 314-241-4810 (www.artstlouis.org). Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sat. (MG)

Thaddeus Strode: Absolutes and Nothings In this show at the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Strode, who grew up surfing and skating in southern California, takes the pop-cultural iconography of comics — the obese, hooded executioner, the jug-sipping moonshiner — and juxtaposes it against a multicolored and ambiguous field that could be a seascape, or maybe it's a valley; then again, it could just as easily the graffito-ed wall. It's this sort of deliberate ambiguity that lies at the heart of Strode's dynamic mash-ups. Filled with dripping paint and spray-painted designs, these mixed-media paintings defy a unified interpretation. Instead, they pull together a mish-mash of non sequitur imagery and allow the viewer full imaginative range for the composition. Also at the Kemper: On the Margins, an engaging series of mixed-media work that concentrates on the role of art in a world defined by military conflict. Through April 21 at the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Forsyth & Skinker boulevards (on the campus of Washington University); 314-935-4523 (www.kemperartmuseum.wustl.edu). Hours: 11 a.m.-6 p.m. daily (closed Tue., open till 8 p.m. Fri.). (MG)

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