St. Louis Art Capsules

Malcom Gay encapsulates the St. Louis arts scene

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 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)

John Sarra: Sad Smiles and Tears of Joy What elevates these traditional still life paintings isn't so much Sarra's fine sensitivity to form and light; it's the artist's sense of place. Sarra's subjects arise as unintentional compositions of tools, toys and other domestic objects that have coalesced and dispersed during the nearly ten years he has been renovating his St. Louis home. The paintings feature smaller spaces that temporarily exist in the space of his house. While the bulk of the show is devoted to still lifes, Sarra also is exhibiting an orienting painting: a landscape near his family's property. To accentuate the singularity of space, Sarra has also constructed a walkway to enter the minute Window Gallery, making viewers aware of the distance and height at which they are seeing the paintings. Through April 19 at PSTL Window Gallery at Pace Framing, 632 North Grand Boulevard; 314-531-4304 (www.paceframing .com). Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sat. (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)

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. 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)

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