St. Louis Art Capsules

Malcolm Gay encapsulates the St. Louis art 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 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)

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, Juan William 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)

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