St. Louis Art Capsules

Jessica Baran encapsulates the St. Louis arts scene

In Sight: Selections from the Collection This is not your usual survey of canonical oldies from the gloves-only archive. Curator Kim Humphries' energetic curiosity breathes new life into this exhibition of rarely seen sculpture, video, printed ephemera and then some from Laumeier Sculpture Park's permanent collection. What's revealed is not merely the collection's impressive breadth — one example: Laumeier is home to the full six-edition set of William Copley's S.M.S. (Shit Must Stop) series of mini, handcrafted group shows distributed by mail in the 1960s — but its curators' acknowledgement of the presence of the comic and the bizarre in the ostensibly lofty "creative process." Highlights include the "sacrificial anode" that keeps Michael Heizer's Compression Line alive, a Wal-Mart receipt detailing the assorted materials purchased for a piece entitled White Flight, and Violent Incident — Man/Woman, a Bruce Nauman video wherein a prim dinner date almost instantaneously devolves from civility to hair-grabbing, ass-pinching and fork-stabbing. Through May 10 at Laumeier Sculpture Park, 12580 Rott Road, Sunset Hills; 314-821-1209 or www.laumeier.com. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Fri., noon-5 p.m. Sat.-Sun. (Outdoor grounds open daily from 8 a.m. to sunset.)

Locusts & Honey: New Work by Jennifer Angus In a kind of alchemical transformation, Wisconsin-based Angus pins locust, grasshopper, and other bewilderingly large and intricate insect specimens in floral, geometrical patterns on the walls of Craft Alliance's Grand Center gallery space to produce delicately beautiful wallpaper patterns. The effect is something aesthetically marvelous of the purely decorative variety — trumping all the more topical curiosities that the bugs, the process of their acquisition and application and the installation's biblical allusions, evoke. With the other domestic-decorative accents of early-20th-century dark-wood occasional tables, jewelry drawers and display vitrines punctuating the space, what remains is a work less about fear, plague and/or bounty than about the peculiar mystery that old Americana holds. Or, more simply, how certain rooms in a home seem to have a spirit and life of their own. Through May 17 at the Craft Alliance Gallery (Grand Center), 501 North Grand Boulevard; 314-534-7528 or www.craftalliance.org. Hours: noon-6 p.m. Wed.-Sat., noon-5 p.m. Sun.

Arny Nadler This exhibition of sketches and studies for the large-form sculpture series Beacons, which debuted this past fall at Philip Slein Gallery, reveals the material nuance and nearly domestic origins of these otherwise crude and imposing works. In their maquette state, the vessel forms of expertly welded steel resemble closed and unfillable vases, delicately painted a slate shade that appears half metallic and half earthen. The finished works, on the other hand, were larger than life and suggested a desire to endure hard weather, and possibly to serve as staunchly fortified refuges. To see the work in both scales underscores the way it reimagines the classic 20th-century dichotomy of the industrial behemoth versus the minutiae of the human hand. Through May 24 at the Millstone Gallery at the Center of Creative Arts, 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. or by appointment.

Relics of a Glorious Past: Imperial Russian Artifacts from the Collection of Dr. James F. Cooper This assemblage of orthodox icons and the daily stuff of royalty forms a two-part essay on lost cultural splendor and the bygone transcendent art object. Framed in gilt halos, pounded metal and semiprecious stones, the small tempera-on-wood devotional paintings exemplify an anonymous milieu in which studied replication was prized over innovation, and communion with the immaterial was the subject matter of choice. Similarly, the gold-rimmed teaspoons, military regalia and assorted decorative pieces from the show's secular portion involve such an engaged level of tactile detail that they could be considered devotionally crafted. The exhibit as a whole serves as a useful reference point for contemporary art's renewed interest in gold, which seems to signify a nostalgia for creative acts deemed sacred and authentic. Through December 20 at the Saint Louis University Museum of Art, 3663 Lindell Boulevard; 314-977-2666 or sluma.slu.edu. Hours: 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Wed.-Sun.

Eero Saarinen: Shaping the Future A traveling exhibition that comprehensively surveys the work of this key mid-century architect, best known — locally, at least — for the Gateway Arch. A Finnish immigrant, Saarinen came from a family of diverse architectural, artistic and decorative talent and imported this totalizing approach to his work, notably diverse in style and scope, which came to ultimately define the forward thrust of the Modernist American ethos. This show is abundantly informative; it successfully adds up to an advanced education in Saarinen, but also, with timely importance, Modernism — asking important questions of this highly contestable progressive spirit, whose lingering influence has been alternately that of hope disastrously dashed or freshly, if desperately, invoked. Through April 27 at the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Forsyth and Skinker boulevards (on the campus of Washington University); www.kemperartmuseum.wustl.edu or 314-935-4523. Hours: 11 a.m.-6 p.m. daily (closed Tue., open till 8 p.m. Fri.).

Paul Shank: Paintings and Works on Paper: 1964-2008 This St. Louis-based artist's retrospective appears like a survey of key period paintings from a distinct but elusive moment in aesthetic history, one that falls somewhere amid cubism, art deco, pop art and mid-century murals. It's an aesthetic that seems born of a fascination with definitive regional references — local architectural stock, particularly — and their art-historical counterparts. The resulting images of idiosyncratic complexity are best exemplified by Shank's figural works of the early '80s, in which the subject is often dead-center but seated amid piles of broken abstract forms and obscured facets of landscape, all the while staring stoically ahead into bright midday light. Through April 25 at Philip Slein Gallery, 1319 Washington Avenue; 314-621-4634 or www.philipsleingallery.com. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sat.

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