St. Louis Art Capsules

Jessica Baran encapsulates the St. Louis arts scene

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.

Holiness: In 3 Parts Stripped-down building forms — a wooden post-and-lintel entryway, a wood-beam pillar — sparely articulate the gallery space and courtyard in this solo exhibition by Theaster Gates. The materials, culled from the Chicago-based artist's back yard, possess the worn patina of abandoned urban structures familiar to city-dwelling St. Louisans: scaled in peeling paint, riddled with nails, weather-abused. Reclaiming fragmented parts of spaces now occupied by the African American community, Gates reconfigures them in a way that instills a sense of deep history and sacred purpose. A shoe shiner's seat becomes a throne, a porch staircase morphs into a pulpit. A video splicing together footage of the longest-running shoeshine business in Chicago with sequences of Gates at work making art underscores the continuum being suggested here — between art and civility, rhythm and method — and behind it all the sound of monks chanting. The opening-night performance involved a progressive series of installments by an improv poet, a local gospel choir and Gates' band, the Black Monks of the Mississippi — each executing their part expertly and exuberantly through every way of intoning, "Let it shine." This is an exhibit of dense and resonant complexity conveyed with the barest of means, like a single note sung in chorus. Through October 16 at Boots Contemporary Art Space, 2307 Cherokee Street; 314-773-2281 or www.bootsart.com. Hours: noon-5 p.m. Wed. and Sat. and by appointment.

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.

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