St. Louis Art Capsules

Jessica Baran encapsulates the St. Louis arts scene

 Newly Reviewed
Jill Downen: Hard Hat Optional Reviewed in this issue.

Relation-Chute: Meditations on My Slaughter In this exhibit/sociological experiment, Asma Kazmi uses the slaughter of animals as an allegory for the broader pantheon of cruelty. Kazmi created an online database detailing in photos and written reflections her training in a method of slaughter prescribed by Islamic law, then invited visitors to respond to the material. The result consists mainly of wall-mounted texts and video of first-person reflections. While the show aims to lessen the distance between real-time occurrences and post-facto documents by creating a new experience altogether (i.e., that of viewing the show), it struggles to be more than a thorough research project. A palpable aesthetic sense — beyond narrative, research, TV monitor and laptop screen — seems to have been lost in the translation, and consequently the violence never escapes the realm of heady abstraction. Through May 16 at Boots Contemporary Art Space, 2307 Cherokee Street; 314-772-2668 or Hours: noon-5 p.m. Wed. and Sat.

American Interiors: Photographs by David R. Hanlon These oblique photographs of unpopulated interiors capture the peculiar poetics of immemorial interior spaces occupied by the spirit of waiting rooms during off-hours. Hotel lobbies, hotel rooms, conference quarters and assorted landings — while each space is viewed as though through a peripheral glance, the photographs themselves are pieces of meticulous and exquisite craft. The series forms an observational catalogue of mass-fabricated materials — Roll-A-Tex, doily-patterned bed shams, paisley wallpaper trim and matching wall-to-wall carpet — forlorn in its lack of history. Yet each discrete image suggests vague cinematic potential — as though some daily but resonant drama just occurred or is about to, illuminated by office-grade fluorescence or the sober light of day. Through May 23 at the Sheldon Art Galleries, 3648 Washington Boulevard; 314-533-9900 or Hours: noon-8 p.m. Tue., noon-5 p.m. Wed.-Fri., 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sat.

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. Through May 23 at Gallery 210, TeleCommunity Center, University of Missouri-St. Louis, 1 University Drive (at Natural Bridge Road); 314-516-5976 or Hours: 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sat.

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 Hours: noon-5 p.m. Wed., 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sat.

In the Tradition Drawing on the printmaking medium's master-and-apprentice roots, this group show of assorted printed matter features work by several pairings of students and their respective instructors. From handmade books to prints on handmade paper, a lineage of traditional mastery of craft emerges — and is also evidence of an ethos to challenge both the craft's limitations and each artist's self-styled approach. Deviance, here, comes in the form of playful anti-traditional tacks: Sheri Rieth's bright and massive Styrofoam relief prints were run over by a car rather than a press and printed on paper salvaged from Hallmark's trash; Katherine Rhodes Fields' printed variations on a fried-chicken theme involve several air-sickness bags bearing the fowl's image and filled with its bones. While the show generally has a facile, lyrical elegance — Joshua Monroe's gold-leafed etchings being a highlight — its experiments in material wit decisively transform certain items. (Barf bags will forever reek of new potential.) Through May 2 at Good Citizen Gallery, 2247 Gravois Avenue; 314-348-4587 or Hours: noon-5 p.m. Wed., Fri., Sat. and by appointment.

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