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 Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sun. (10 a.m.-9 p.m. Fri.)

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 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.

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 Hours: 10:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sat.

Focus on Photography: Recent Acquisitions This exhibit of new additions to the Kemper's collection concisely and powerfully charts the development of photography from its early, documentary-inflected use to its transformation into a contemporary expressionistic medium. The sepia-toned historic portraits in Edward Curtis' North American Indian series presage the medium's impressionistic capacity, its subjects appearing less objectively culturally situated as romantically (and exotically) framed with a foreboding sense of nostalgia. A collection of 1970s and '80s-era Polaroids by Andy Warhol functions somewhat similarly: Lesser-known luminaries can be seen as instantaneously vulnerable and self-consciously postured. Christian Jankowski, who in 2005 photographed Washington University students at the annual campus poster sale, doubles this sense of photography's capacity to capture its own late-capitalist commodification as an image-making device. Artwork appears as both a witless and poised subject in Louise Lawler's Not Yet Titled (2004), wherein Gordon Matta-Clark's raw building fragment, Bingo, is institutionalized in the renovated galleries of New York's Museum of Modern Art. Finally, the photograph becomes an abstraction in itself in Wolfgang Tilman's Silver 71 (2008), ushering in an era in which photography is an artistic medium, nothing more and nothing less. Also showing: 2010 MFA Thesis Exhibition; this year's survey of graduate work includes notable pieces by John Early, Ryan Fabel, Joel Fullerton, Dani Kantrowitz and Mamie Korpela. Through July 26 at the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Forsyth & Skinker boulevards (on the campus of Washington University); 314-935-4523 or Hours: 11 a.m.-6 p.m. daily (closed Tue., open till 8 p.m. Fri.)

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.

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