St. Louis Art Capsules

Jessica Baran encapsulates the St. Louis arts scene

Newly Reviewed
Holiness: In 3 Parts Reviewed in this issue.

Ongoing
Anne Appleby These paintings and printed works make a close study of the memory of nature, distilled here in a luminous inventory of saturated natural hues. Appleby crafts her oil and wax pieces in a studio on a mountaintop in Montana, where previously observed landscapes — trees leafing out in the Catskills, for instance — are remembered by their colors only and painted in dense layers on wood or canvas. The artist's most recent work, which consists of a series of prints made locally at Wildwood Press, is born of a similar process: The colors of a sweet pea plant or a mulberry tree imbue squares of loosely hanging handmade paper. A sheet of maize appears subtly shot through with a deep red or green — revealed in the paper's thinner spots or at the frayed layers of its deckled edge, which expose bright underpainting and a second layer of printed paper. The effect is contemplative and precisely restrained and speaks to an essence that can only be generated by patient and rigorous toil. Through October 10 at Schmidt Contemporary Art, 615 North Grand Boulevard; 314-575-2648 or www.schmidtcontemporaryart.com. Hours: noon-5 p.m. Wed.-Fri., 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sat.

Exposure 12: Implied Narratives: Paintings by Jamie Adams, Bill Kreplin and Kit Keith For this year's installment of the annual "Exposure" series, which typically highlights new and notable St. Louis-area artists, curator Terry Suhre selected three mid-career painters to display their current work. The resulting exhibition is a mature exploration of figuration and personal narratives, as channeled through familiar pop-cultural tropes. Jamie Adams merges Mannerism with French New Wave cinema in a series of complexly composed black-and-white paintings that fetishize Godard's coolly tragic Breathless star, Jean Seberg. Bill Kreplin reinvokes prototypical McCarthy-era suburbia embroiled in suggestively code-deviant scenarios in line drawings with sparing decorative patterns and brush-painted color. Kit Keith paints and repaints a round, dark-haired female face over maps, a page from a petty-cash log and other found antique ephemera in a way that suggests that even the subtlest side glances and twists of mouth are betraying. While each artist is making a project of playing with iconic sources and their respective freight of associations, the exhibit is refreshing for its skilled directness, appealing to our most fundamental ways of discerning meaning in one another: through stories, facial expressions, the movements of the body. Also showing: In a new gallery devoted to video art, the piece Phosphorescence, by Oakland-based artist Anthony Discenza, turns televisual images into lilting ambient abstractions. Through October 10 at Gallery 210, Telecommunity Center, University of Missouri-St. Louis, 1 University Boulevard (at Natural Bridge Road); 314-516-5976 or www.umsl.edu/~gallery. Gallery hours: 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sat.

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 www.pulitzerarts.org. Hours: noon-5 p.m. Wed., 10 a.m.-5 p.m. 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.

Singing the Body Electric The title is borrowed from Walt Whitman's exuberant celebration of the body and health, but the show, comprising works by three area artists, is more conceptually akin to Susan Sontag's Illness as Metaphor or Thomas Mann's Magic Mountain. The works explore disease as an allegory for societal ills as well as for the process of art-making (which often takes place in its own version of quarantine). Lindsay Obermeyer renders pink and blue pathogens from shimmering sequins and beads that populate a gallery wall. Julia Wilkey stitches over steel trays, IV bags and other hospital artifacts with red thread. Julia Karll twists torn pieces of the daily news into long, thick strands, then bundles them in a massive knot. There is a sense in these pieces of time anxiously passing while monumental events — inside the body, out in the world — continue to transpire beyond our control. And yet the fact that these artists have created something out of this notion of impotence amounts to a form of productivity — curator Sarah Colby characterizes it as "minumental" — that celebrates merely being here. Through October 11 at the Regional Arts Commission, 6128 Delmar Boulevard; 314-863-5811 or www.art-stl.com. Hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Fri., noon-5 p.m. Sat.-Sun.

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