St. Louis Art Capsules

Malcolm Gay encapsulates the St. Louis art scene

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 or www.pulitzerarts.org. Hours: noon-5 p.m. Wed., 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sat.

Hello Masterpiece Like some garden gnome swiped from Ladue and taken on a whirlwind European tour, Hello Kitty seems to be everywhere in this exhibit of postcard-size paintings by Leslie Holt. But unlike a gnome-napper whose abductees turn up in snapshots beside the Eiffel Tower or Buckingham Palace, Holt interpolates Hello Kitty into miniature reproductions of some of the most iconic images in the history of Western art. Here Kitty nabs Heraclitus' seat in Raphael's School of Athens. There she's standing en pointe in Degas' Dance Class. It's a clever little show that's a mash-up of highbrow and popular culture and that directs our attention, yet again, toward the idea of art as a commodity. The operative word here, though, is little: At four by six inches apiece, Holt's paintings refuse to take themselves too seriously. Through June 21 at phd Gallery, 2300 Cherokee Street; 314-664-6644 or www.phdstl.com. Hours: noon-4 p.m. Thu.-Sun.

John David Corson’s color photograph  Donya is on display as part of FastX2 at White Flage Projects.
John David Corson’s color photograph Donya is on display as part of FastX2 at White Flage Projects.

Journeys Traveling in the United States, Europe and North Africa, for most of his life St. Louisan Peter Shank has been interpreting his journeys in oil paint. The title, then, of his current exhibition, which draws on more than four decades of painting experience, is fitting. Spanning from his days as a student at Yale to a stint in Paris and the Arab-dominated regions of North Africa, Shank's paintings show a remarkable consistency of technique. Consistency, however, does not translate into uniformity. Many of the paintings are reminiscent of the pre-surrealist painter Georgio de Chirico, incorporating such disparate images as a fish over a house topped by a mountain range. Many incorporate collage, while still others present simplified landscapes or nude portraits. Shank's range as an artist is hardly surprising. As the son of modernist architect Isadore Shank and famed illustrator Ilse Shank, he's one of three brothers, all of whom are artists. What is surprising is the scope of the show (more than 40 works) and the unmistakable impression it gives that an artist's vision, no matter the time and place, can remain intact while, simultaneously, it matures. Through June 20 at the Millstone Gallery at COCA, 524 Trinity Avenue, University City; 314-725-6555 or www.cocastl.org. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Fri., noon-5 p.m. Sat.-Sun.

Quilts in a Material World: Selections from the Winterthur Collection Yes, bedding. But these quilts, dating from the 1700s to 1850 and on loan from Delaware's Winterthur Museum & Country Estate, are historical artifacts. They are examples of the materials and technologies that were available to their makers and bear witness to the evolving cultural lives of women. One 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 or www.slam.org. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sun. (10 a.m.-9 p.m. Fri.).

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