St. Louis Art Capsules

Jessica Baran encapsulates the St. Louis art scene

Newly Reviewed
Featured Review: Great Rivers Biennial A consciousness of art's ability to speak to issues beyond itself pervades this triptych of large-scale installations by the three recipients of this coveted regional honor. In Martin Brief's Amazon God, scrolls depicting what appear to be EKG or seismography charts betray, upon closer inspection, meticulous handwritten lists of books culled from an Amazon.com title search for the word "God." The lists run the gamut of categories, from Religion to Fiction to Food: "God" proves to be ubiquitous, elusive and highly marketable. Sarah Frost's Arsenal is a cascade of firearms, crafted out of white paper, that dangle from transparent strands and look alternately like an onslaught of bones and a static snowfall. The guns were constructed from instructional videos made by children and uploaded onto YouTube, revealing a peculiar community that has an eerily playful (and sophisticated) notion of firearm mechanics. Cameron Fuller's From the Collection of the Institute for the Perpetuation of Imaginal Processes is a world unto itself, a pastiche of modes of museum display and a homage to creativity: A diorama of taxidermied wildlife moves between environmental realism and theatrical camp; vitrines of cardboard masks are interspersed amid a sepia-toned video of a dancing bear, a salon-style display of mid-century photographs of disasters and a bright carnival trailer that imbues the entire work with hints of hucksterism. All three artists have moved beyond physical aesthetics to the realm of social commentary and the use of art to explore and expose cultural sub-currents. Through August 8 at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, 3750 Washington Boulevard; 314-535-4660 or www.contemporarystl.org. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Wed.-Sat., 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sun.

Vatican Splendors: A Journey Through Faith and Art This traveling exhibit of papal artifacts is a tour de force of high kitsch. Multimedia displays selectively detail the grandeur of the Catholic Church in a manner that alternately suspends and dismantles disbelief. Genuine items from the Vatican's collection are outnumbered by simulacra intended for spiritual transport, including a full-scale reproduction of Michelangelo's Pietà, a walk-through re-creation of the scaffolding used to paint the Sistine Chapel, a cast of Pope John Paul II's hand (which you can touch), a plaster cast of a fragment of the "red wall" from the sepulcher of St. Peter and innumerable digital reprints of immersive building environments, historic documents and artwork. There are moments of true beauty: fragments of Roman and Byzantine-era mosaics; two gold chalices and other papal liturgical items; a maddeningly intricate reliquary containing minuscule bodily fragments of Saints Peter, Paul and Anne; and Deposition in the Sepulcher, painted by the first art gossip, Giorgio Vasari. Strangest of all is the section devoted to global proselytizing; depictions of the conversion of non-Catholic cultures would seem to be something to shield one's eyes from. Suffice to say it's a trip, complete with gift shop. Through September 12 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.).

Ongoing
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 www.theluminaryarts.com. 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 passersby. 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; www.snowflakecitystock.com. Hours: 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Sat.

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