St. Louis Art Capsules

Jessica Baran encapsulates the St. Louis art scene

Newly Reviewed
BIRDHOUSEINCATTREE During his recent winter residency at Boots Contemporary Art Space, German artist Wilhelm Neußer painted this suite of images, which explores the peculiarity of birdhouses, cat condos and other human dwelling spaces miniaturized for animals. The project furthers his interest in domestic architecture and its way of subtly dictating our interaction with the world — setting limits (walls), framing perspective (windows), organizing movement (the layout of interiors, the segregation of activities to discrete rooms). In these red-saturated canvases, the small lofted structures of, say, birdhouses, sit firmly in trees or pile up in a room, but just as resolutely dissolve into an ambiguous palimpsest of painted textures. A candy-striped lawn umbrella, a leafless branch — they read clearly at the same moment they slip fluidly into diamond patterns, arbitrary stripes or rough underlayers of red. The tension between a firm sense of place and dreamlike disorientation — where one's trust in space is always on the brink of being subverted — recalls de Chirico but with less illustrative symbolism. Rather, the logic of these images, despite their occasional structure, is purely painterly, portraying an abstraction of life, and an orderly strain in animal impulses. Through March 31, 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.

In the Manner of Smoke Tiny ceramic cashews, granola and raisins; a community bulletin billboard filled with flyers; a plug-in Zen water garden; canvas shoulder bag; piles of emptied Morningstar and WestSoy products — all the signs betray that a leftist/vegetarian/animal-rights activist was here in this wonderfully strange installation by Pittsburgh artist Jerstin Crosby. Coop/Co-op, a gritty, ad-hoc studio of sorts that dominates the gallery, houses these clever items that aptly slip between meticulous handicraft and punk irreverence; the "brick" walls of the space are a screen-printed texture, while a photograph pinned to the wall portrays the artist, covered in the brick print and squatting in front of a (real) brick façade. Then, of course, there's the video montage of a goth restaging of Seinfeld, in which the action revolves not around Upper West Side neuroses but rather the (perhaps equally absurd) hair-splitting of what comprises the truly politically correct. For all of the direct allusions, this is a highly atmospheric exhibit, which is what makes it so trenchantly intelligent: The humor is never mudslinging, the critique not prescriptive. This is the work of a sympathizer, recognizing, with wry affection, the oddity and illogic of beliefs. The artist's billboard sign, above the gallery, sums it up: "You Cannot Control What Is Wild." Through March 20 at Good Citizen Gallery, 2247 Gravois Avenue; 314-348-4587 or www.goodcitizenstl.com. Hours: noon-5 p.m. Fri.-Sat. and by appointment.

Ongoing
Allison Smith: Needlework Hand-sewn replicas of gas masks and other forms of head coverings worn in military, terrorist or personal crisis are photographed in disconcertingly straightforward and unsentimental images. The rough fabric textures and imprecise stitchwork — misaligned eyeholes, rendering mouths and head shapes amorphous — create a tension between the intimately handmade and brutally subjugating. Parachutes, printed with the images of masks, hover throughout the gallery with cloudlike buoyancy. They offset the stifling effect of the photographed objects and create yet another elegant disjunction — as though conflict can be lighter than air. Through April 19 at the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Forsyth & Skinker boulevards (on the campus of Washington University); 314-935-4523 (www.kemperartmuseum.wustl.edu). Hours: 11 a.m.-6 p.m. daily (closed Tue., open till 8 p.m. Fri.).

Buzz Spector: Shelf Life This select survey of eleven years' work by notable conceptual artist, writer and educator Buzz Spector is an abridged chronicle of a lifelong obsession with books and their elusive promise of conferring, to any willing reader, the dream of encyclopedic knowledge. Piles of books from the artist's capacious library are photographed in curated and sculpted groups: In Poiesis, the thin volumes that comprise poetry are stacked, with their spines obscured, into the loose shape of a chapel. Piles of canonical novels, pushed forward or receding out-of-focus according to preference, are stacked before Spector himself, suggesting his inclusion amid the tradition of grand personal narratives. In other works on paper, quotes by French theorists Roland Barthes or Guy Debord appear stitched in yarn in the kind of cursive or lowercase scrawl learned in elementary school. Does "high literature" need to be spelled out in the simplest of terms, and if so, to whom? Whether this work translates as playfully generous and illuminating or generalizing and self-reflexive may very well depend on the viewer. Through March 6 at Bruno David Gallery, 3721 Washington Boulevard; 314-531-3030 or www.brunodavidgallery.com. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Wed.-Sat., noon-5 p.m. on the first Sun. of every month and by appointment.

Fuzzy Logic A plush log fire, a patched-together picnic (ground, plaid blanket and foodstuffs all made of cloth), fuzzy Prozac pills, a cross-stitched portrait of a character from Freaks and Geeks — all of this and more make up this select survey of handicraft as fine art. Breaking down gender roles and other traditional associations with craft, curator Audrey Mast collected work by national artists that exploits the contradictions elicited when, say, a painterly gesture is woven or a sculpture is stuffed. Claes Oldenburg's '60s-era soft sculptures come to mind — not merely in their fabric-based dilapidation but also in their way of re-creating everyday items in new scales, materials and material behaviors. Here Oldenburg's playfully perverse way of reframing pop-cultural stock is freshened with contemporary referents and a closer focus on process. But the project remains essentially the same: making one wonder what a contemporary revival of craft and pop-art impulses means. Through March 13 at the Des Lee Gallery, 1627 Washington Avenue (University Lofts Building); 314-621-8735 or www.desleegallery.com. Hours: 1-6 p.m. Wed., Fri.-Sat.

1
 
2
 
3
 
All
 
Next Page »
 
My Voice Nation Help
0 comments
 
Loading...