Dexter Sinister For the Contemporary's Front Room series, New York-based creative think-tank/design team/on-demand small publisher Dexter Sinister (a character-revolving collective headed by designers and educators David Reinfurt and Stuart Bailey) installs a small visual essay about thinking and communication. Through a careful selection of appropriated, manipulated and reprinted ephemera that appear in the form of pages from a book, the installation presents a fragmented personal history of collaborative thought that suggests a longer exegesis, possibly an audience-participatory one, possibly an endless, utopian one à la Diderot. A testament to the powers of narrative and close reading, the show suggests how one version of a story can render it philosophical and another, in a different vocabulary, a futuristic fiction or something pathological (a fine distinction, indeed). Despite its literary façade, the work stands as an elegant visual manifestation of the mode of thinking involved in the making of art: rich with inquiry, allegory and open-ended digression. Through January 18 at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis; 3750 Washington Boulevard; 314-535-4660 (www.contemporarystl.org). Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sat. (open till 8 p.m. Thu.), 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sun.
Ongoing Carmon Colangelo: From Big Bang to Big Melt The best end-of-world theories are compiled and impressionistically realized in this show of repetitively processed, large-format screen prints. Webs, grids, bursts and other universal abstractions undergird more personal imagery — totem animals, favorite art historical samples, salient phrases — all of which appear in the color range of neon viewed by daylight. The riot of topicality-meets-whimsy reaches its apex in the series titled Mondrian Skies; in these roiling two-tone cloudscapes framed in primary-colored ledger lines, the accretive froth of compositional and conceptual excess crests into something weirdly luminous. Also showing:Sandra Marchewa: Work; Kathryn Neale: Recent Paintings; Eleanor Dubinsky: New Videos. Through January 17 at Bruno David Gallery, 3721 Washington Boulevard; 314-531-3030 or www.brunodavidgallery.com. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Wed.-Sat. and by appointment.
PREVIEW Fresh Paint Site-specific yet ephemeral, transgressive yet democratic, anonymous yet self-branding — graffiti poses one of the better contemporary-art conundrums, as it almost wholly defies institutional discourse. St. Louis graphic and print artist Kevin McCoy organizes five "street-inspired" artists — Brooklyn, James Gates, Shadzilla, Vito and McCoy himself — to wrestle with the influence of this essentially untamable medium and produce new, gallery-fit art with the hope of broadening this group's appeal and the context and scope of how their work is appreciated. (There's even a website: www.stoopidfresh.com.) Through January 31 at Fort Gondo Compound for the Arts, 3151 Cherokee Street; 314-772-3628 (www.fortgondo.com). Hours: by appointment.
PREVIEW Houska: Hi-DefSpringfield, Illinois, transplant Charles Houska — whose popular brand of flamboyantly sunny "art for everyday life" has decorated everything from credit cards and vodka ads to children's-hospital doors and animal-shelter walls — temporarily abandoned the product line for the studio to create this show of new acrylic-on-canvas paintings. While Houska's coloring-book world of wide-eyed fish, rainbowed landscapes and ubiquitous smiles may appear like the work of an agendaless Keith Haring, there's something possibly radical in such blind optimism and heedless populism. Through February 21 at phd gallery, 2300 Cherokee Street; 314-664-6644 (www.phdstl.com). Hours: noon-4 p.m. Thu.-Sun.