St. Louis Art Capsules

Jessica Baran encapsulates the St Louis arts scene

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 October 3 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.

migration (empire) — linear version Oil derricks, factories and other industrial sites are glimpsed through the windows of roadside hotel rooms, where lone specimens of American wildlife — a horse, an owl, a buffalo, among others — have been bewilderingly displaced. This non-narrative 2008 film by renowned multimedia artist Doug Aitken depicts a country claimed by humans but populated only by animals, who confront weird televised analogues of themselves and all the unnatural comforts of beds, lamps and running faucets with wide, glossy eyes. Aitken's previous projects have included Electric Earth, a multiscreen video installation that garnered highest honors at the 1999 Venice Biennale, and 2007's Sleepwalkers, a series of film vignettes featuring a host of contemporary celebrities that was projected on the exterior of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. His expertise with Hollywood production values and work that communicates on a blockbuster scale makes migration (empire) mesmerizing not merely for its content, but also for its ability to speak to a broad audience. Through September 7 at the Saint Louis Art Museum in Forest Park, 1 Fine Arts Drive; 314-721-0072 or Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sun. (10 a.m.-9 p.m. Fri.)

Ann Coddington Rast: endless sky These woven sculptures have a way with shadows, casting compellingly weblike mirrors of themselves over the unoccupied walls of the Sheldon's Bellwether Gallery. In an exhibit devoted to all things unabated and skyward, these pieces seem to relish restrictions, capitalizing on the problems posed by constructed space and the scrupulous craft of basketry. The black-painted willow branches of dark clouds encroach on the viewer in amorphous, truncated shapes that hang from the ceiling and cut through the gallery space with almost architectural physicality. The ephemeral shiver of white goose down in a feather cloud is metallically framed by the silver straight pins that anchor the piece to the wall. In this show, the Champaign, Illinois-based artist nimbly extracts a diverse set of abstractions from traditional and finite techniques, deftly steering the viewer through and around the porous, draping and nebulously looming objects. Through August 22 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.

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.

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 Hours: 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Wed.-Sun.

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