St. Louis Art Capsules

Jessica Baran encapsulates the St. Louis art scene

 Newly Reviewed
Tom Friedman: REAM Noses, dates, dotted lines, the stars, sun, lollipops, and a vaguely copulating couple — the furious flotsam of all things daily and then some appear in thin black lines on a stark white background in this seemingly simple film loop, the latest installment of the New Media series. St. Louis-born Tom Friedman made 500 drawings on 500 pages of standard paper and animated the images in a 500-frame film sequence. Which is to say, a determined and meticulous order underscores disorder in this piece and as such reveals a brutally true portrait of the reasonably well-intended mind. The frenetic tumbleweed of lines — flying into concrete form and just as rapidly expiring in a knotted and confounding tangle — looks like any valiant attempt to make common sense: foiled by absurdity, carnality or just plain boredom. The linearity of time, mathematical rationale, lips, balloons, sex — whether you like it or not, it's all inextricably part of the same mix, Friedman seems to say. Through January 31, 2010, at the Saint Louis Art Museum, 1 Fine Arts Drive (in Forest Park); 314-721-0072 or www.slam.org. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sun. (10 a.m.-9 p.m. Fri.)

Pulled Reviewed in this issue.

Ongoing
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.

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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