St. Louis Art Capsules

Jessica Baran encapsulates the St. Louis arts scene

Newly Reviewed

Louis Cameron: Heineken Reviewed in this issue.

Funhouse Inaugurating PSTL's new Washington Boulevard location is this show of point-and-shoot digital snapshots by local writer (and former RFT calendar editor) Byron Kerman. Focusing less on aesthetics than the camera's quick ability to compose, the images extract the comic and ironic from the otherwise mundane by framing instances of the material world inelegantly confronting its natural counterpart, and vice versa. A dislodged blue ceramic toilet sits on a manhole above a side-street gutter; a parched lawn is impaled with a green printed sign reading "JESUS"; a hand-scrawled sign reading "SOD" emerges from green sidewalk grass. It's ultimately a one-line perspective that would benefit from the immersive suggestion of its title: a gallery-turned-funhouse through the compulsive generation of hundreds of these images, whose yield is, then, a less precious and more dizzying and complex world-view. Through April 4 at PSTL Window Gallery at Pace Framing, 3842 Washington Boulevard; 314-531-4304 or www.paceframing.com. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sat.

Ongoing

As I Only Can...Belong In a collection of untitled installations, Southern Illinois University-Carbondale professor Alex Lopez creates intricate miniature landscapes that look like snapshots of childhood as glimpsed in dreams. Changes in scale inform each scene with a diffused sense of menace: In the spare gallery, lit dimly by blue neon lights, a projection of a full moon looms above a thicket of tiny water towers, which in turn loom over an even smaller watchman's double-wide trailer. In another area of the space, a swath of blue sky is projected onto a small square, behind which dangle two small swings. It's an alluring nighttime world of empty high school stadiums, the small distant throb of industrial red lights, two-lane roads and the murmur of insects. A large projected fire blazes occasionally in a far corner of the gallery space, providing a kind of cartoonish allusion to harm. As a strange marker of this work's success, the experience of leaving it is full of all the wistful disorientation of waking. Through March 20 at the Metropolitan Gallery, 2936 Locust Street; 314-535-6500. Hours: 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Wed.-Fri., and Saturday by appointment.

Tony Fitzpatrick: The City Etchings 1993-2003 This series of line renderings of imaginary cartoon icons haloed, Virgin of Guadalupe-style, in carnivalesque heaps of urban artifacts has the intimate, serial quality of daily entries in a notebook and the imagistic content of an illuminated manuscript drawn by a dime-store comic-book artist. With its raw emotional breadth, the work, which negotiates the passing of Fitzpatrick's father, defies this Chicago-born artist's tough-guy persona. The specter of Philip Guston looms large here, manifested in a spirit of wryly internalized loss, Piero della Francesca compositions, and the form of tragicomic characters like hooded Klansmen and blank De Chirico-esque faces. Fitzpatrick adds to this surreal cast with representative symbols of a personally fabled Chicagoland — teetering skyscrapers, water towers and tangles of train track — and that region's immigrant, working-class Catholicism and weather-worn survivalism. Hands clasped in prayer and wrapped in barbed wire float above a clip-art goose or a weeping robot against a shallow backdrop of iron bridges and piled brick. Despite the proliferation of imagistic references, the cumulative effect is honorific, nostalgic and ultimately Fitzpatrick's: a small riffraff world trying to hustle away the irrevocable with the eternal promise of art. Also showing: Bale Creek Allen: Selected Works from Empire, Tumbleweeds and Tire Treads, a complementary exhibition of gritty American detritus cast in bronze or gold and elevated to icon status. Through May 23 and March 21, respectively, at Gallery 210, TeleCommunity Center, University of Missouri-St. Louis, 1 University Boulevard (at Natural Bridge Road); 314-516-5976 or www.umsl.edu/~gallery. Hours: 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sat.

Good Friday The second of two group exhibitions celebrating the 15th anniversary of Saint Louis University's Museum of Contemporary Religious Art features work from the permanent collection that explores "the meaning of suffering, death, compassion, and unconditional love" through direct references to Jesus' last day. The show's explicit focus on the Christian tradition challenges the ecumenical spirit of the institution's identity as an interfaith repository, but one can also take the show as a point of departure for broader expression. It's a fine balance — the blend of faith-based inquiry and the secular standards of contemporary art. The show's strongest works mine this unusual context by being visually evocative, spiritually direct and singularly personal: Michael Tracy's monumental Triptych, 11, 12, 13, for instance, and Adrian Kellard's Lovers and Prayer of the Faithful in Ordinary Time. The latter, who died from AIDS in 1991, explores being a "gay man loved by god" in two eccentrically and emotionally wrought painted woodcarvings that move between the traditionally liturgical and explicitly kitsch in a delicate manner that only this space can entirely honor. Through April 26 at the Museum of Contemporary Religious Art, 3700 West Pine Mall Boulevard (on the Saint Louis University campus); 314-977-7170 or http://mocra.slu.edu. Hours: 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Tue.-Sun.

Ideal (Dis-) Placements: Old Masters at the Pulitzer This exhibition of canonical canvases of slain martyrs, pious virgins and other grand dilemmas borrowed from two encyclopedic museums and replaced in naturally lit contemporary galleries is a reaffirmation of the human scale. The minimalism of Tadao Ando's building design is diffused by ornate, gilt-framed compositions that date from the fourteenth to the eighteenth century, the two historical extremes meeting precisely at the fragile effects of daylight on the predominantly figural pieces. Contemplative and reverent, the show fulfills its premise so well that it seems capable of providing a discretely intimate experience for each and every viewer. Through June 20 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.

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