St. Louis Art Capsules

Jessica Baran encapsulates the St. Louis arts scene

 Newly Reviewed
Home from Work to Find Your Spaniel Turned Into a Wolf Reviewed in this issue.

Recycled Tendencies Everything remains to be reused, it seems, in this show surveying the myriad ways in which our daily detritus can experience a modestly dignified afterlife if hung on a wall or placed on a pedestal. The castle-like quarters of the St. Louis Artists' Guild make for an almost imperial framework for scraps of old cereal boxes turned into papier-mâché figures, shadow boxes crammed with what seems like several decades' worth of winnings from 25-cent toy machines and a disembodied Cabbage Patch doll head nested amid an assortment of discarded filigree — among many other curious assemblages. This juried exhibition of work by local artists of disparate passions and compulsions implicitly advocates a radical form of creative democracy wherein anything is a worthy contender for the title "art" if will and a little ingenuity are applied. Also showing: Greenspace, an outdoor exhibition; and Modern Rubbish, selected artworks by William Lobdell that use found objects to create representational paintings. Through September 4 at the St. Louis Artists' Guild and Galleries, 2 Oak Knoll Park, Clayton; 314-727-6266 ( Hours: noon-4 p.m. Tue.-Sun.

Bazuco The aftermath of this eponymous arts collective's one-night takeover of the gallery space is a media melee of burst-piñata pieces, band and art-collective paraphernalia, flags, videos and sound equipment at rest. The absence of Bazuco is palpable despite all the leftover promotional media, making the show a lawless display of aura, or the artist a kind of ever-elusive white rabbit, busily manufacturing the art of busyness offstage. The collective, which formed in Colombia in 2005, seeks to dismantle the dual scourges of capitalist consumerism and the futile war on drugs via the empty production of salable propaganda and the flagrant touting of the unabated illegal drug industry. Hence what one sees at the gallery is a video of the opening-night performance of Dead Druglords, a band, and its assorted mock-terrorist high jinks alongside the glorified relics of their commodification. The band — and collective — have long since left the building, and strangely, it's this sense of something one can never grasp that makes for the work's biggest draw. Through September 1 at Boots Contemporary Art Space, 2307 Cherokee Street; 314-773-2281 or Hours: noon-5 p.m. Wed. and Sat. and by appointment.

Built: Kranzberg Exhibition Series Six St. Louis-based artists — Mike Behle, Stan Chisholm, Sarah Frost, Craig Norton, Cameron Fuller and Sarah Paulsen — were chosen to transform the small rooms of Laumeier's gallery space into site-specific installations for this annual exhibition that usually focuses on the work of just one local sculptor. The decision to select artists whose work is not predominantly three-dimensional to expand their practices to fit installation art's all-consuming proportions, and thereby exemplify a current trend, is an interesting idea, if something of an assignment. The resulting work feels equal parts challenging and strained — that is, challenging for the artists to execute, no doubt, but an unnatural extension of their native impulses. Chisholm, Norton and Fuller/Paulsen, for instance, translate their distinct two-dimensional aesthetics in a way that comes across as somewhat stiffly set-like. Frost (who won a 2008 RFT MasterMind award) and Behle struggle to make their pieces cohere more naturally and transcend their disparate consumer materials. As a whole the show feels like a curious maze of backdrops to actions — particularly all the trials that go along with navigating, or in this case, building, unfamiliar territory. Through September 6 at Laumeier Sculpture Park, 12580 Rott Road, Sunset Hills; 314-821-1209 or 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).

Bruce Burton: Observation and Formulation St. Louis-based Bruce Burton transforms this small gallery into a contemporary Cabinet of Wonders, re-articulating the space with an eye equally attuned to contemporary materials and design as to natural oddities — an eye that, in turn, trains the viewer's eye to see subtle, unlikely relationships. Like the Renaissance Wunderkammer, Burton curates an environment where correlations between collected objects are unexpected and evocative rather than predictably serial: a square piece of copper echoes with a square piece of mirror; a pile of moldering orange peels wears a patina similar to a single rusted screw. While the space can be experienced as a whole installation, its scrupulously plotted elements function dually as individual art pieces, with respective names. This movement in and out of closely viewable detail makes for an experience of endless play and infinite and irreducible curiosity — the residue of which follows one out of the gallery and into the world, made suddenly rife with peculiar nuance. Through September 4 at PSTL Gallery at Pace Framing, 3842 Washington Boulevard; 314-531-4304 or Hours: 10:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sat.

Concurrent: Gina Alvarez, Melody Evans, Damia Smith This exhibition of work by Craft Alliance's inaugural group of artists-in-residence serves as an essay on craft's essence. Here craft-as-art means stripping away the traditional aspect of utility and focusing on the meticulous, serial acts that produce exponentially larger, and ultimately abstract, forms. Evans and Smith derive these small, repeated motifs from the microscopic natural world, and their pieces erupt on the gallery walls in clusters of polyps and creeping cells made of metal, clay and Plexiglas. Their works' nearly floral elegance slyly confuses its malignant origins. Alvarez's forms, on the other hand, are derived from craft itself — stitch lines, doily patterns, the single imprint of a dot. Summoning the French phenomenologist Gaston Bachelard, she states that her work is an extended act of exaggeration intended to both elicit and be a product of wonder. This perspective serves not only to articulate her work, but it is also a summary statement for the show and its survey of the cottage industry of awe. Through August 16 at the Craft Alliance Gallery (Grand Center), 501 North Grand Boulevard; 314-534-7528 or Hours: noon-6 p.m. Wed.-Sat., noon-5 p.m. Sun.

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