St. Louis Art Capsules

Malcolm Gay encapsulates the St. Louis arts scene

Discerning Palette: Jerry O. Wilkerson Retrospective Like many of his contemporaries in the pop art movement, Jerry Wilkerson, who died of cancer in 2007, took his inspiration from the world of consumer goods. Painting in a neo-pointillist style that was more influenced by the technological world of printing than the wispy ghost of George Seurat, Wilkerson tackled consumer culture in the most literal way. He painted that thing we consume directly: food. Boiled lobsters, hot dogs, beer cans, potato chips. Wilkerson did not confine himself strictly to painting. He was also a sculptor whose three-dimensional creations tackled similar themes. Like the best pop art, the relationship of Wilkerson's work to the material consumer world is ambiguous: It celebrates the riot of product variety while simultaneously highlighting its disposable nature. Through August 15 at the Saint Louis University Museum of Art, 3663 Lindell Boulevard; 314-977-2666 (www.slu.edu/x16374.xml). Hours: 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Wed.-Sun.

Fiesta de la Libertad: Celebrating Passover in Havana In 2001, taking a break from her documentary photography project about the Bible Fellowship Apostolic Church in East St. Louis, Deborah Weinstein traveled to Cuba with the Maine Photographic Workshops. What she found there was remarkable: a group of Orthodox Jews who had worshiped in an Old Havana synagogue without interruption throughout Fidel Castro's rule. Latching on to a friendly interpreter, Weinstein gained remarkable access to this little-known community, visiting private homes, a kosher butcher and, of course, the synagogue itself. Shot on black-and-white film, Weinstein's photos act as a window to a world few of us have ever imagined, much less seen. Through May 16 at the Art Space at Provisions Market, 11615 Olive Boulevard, Creve Coeur; 314-989-0020. Hours: 7 a.m.-8 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 8 a.m.-7 p.m. Sat.

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.

Love, Kisses, Tears (and heartache)! Inspired by a topsy-turvy dreamworld of ubiquitous eroticism, Phyllis Bramson fills her exotic landscapes with images of elves, insects, cats and flowers. These opulent paintings are pretty, yes, but viewers must quickly reevaluate their superficial beauty when they view, for instance, an enormous pussycat spreading the legs of a partially clad Lilliputian woman who appears to be performing fellatio on an elf. Lurid, transgressive, and ultimately melancholic, these paintings are suffused with eroticism, enticing viewers with the promise of childish fancy, only to invert that expectation with an exhibition of complicated sexuality. Also showing: A show of small-scale works by 40 of Philip Slein's favorite talents. Through May 3 at Philip Slein Gallery, 1319 Washington Avenue; 314-621-4634 (www.philipsleingallery.com). Hours: 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Tue.-Sat.

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.

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.).

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