St. Louis Art Capsules

Malcolm Gay encapsulates the St. Louis arts scene

Ongoing
Alex Couwenberg: Working Space Painter Alex Couwenberg brings his Southern Californian aesthetic to St. Louis in "Alex Couwenberg: Working Space," an exhibition at Bruno David Gallery. Raised in Los Angeles and Orange County, Couwenberg is deeply influenced by the cultural touchstones of the region: custom cars, surf and skateboard culture and the rigors of mid-century design. But it is Southern California's graphic tradition that seems most deeply to inform Couwenberg's paintings, which display a fine use of color and composition. St. Louis artist Shawn Burkard occupies the gallery's project room with his show "Over and over and over," a body of work that reinterprets commercial objects. In the New Media room is "Cornerstone," a short video by installation artist Jill Downen, in which the artist explores the relationship between human bodies and the buildings they inhabit. Through May 31 at Bruno David Gallery, 3721 Washington Boulevard; www.brunodavidgallery.com or 314-531-3030. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Wed.-Sat. and by appointment. The Annual Juried Photography Exhibit Each year Webster University presents a juried show featuring the work of its photography students in the School of Communications. As with any juried show, the subject matter here varies dramatically. Some students concentrate on more artistic portraits, while others focus on architectural details or photojournalistic images that document the fleeting moments in a city's life. Standouts include Krista Rose Breece, who shows a good eye for detail in a black-and-white shot of an Asian street scene, and Samantha Britton, who provides a bit of visual humor in Wolf Mother, a portrait that captures the intersection of avian culture and lupine sculpture. Through May 2 at the May Gallery, 8300 Big Bend Boulevard (on the second floor of the Sverdrup Building), Webster Groves; 314-246-7673 (www.webster.edu/maygallery). Hours: 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Mon.-Fri., noon-5 p.m. Sat.-Sun. (MG)

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.

Chuck Close: 10 Years in Print In a career that has spanned more than 40 years, Chuck Close has developed an instantly recognizable style. Often working from photographs of family and friends, Close applies a grid to the image before meticulously re-creating the photograph, grid cell by grid cell, on a grand-size canvas. From a distance Close's paintings appear almost as photographic reproductions. Step closer, though, and the image quickly disintegrates, revealing itself to be a seemingly pell-mell construction whose logic is only apparent when the painting is viewed as a whole. This is the stuff of museums, but here in St. Louis the William Shearburn Gallery is presenting a partial retrospective. One standout: A new 187-color screen print published by Pace Editions, the publishing arm of the famed Pace/Wildenstein Gallery in New York. Through May 10 at William Shearburn Gallery, 4735 McPherson Avenue; 314-367-8020 (www.shearburngallery.com). Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sat. (MG)

Common Concern After more than 30 years of work and friendship, painters David Ottinger and Barry Sullivan mount a joint show at the Regional Arts Commission. Former classmates, Ottinger and Sullivan even shared a studio before heading in separate directions. For Sullivan that meant stints in Paris and Iran, where he explored the world of abstract painting. Ottinger, meanwhile, remained in his native St. Louis, where he honed his skill as a representational painter who relies heavily on the observed world. For Common Concern, Ottinger presents a crop of formal paintings concerned with line, form and shadow, while Sullivan offers a moody series of expressive paintings. Through May 11 at the Regional Arts Commission, 6128 Delmar Boulevard; 314-863-5811 (www.art-stl.com). Hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Fri., noon-5 p.m. Sat.-Sun. Currents 102: Sarah Oppenheimer The Saint Louis Art Museum has given over to installation artist Sarah Oppenheimer one of the galleries that houses its modern collection. With an undergraduate degree in semiotics, Oppenheimer explores the notion of "mutable architecture": Rather than viewing a room or a building as a fixed space, Oppenheimer seeks a fluctuating architecture that is socially engaged. Here the artist has constructed plywood tunnels through several of the museum's walls. Each tunnel, smooth and tapered, provides a view to a piece in the museum's modern collection. Some portals use mirrors, others open onto artworks that are several galleries away; each has a vaguely filmic quality that allows the viewer to reframe and re-engage with the museum's collection. Through July 6 at the Saint Louis Art Museum, 1 Fine Arts Drive (in Forest Park); 314-721-0072 (www.slam.org). Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sun. (10 a.m.-9 p.m. Fri.)

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