St. Louis Art Capsules

Jessica Baran encapsulates the St. Louis arts scene

Newly Reviewed
Kit Keith: Present to Past Reviewed in this issue.

Waves and Rococo As the exhibition title foretells, these abstract paintings by St. Louis-based artist Jerald Ieans are curvaceous, elaborate and decorative. The show is a study of a single, undulating, bell-curvish form — centrally placed and pressed inside the canvas edges above several layers of similar, echoing forms. Each layer is a shade of a single hue, precisely masked off in rigorously regulated brush strokes, the rough drag of which crosshatches in opposing directions and creates a subtly tactile, intricate and textile-like surface. Hung in pairs, the floral-colored pieces suggest a desire for tension: a piece in midnight shades plays against one in earth tones. But chromatic tension isn't enough; as the pairings imply, something with more depth is needed here — flamboyant excess, revelatory flaw, more elusive or aggressive formalism — to match the work's executional intensity and challenge its cool ornamentality. Through July 4 at Hoffman LaChance Contemporary, 2713 Sutton Boulevard, Maplewood; 314-960-5322 or www.hoffmanlachancefineart.com. Hours: 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Wed.-Fri., noon-5 p.m. Sat and by appointment.

Ongoing
Chantal Akerman: Moving Through Time and Space An explicit treatment of film as art, this survey of two decades' worth of the Belgian documentarian's work distills the medium to two essential parts: narration and gaze. Projected and screened in truncated swatches in a dark warren of loosely partitioned spaces, Akerman's work appears as a menagerie of endless highways, anonymous passersby and the overlapping cadences of the cigarette-ravaged voiceover of the filmmaker herself. Because two of her films explore canonically familiar American subjects — the culture of the Deep South and the Mexican immigrant experience — the issue of otherness, or how someone else's perspective can transform the well known, becomes saliently relevant. How much, actually, is different when seeing the familiar through another's eyes? Complementing Akerman's work is British artist Carey Young's Speech Acts, a series of pieces capitalizing on the creative potential of call centers, telephone operators and that disembodied voice at the end of a long line that calmly leads you through the nebulous airspace of critical questions and their ostensibly revelatory answers. It's an attractive form that suggests perhaps all of us have a need for the ritual of bureaucratic help — as a kind of general panacea, with nothing actually resulting from its use. Through August 2 at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, 3750 Washington Boulevard; 314-535-4660 or www.contemporarystl.org. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Wed.-Sat., 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sun.

Christopher Orr & J. Parker Valentine & Rezi van Lankveld This trio (from London, New York and Amsterdam, respectively) proposes its solutions to the problems of abstraction and novelty in the painting tradition. Orr, whose small canvases possess the shadowed, sepia patina of Dutch Old Master paintings, is figural in his depictions, though utterly elusive in his content. Valentine makes chaotic charcoal marks and pink blush rubbings and assembles the pieces to create jagged lean-to structures that rise to a mere fraction of the human scale. Van Lankveld is thoroughly abstract in imagery, filling a moderate-size board with matte, gray-scale, marbleized paint, but suggestively depictive in spirit: The piece is entitled Listen. The artists couldn't be treating their projects with any more dense a sense of history, seriousness and importance, which makes their work both highly portentous and highly cerebral. Through June 28 at the Front Room of the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, 3750 Washington Boulevard; 314-535-4660 or www.contemporarystl.org. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Wed.-Sat., 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sun.

Currents 103: Claudia Schmacke Time is rendered physical in this site-specific installation, Time Reel. Schmacke, a Berlin-based artist who was this year's Henry L. and Natalie E. Freund fellow at Washington University's School of Art, has threaded clear plastic tubing in a neat line through the gallery wall. Behind the wall, a pump throbs, pushing green water through the long-looped tubes, which subtly flinch with the water's pressure on the gallery floor. It's an eerie motion, like that of something being resuscitated or still twitching, post-mortem. While the piece, at face value, leans toward mad-scientist spectacle, with an agenda as familiar as a pop song, its dead animism thrusts it somewhere more disconcerting — into the realm of institutional critique. The tubes' fading life throes seem to suggest that all things current, strange and elusive must struggle to retain their spirit amid static and vivisecting overdetermination. Through July 5 at the Saint Louis Art Museum, One Fine Arts Drive (in Forest Park); 314-721-0072 or www.slam.org. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sun. (10 a.m.-9 p.m. Fri.)

Marcel Duchamp: Chess Master This thorough and engaging re-examination of the father of conceptual art's sudden choice to resign from making art to become a full-time chess player sees Duchamp's ostensible career change as yet another brilliant creative maneuver. Duchamp, who was responsible for some of the most formidable innovations in twentieth-century art — most resonant, the idea that choice-making itself is an artistic act — found chess to be not only a universal language but the ultimate distillation of his fundamental interests: winning, losing and fastidious strategy. The exhibition presents ephemera and art related to the artist's late years as a chess champion, chess writer, chess correspondent and chess aesthetician (even the chessboard and pieces held particular interest for Duchamp and his like-minded contemporaries), the sum of which is an elegant argument for the game's expansive and allegorical merits, as well as the boundless intellectual agility of the ever-clever master himself. Through August 16 at the Saint Louis University Museum of Art, 3663 Lindell Boulevard; 314-977-2666 or www.sluma.slu.edu. Hours: 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Wed.-Sun.

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