St. Louis Art Capsules

Malcom Gay encapsulates the St. Louis arts scene

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 or http://mocra.slu.edu. Hours: 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Tue.-Sun. (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)

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. Also showing: A Stitch in Time: Images of Needleworking, 1850—1920, images of women engaged in knitting, sewing, embroidering, etc. Quilts shows through May 26 in the main exhibition gallery; Stitch shows March 21 through June 8 in Gallery 321 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)

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 or www.duanereedgallery.com. Hours 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Fri., noon-4 p.m. Sat. and by appointment. (MG)

Stan 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. Through March 29 at Philip Slein Gallery, 1319 Washington Avenue; 314-621-4634 or www.philipsleingallery.com. Hours: 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Tue.-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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