St. Louis Art Capsules

Jessica Baran encapsulates the St. Louis art scene

 American Framing In the three photographic series that make up Jessika Miekeley's first solo exhibition in St. Louis, images appear less as landscapes, portraits or objects captured than as subtle evocations of ideas and the emotive mind. In Jacket various coats — made of fur, quilted cotton, bright red wool — are pictured in empty repose on a chair and assume qualities of the body without a body to fill them. In American Framing an imposing male figure, his back turned to the viewer, contemplates assorted nightscapes, but neither the specifics of his character nor the peculiar import of the vaguely suburban and industrial scenery are the points of focus. Rather, this work has a wholly conceptual presence, wherein the slightest misalignments of folded cloth, torn fur or night's saturated darkness describe nuances of absence, isolation and the unutterable vicissitudes of thought. Here, in these crisp and mysterious images, objects or scenes are recognizable not by their common name and purpose, but by the ineffable messages they imply. Through January 9, 2010, at the Sheldon Art Galleries, 3648 Washington Boulevard; 314-533-9900 or www.thesheldon.org. Hours: noon-8 p.m. Tue., noon-5 p.m. Wed.-Fri., 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sat.

Asma Kazmi This collection of photographs and videos by local artist Asma Kazmi provides a provocative glimpse into the unwitting art of certain indigent and impaired New Delhi city dwellers. Makeshift prostheses and other supportive devices, cobbled together from found materials, are shot by Kazmi as independent objects against a stark white backdrop and, as such, appear as both the ingenious products of necessity and sculptures with Duchampian and Surrealist sensibilities. The gaze is earnestly reverent: A rickshaw-like wheelchair made of old bicycle parts or a lower leg with a laced leather shoe for a foot is presented as a work of art rather than a mere curiosity. The accompanying videos — which feature the implements' owners — also make integrity of vision, rather than the oddity of affliction, their focus. It's a fine line to tread between aestheticization and objectification — and this exhibit seems to handle this challenge with tenderness and respect. Through December 18 at Webster University's Cecille R. Hunt Gallery, 8342 Big Bend Boulevard, Webster Groves; 314-968-7171 (www.websterhuntgallery.blogspot.com). Hours: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Mon.-Sat. and by appointment.

Chance Aesthetics A seeming paradox — codifying the unpredictable — this selective but comprehensive exhibit focuses primarily on Modernist creative experiments that privileged chance over deliberation and makes a persuasive argument for certain aesthetic similarities in such exercises. Beyond the inimitable work of Marcel Duchamp, highlights include Ray Johnson's twine-and-brown-bag bundles of envelopes, their contents intended for infinite reconfiguration and distribution. The moldering and molding "drawings" by Dieter Roth use bagged and smeared perishables that yield dry humor and a weird, debased beauty. The collages of colored scrap paper and automatic ink drawings by Ellsworth Kelly may be the artist's best work for their searching intimacy and organic possibility. And Robert Motherwell's Lyric Suite — a grid of automatically rendered ink-on-paper drawings — breathes with a nimbleness similar to Kelly's paper experiments. Tending toward the small and ephemeral, the works here slyly suggest that great contemporary art isn't mere fortuitous accident, after all. Carefully and articulately curated by Meredith Malone. Through January 4, 2010, at the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Forsyth and Skinker boulevards (on the campus of Washington University); 314-935-4523 or www.kemperartmuseum.wustl.edu. Hours: 11 a.m.-6 p.m. daily (closed Tue., open till 8 p.m. Fri.).

Chris Kahler: Hybrid Dynamic Working at the unlikely intersection of tie-dye and TV static, painter Chris Kahler produces large-scale pieces that alternately buzz and wilt at the phosphorescent end of the abstract spectrum. Fields of organic tones saturate the image surface with the plotless design of an accidental inkdrop, while neon-hued grids meticulously weave through the looser marks with confident, if mysterious, purpose. Nature and technology blithely intertwine here in high resolution, making for a vivid platform upon which to project your favorite oppositional tension. Also showing: Heather Woofter & Sung Ho Kim: Per.For.Mance, a small survey of proposals for architectural surfaces that activate existing spaces with contemporary media and a fresh invitation for pedestrian interaction. Through January 9, 2010, at Bruno David Gallery, 3721 Washington Boulevard; 314-531-3030 or www.brunodavidgallery.com. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Wed.-Sat. and by appointment.

Urban Alchemy/Gordon Matta-Clark The late New York-area artist who used entire blighted buildings as his sculptural material could not have found a more apt (temporary) home. The architectural stock Matta-Clark repurposed finds innumerable analogues beyond the Pulitzer's walls; each instance serves as a brief visual lesson in the aesthetics of simple dwelling spaces. Like archaeological strata, the layers of linoleum, plaster, wood beams, shingles, wallpaper and paint attest to the intricacy of the quotidian and the accretive elegance of all things driven by necessity. The message seems to be: Look closely and let nothing be taken for granted. Beyond the diffusions of daylight so scrupulously choreographed by the museum's celebrated architecture, siting this survey in St. Louis does a service to both artist and city. Matta-Clark was an innovator in the synthesis of architecture, activism and art — a catalyst of exactly the sort this town could use. Through June 5, 2010, 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.-4 p.m. Sat.

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