St. Louis Art Capsules

Jessica Baran encapsulates the St. Louis arts scene

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 re-imagines 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.

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. The violence never escapes the realm of heady abstraction. Through May 16 at Boots Contemporary Art Space, 2307 Cherokee Street; 314-773-2281 or www.bootsart.com. Hours: noon-5 p.m. Wed. and Sat.

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.

yield Curator Dana Turkovic sees the craft of weaving as an extended metaphor for formalist abstraction in this group show of paintings and painting-related work. In the thin gray lines of Hadi Tabatabai's Thread Paintings, Erik Spehn's large canvases of pale-hued and threaded canvas strips and Jim Isermann's tapestry of hand-loomed cotton, meticulous grids of interwoven materials form the imagery to be considered. The spare exhibit seems to ask that you literally yield to the work at hand and engage in a level of rigorous consideration that's commensurate with the procedural rigor it displays. A long braid of pastel-dyed rope hangs at the main space's far end, punctuating the grid-dominated pieces, while a video and sound piece, depicting the stop-animated foibles of black fabric strands, echoes in an adjoining gallery. These two explicitly crafty and playful pieces make a daring proposal for the otherwise rigidly austere show: that it's ultimately a human product, full of sentiment, trial and ritual error. Through May 9 at Schmidt Contemporary Art, 615 North Grand Boulevard; www.schmidtcontemporaryart.com or 314-575-2648. Hours: noon-5 p.m. Wed.-Fri., 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sat.

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