St. Louis Art Capsules

Jessica Baran encapsulates the St. Louis art scene

Currents 104: Bruce Yonemoto Recent Washington University Freund Fellow and notable LA-based multimedia and conceptual artist Bruce Yonemoto presents a new video piece and two suites of photographs that repossess history on behalf of the oppressed, villainized or deliberately omitted. The video, Before I Close My Eyes, re-creates a pivotal sequence in Igmar Bergman's 1966 film Persona, replacing the female protagonist with three different Southeast Asian males. In a stark room, the new protagonists confront a television screen that broadcasts iconic 1963 footage from Saigon, wherein a Buddhist monk self-immolates. In its mute contemplativeness, the brief looped sequence heightens the immediacy of the nearly 50-year-old scene. In one photographic series, Yonemoto re-imagines nineteenth-century carte de visites (an early form of popular portraiture) in full color, again with Southeast Asian men replacing American Civil War soldiers. And in the other photo set, Asian actors play lead roles in re-creations of portraits by Caravaggio. As it asserts the truth of alternative histories, the exhibition challenges and underscores the complicated subjectivity and visual rhetoric that belies "objective" documentary history. Through July 11 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.)

Eden Harris: Out of the Woods This delicate suite of works on paper focuses on the intricacy of leaf and floral growth and the natural geometry of the hornet's nest. Pieces of white paper are cut into porous, repetitive patterns and dangle on pins an inch from the wall, allowing the hand-tailored scrims to lightly shiver at the viewer's passing and cast a duplicate pattern in shadows on a blank sheet behind it. Other pieces are cut into hivelike shards, the removed hexagonal shapes smeared with a webbing of paper pulp and hung like a flat constellation of semi-abstract shapes; an enormous (and dormant) hornet's nest sits menacingly on a pedestal beneath them. The work vacillates between rawly tactile and severely pristine — a tension that reflects back on its natural source, which is as wild as it is algorithmic. A Theodore Roethke poem, "The Manifestation," prefaces the show; one line reads like a declaration of purpose for the elegantly simple work: "What does what it should do needs nothing more." Through June 5 at PSTL Gallery at Pace Framing, 3842 Washington Boulevard; 314-531-4304 or www.paceframing.com. Hours: 10:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sat.

Lee Friedlander These eight photographs, taken between 1962 and 2002, capture an America most alive when viewed askance. A main-street parade is a shop-window reflection, the shop's proprietor gazing sternly from the store's depopulated interior; a car's rear window reflects the length of street behind it, a parallel car in turn reflecting, in its tinted window, the height of buildings between which they pass. Pedestrians move unhurriedly past a World War I monument of a soldier crouching with a dead-aimed rifle; only a baby being pushed in a stroller looks over its shoulder, vaguely intimating caution. It's a silent, black-and-white world, documented so consistently over four decades that one wonders if there is, in fact, a distinct and consistent American character. If so, it's a solitary one — not of bombastic icons, but of peripheral uncanniness, available most to the passerby or the otherwise least expectant. Through May 30 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.).

Nothin' But the Blues: Art and Writing by Area Students A latticework of blue and rainbow-hued stripes rendered in wavering crayon lines; pencil sketches of Robert Johnson, Chuck Berry and Tina Turner in wild pencil lines; a blue steamboat on a sea of lips, eyes and blue trains — this collection of grade schoolers' artworks inspired by blues music is an oddly sophisticated and emotionally honest display. The Airport Elementary School students' homages are interspersed with their own blues lyrics, plainly and repeatedly lamenting "I cried and cried" or triumphantly asserting "Don't let nobody drag your spirit down" and "I am confident in myself." The simple-seeming sentiments ring of unaffected truth — wisdom, even — in equal measure to the awkward sincerity of the drawings and paintings, all of which appear to be excavated from bold inner sources of maturity. Viewed another way, though, such moments of poetic and visual invention are perhaps unattainable with the poise, self-consciousness and the wearied finesse of age. Through August 14 at the Sheldon Art Galleries, 3648 Washington Boulevard; 314-533-9900 or www.sheldonconcerthall.org. Hours: noon-8 p.m. Tue., noon-5 p.m. Wed.-Fri., 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sat.

St. Louis Point of View UMSL's Public Policy Research Center Photography Project enlisted local community groups to document neighborhoods in photos, focusing on historic preservation, adult/youth enrichment and community revitalization. Culled from six years' worth of photographs, the resulting exhibit is nothing short of astonishing. Melva Taylor's Untitled (It Looks Like New York) depicts an angular corridor between high-rise housing complexes in JeffVanDerLou. Preshis Mosley turns a dislodged water fountain in a forlorn park off North Skinker Boulevard into No Water at All (What We Don't Like). Tanya Long captures Granite City's neglected downtown reflected in wavering glass. In After Keita and Sidibe: Ralph Tyler, Jenele Brooks poses a youth in the manner of mid-century African studio photography. One unsigned work, a self-portrait, consists of an image of the photographer's sole possession: a corduroy jacket. Again and again the "amateur" eye strips an environment of the usual aesthetic appeals and distills it to crucial essentials and unexpected details. Through August 22 at the Missouri History Museum, 5700 Lindell Boulevard; 314-746-4599 or www.mohistory.org. Hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. daily (open till 8 p.m. Tue.).

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