St. Louis Art Capsules

Malcolm Gay encapsulates the St. Louis art scene.

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)

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)

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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