St. Louis Art Capsules

Malcolm Gay encapsulates the St. Louis art scene

Opening

Didi Dunphy: Playscape A sculpture exhibition that brings the playground into the gallery. An instructor at the University of Georgia, Dunphy calls her colorful creations — skateboards topped with colorful padding reminiscent of candy sticks, an orange seesaw, a set of bright tasseled swings — "friendly monuments." In inviting viewers to play with the work, and, in essence, become a part of the exhibit itself, Dunphy gives gallery-goers a shared and slightly goofy experience, stripping away the pomp and making the experience more accessible. March 7 (reception and talk by the artist 6-8 p.m.) through April 20 at 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. — Malcolm GayStan Strembicki: Memory Loss and Lost Library Though separate, these two series of photographs by Washington University art professor Stan Strembicki concentrate on the damage Hurricane Katrina wrought on New Orleans in 2005. In Memory Loss, Strembicki focuses his lens to re-photograph images of anonymous family members at unknown events he found in family photo albums littered around the Lower Ninth Ward. The snapshots were re-shot in situ, and many are partially obscured by water damage; it's as though the storm were actually erasing people's personal histories. In the other series, Lost Library, Strembicki focuses on the loss of cultural memory inflicted by Katrina, by photographing books from a devastated library, capturing them one last time among the leaves and dirt before they're re-absorbed into the ground. March 7 (reception 6-9 p.m.) through March 29 at Philip Slein Gallery, 1319 Washington Avenue; 314-621-4634 (www.philipsleingallery.com). Hours: 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Tue.-Sat. (MG)

Talk to Me: Voices of Kiln-Formed Glass Curator Susan Taylor Glasgow gives us an international roster of glass artists whose deeply personal work evokes the passage of time and its mutation of meaning. Kiln-formed glass is well suited to the task. Says Glasgow: "Unlike blown glass or glass work directly from the furnace, kiln forming is an indirect method of shaping, allowing for delicate details and complex imagery." The result is a collection that challenges our everyday understanding of glass and its rigidity. Here glass is formed to look like sheets of paper curling away from one another, or a group of cubes whose interchangeable sides have been inscribed with images of soldiers, dancing girls or leafless trees. Showing concurrently in the rear gallery is Eden Found, featuring the work of metalsmith John Baltrushunas. March 7 (reception 6-8 p.m.) through April 20 at the Craft Alliance Gallery, 6640 Delmar Boulevard, University City; 314-725-1177 (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)

Ongoing

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 the 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)

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.-5 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 Arts. 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)

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)

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)

Quilts in a Material World: Selections from the Winterthur Collection Bedding, you say. Yes, bedding. But these quilts, dating from the 1700s to 1850 and on loan from Delaware's Winterthur Museum & Country Estate, are historical artifacts. Not only are they examples of the materials and technologies that were available to their makers, they also bear witness to the evolving cultural lives of women. One, for instance, represents "The Deserted Village," a poem by Oliver Goldsmith celebrating rural life. Others were status symbols whose imagery reflected their makers' worldliness or whose content more blatantly referenced their well-placed acquaintances by simply listing their names. Through May 26 in the main exhibition gallery of the Saint Louis Art Museum, 1 Fine Arts Drive; 314-721-0072 (www.slam.org). Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sun. (10 a.m.-9 p.m. Fri.). (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)

Stochastic 2 and Mutable/Mutability Working with wax and oil paints, New Mexico artist Larry Fodor creates richly layered pictures whose deep, soothing colors intersect, interrupt and modify one another. The effect is an entire canvas composed of a seemingly infinite number of artistic choices. In Mutable/Mutability, meanwhile, ceramic installation artist Laurel Lukaszewski continues her exploration of extruded forms. Reminiscent of calligraphy in three dimensions, Lukaszewski's works — freestanding, hanging or wall-mounted constellations — are built by interlocking twisty ceramic forms around a core. That core may stay the same, but each time Lukaszewski installs one of her creations, the artwork shifts ever so slightly, allowing the artist to never exhibit the same piece twice. Through March 29 at R. Duane Reed Gallery, 7513 Forsyth Boulevard, Clayton; 314-862-2333 (www.duanereedgallery.com). Hours 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Fri., noon-4 p.m. Sat. and by appointment. (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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