St. Louis Art Capsules

Jessica Baran encapsulates the St. Louis art scene

 Newly Reviewed
Dry Bones and Other Parables from the North 2010 Whitney Biennial participant Theaster Gates presents a series of paintings inspired by the Book of Ezekiel and St. Louis’ north-side neighborhood of Hyde Park. Organized in conjunction with the Pulitzer Foundation’s current exhibition and curated by Juan William Chavez, the project involved a collaboration with students from Holy Trinity Catholic School and Succeeding with Reading by ACCESS Academies. The long, rectangular works, executed in gold leaf and acrylic on found wood, appear like primitive illustrations of the contemporary housing crisis, imbuing decaying brownstones and other urban artifacts with biblical attributes — and, perhaps, the hope of revival. Paired with the works is a walking tour of Hyde Park, complete with imaginative plans for revitalizating the area. Thrones made of discarded wood siding and other housing refuse punctuate the gallery spaces, acting as both an invitation to the viewer to engage in activism and a memorial to the neglected communities to which their constituent parts once belonged. Through June 5 at Bruno David Gallery, 3721 Washington Boulevard; 314-531-3030 or Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Wed.-Sat., noon-5 p.m. on the first Sun. of every month and by appointment.

Marks of Absence Curated by Marie Heilich, this three-person, two-venue exhibition presents another group of recent Santo Foundation grant recipients. At Good Citizen, Caleb Cole's photographic series Other People's Clothes depicts the artist in outfits and environments borrowed from friends, acquaintances and strangers. Cole appears in ill-fitting suits: in an empty parking garage; cross-legged and wearing duct-taped high heels in a cramped automobile; staring blankly from behind the desk of a veterinarian's office. His "drag" performance is of the most nuanced variety — no makeup or wigs; he embodies his adopted personas through the slightest of gestures, a mutably gendered Buster Keaton armed with sidelong glances, parted lips, subtly betraying props. At Fort Gondo Lily Cox-Richard's plaster sculptures resembling small, draped obelisks stagger the gallery amid Lori Larusso's shaped acrylic paintings of stark suburban interiors. In both exhibits the viewer apprehends the notion of absence as a motif in the form of unrequited empathy: Larusso's lobster boiling, menacingly unattended, in an empty kitchen, Cox-Richard's sculptures reticent under their shrouds. The same, in a way, goes for the owners of Cole's costumes and reconstituted personas, casually leading their lives out of the picture — if they even exist. Through June 6. Fort Gondo Compound for the Arts, 3151 Cherokee Street; 314-772-3628 or; hours by appointment. Good Citizen Gallery, 2247 Gravois Avenue; 314-348-4587 or; hours: noon-5 p.m. Fri.-Sat. and by appointment.

Barry Leibman: Mahler Suite This exhibit of collaged paintings by artist and former Left Bank Books co-owner Barry Leibman uses Mahler's final Ninth Symphony as its point of reflection. The musical piece, which straddled romanticism and the atonality of the burgeoning modern movement, is a study of a spirit divided. Similarly, Leibman's work seems at once to memorialize life's discarded ephemera — from swatches of floral fabric, prayer shawls, color samples and x-rays — and to underscore its temporality and potential to be lost. The work, in its piled, geometric textures, enacts this continual pendulum swing, mirroring the emotive arcs of Mahler's mercurial work in artwork distilled to its black-and-white essence. Through May 29 at the Sheldon Art Galleries, 3648 Washington Boulevard; 314-533-9900 or Hours: noon-8 p.m. Tue., noon-5 p.m. Wed.-Fri., 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sat.

Cause + Time Minimalist in design, maximalist in content, this group exhibition explores the intersection of art and technology through work that records, transforms or reacts to the onslaught of the information age. Eric Souther's Digital Mandala is a stark black-and-white projection of densely intersecting lines; their ultimate, circular shape and accretive tangle are the result of informational excess, which elicits each projected mark as well as the buzzing din of half-mechanized sounds that permeate the exhibition space. Arnold Wedemeyer's two video "still lifes" — glacially slow time-lapse depictions of nearly mundane space — eerily capture the most subtle and suggestively digital changes in real objects over time. Andrew Cozzens' "growth" sculptures include a kind of canvas sling, through the bottom of which a ridge of wheatgrass sprouts; the grass will eventually turn toward the gallery's minimal light source — and, ultimately, die from lack of light. A work by David Bowen tracks the growth of an onion plant through a mechanized rendering device usually used for collecting scientific data. Another Souther work creates an abstracted visual space via search-engine data for the word "chair." Both nature and computer-driven science are marveled at here for their capacity to manipulate or be manipulated — a kind of aesthetic being found in the function of data collection or, even more simply, the mere compulsion to collect it. Through June 26 at the Luminary Center for the Arts, 4900 Reber Place; 314-807-5984 or Hours: noon-6 p.m. Wed.-Sat.

Clint Baclawski/Caleb Taylor: Recent Works This luminous two-person exhibit of Santo Foundation grant winners, curated by Ashley Kopp, distills the forms, colors and motifs of advertising into an abstract language. Taylor's gouaches on paper obscure bright swaths of yellow, red and blue that resemble tangled flags hidden beneath the white of overcast skies. Baclawski's large-scale photographic light boxes are staggered on the gallery floor in a staccato maze of handsomely slick obstructions; the double-sided, mirrored scenes they portray are whitewashed by fluorescent light that gleams within, dimming and then intensifying the cold tones depicted: ski slope, urban winter, antiseptic gymnasium. Each locale is punctuated with consumerism — bag-toting crowds, national or corporate flags, the ubiquitous print of a corporate logo — the bold, primary palette of which finds an elegant analogue in Taylor's painterly works. At night the exhibit throbs with the after-hours glow of a commercial storefront, promising something unquantifiable to passers-by. Also showing: Neither Night and Day; Gabriel Slavitt's installation — prismatic painted pyramids, ceramic dishware, a chart of local birds, a video of daily commuting — sees a kind of ceremonial rite in the movement and signs of the everyday. Through June 6 at Snowflake/Citystock, 3156 Cherokee Street; Hours: 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Sat.

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