St. Louis Art Capsules

Jessica Baran encapsulates the St Louis arts scene

Material Studies For this group exhibition at Good Citizen Gallery, six area fiber artists will present work that defies the handmade, process-oriented tradition of their medium. In an effort to challenge traditional techniques to suit more contemporary approaches, the artists included will present work that blends fiber with new media, the scale and scope of installation and elements of performance. The ambition is to turn the familiarly everyday and homespun into something strange, if only because of its currency. Participating are Christine A. Holtz, Jessica Witte, Courtney Henson, Alicia Pigg, Jessica May and Erin K. Cork. September 4 (reception 6-10 p.m.) through September 26 at Good Citizen Gallery, 2247 Gravois Avenue; 314-348-4587 or Hours: noon-5 p.m. Wed., Fri. and Sat., and by appointment.

Selections from the Gallery September has arrived — meaning, among myriad other things, that the new exhibition year has begun. To mark the occasion, phd Gallery highlights some of the work by a dozen-plus artists that's been on display since late August in a wide array of media (from painting to photography to sculpture) at its fall open house, which takes place on Saturday and Sunday, September 5 and 6 from noon till 5 p.m. at phd Gallery on Cherokee Street's antique row. Local artists will predominate; among others, the lineup includes Joe Chesla, David R. Hanlon, Charles Houska, Leslie Holt and Mark Weber. Not only can you admire re-creations of Old Master paintings invaded by Hello Kitty and hammered metal icons engraved with desperate pleas to God to reverse the artist's homosexuality, but refreshments will be amply served! The group exhibit will be on view through September 19 at phd Gallery, 2300 Cherokee Street; 314-664-6644 or Hours: noon-4 p.m. Thu.-Sun.

Ansel Adams in Yosemite Ansel Adams' photographs of Yosemite National Park long ago became the ubiquitous stuff of classic Americana — appearing so commonly on greeting cards, posters, postage stamps and calendars that it seems strange to encounter them in an art museum. Collectively, Adams' depictions of the American West became the icon for our notion of Mighty Wilderness around the time that Hollywood generated a similar myth via the Western. Reality, in short, is not often memorable. Looking at Adams' work as art takes a little effort, peeling back the layers of their less-sublime resemblance to cheap reproductions — or, perhaps more sublimely, to languorous landscape pans in John Ford films. But make the investment and you'll be rewarded: The real work holds up. You have to peer deeply into these pieces — as though through Adams' camera lens itself — framing minute-seeming valleys of trees, dwarfed beneath massive cloud-covered mountains. In the low light of the museum, the experience of looking at these images compels an almost voyeuristic awe at all things natural — that these exquisitely perfect photographs are, possibly, some of the closest things to nature we can readily know. Through September 20 at the Saint Louis Art Museum, 1 Fine Arts Drive (in Forest Park); 314-721-0072 or Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sun. (open till 9 p.m. Fri.).

Mary Lee Bendolph, Gee's Bend Quilts, and Beyond The singularly beautiful quilts from Gee's Bend, a small African-American community in Alabama, has traveled to major museums across the United States for the past several years, garnering accolades as well as controversy regarding the possible exploitation of the self-taught artists it features. Politics and media aside, it's a show worth viewing on the merits of the work included. The quilts made by the women of Gee's Bend, in nearly unwavering tradition for over a century, are pieces of honest beauty and startling modernity — resembling hard-edged abstract paintings or midcentury design. Whether it's legitimate to liken the work to canonical twentieth-century art is too heady a question for the quilts' elemental appeal. From blocky, patched-together swatches of used corduroy and denim, eccentric compositions of vivid colors emerge, creating bold tableaux. The exhibit also includes prints made from the quilted patterns and sculptures by two notable "outsider" artists from the region, Thornton Dial and Lonnie Holley, who were introduced to the quilters and created artworks that celebrated their dialogue and shared cultural history. Through September 13 at the Missouri History Museum, Lindell Boulevard and DeBaliviere Avenue; 314-746-4599 or Hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. daily (open till 8 p.m. Tue.).

A fiber piece on display at Good Citizen Gallery.
Christine A. Holtz
A fiber piece on display at Good Citizen Gallery.

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; 314-615-5278 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).

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