St. Louis Art Capsules

Jessica Baran encapsulates the St. Louis art scene

Newly Reviewed
Interface This survey of projects created at Amanda Verbeck's shop, Pele Prints, explores the dialogue between an artist's approach to printmaking and his or her studio practice, with an emphasis on the importance of collaboration in the process. A selection of studio work from each participant is juxtaposed next to pieces they produced at Pele; a text accompanies each suite and reflects on the experience they had with Verbeck and the connections they draw between their solitary and collaborative processes. Beyond the dialogic aspects, the exhibition presents an impressively rich body of work by artists who complement one another's aesthetics: The dense strata of Lora Fosberg's intricately introspective word-based work speaks to Gina Alvarez's intricate collection of marks, material nuances and fibrous effusions; Laura Berman's spectrum of organically shaped saturated hues speaks to Brandon Anschultz's formal abstractions, equally saturated with dense chromatic fields. And an impulse toward patterns emerges between Alicia LaChance and Grant W. Miller, whose works indebt themselves to the flatness of print-generated image making. Through April 25 at the Millstone Gallery at COCA, 524 Trinity Avenue, University City; 314-725-6555 or www.cocastl.org. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Fri., noon-5 p.m. Sat.-Sun.

Solberg/Cruzen Recent Washington University MFA grads Dan Solberg and Jake Cruzen inaugurate their new gallery space with new work that strives to deny all traditional forms of aesthetic gratification. Cruzen's bleach-on-raw-linen triptychs and diptychs erase what would have been the picture plane for mimetic rendering, forcing the viewer to focus on the ravaged materiality of the non-paintings and their eroded and stained surfaces. Solberg's large-format digital photos position you as a kind of fastidious voyeur of banality: a red-painted French door looks out onto porch-lit potted ferns, the pictures cut out at the edges to resemble the lunette shape of binocular lenses. The repeated imagery of both artists' work — for all of its denial of literal content, figure, depth of field and aesthetic pleasure — evokes a kind of narrative (for Solberg, suburban entrapment; for Cruzen, economy and expressionism) but also accretes to a material and aesthetic lushness of its own. The linen fibers become tactile, the bleach stains abstract and emotive; and the windows onto nothingness, repetitively, read almost like a Robbe-Grillet novel, as if they're the site of a nearly imperceptible crime. Through March 20 at Craig Elmer Modern, 3194 South Grand Boulevard; 314-517-6150 or 636-368-7069. Hours: noon-4 Sat. and by appointment.

Trailways St. Louis-based photographer Barclay Hughes presents a two-part exhibit of old and new work that re-enacts the classic existential tale of isolated travelers contemplatively aware of their situational entrapment. In one half of the exhibition (the artist's 1999 master's thesis), commuting New Yorkers are caught in mid-stride; the images are taken at close range with an obtrusive traditional camera, but the subjects betray no indication they notice. In the second series, a truck stop serves as the setting for a mute nighttime narrative that calls to mind the 1940 Bogart noir They Drive by Night, updated for the 21st century. In their cinematic quality and method of digital composition, the recent work owes a significant debt to Gregory Crewdson, Hughes' mentor at Yale. There's a twist, though: A weathered and forlorn diner waitress is in fact a psychoanalyst; an equally timeworn truck driver is a lawyer. The undisclosed overlapping of these seemingly incommensurate worlds — the generalized and the private, the blue- and white-collar — adds a necessary friction to work that could otherwise disappear in its cool, facile referentiality. Through March 20 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.

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 or www.kemperartmuseum.wustl.edu. Hours: 11 a.m.-6 p.m. daily (closed Tue., open till 8 p.m. Fri.).

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). 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 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.

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