St. Louis Art Capsules

Jessica Baran encapsulates the St. Louis art scene

 Newly Reviewed

[Editor’s note: A correction ran concerning this paragraph; please see end of article.]

Erik Spehn: Tape Drawings Strips of masking tape used in the creation of this St. Louis-based painter's signature woven-pattern acrylics on canvas are reused in this series of small works on matte board. While calling these pieces "drawings" may imply that they're not as formidable as their painted counterparts, the exhibit proves otherwise. Arranged in chromatic groups, crosshatchings of red-, then maroon-, then blue-flecked strips appear to explore different approaches to pattern. Wide swaths of tape overlap in loose diffusions, while minute, finely cut pieces interweave in tight grids. As one moves through the gallery, the palette brightens, opening up to a full room of yellow- and golden-hued pieces that seem to be uttering among themselves a complicated language in lines, layers and other distinct and serial marks. Through September 18 at the Sheldon Art Galleries, 3648 Washington Boulevard; 314-533-9900 or www.thesheldon.org. Hours: noon-8 p.m. Tue., noon-5 p.m. Wed.-Fri., 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sat.

The Sleep of Reason Flocked black Victorian-patterned wallpaper consumes this otherwise sun-drenched space in a dreamlike, history-conflating installation by artist Christopher Burch. The wallpaper is affixed with brass upholstery pins in meticulous strips; on each wall hangs a silver service tray, its interior painted with three variations of grinning creatures whose long bodies are tied into knots. On the gallery floor, a morphology of black-painted empty bottles is gathered, some of them sprouting branchlike formations made of wrapped and knotted strips of upholstery fabric. The black holes of their empty mouths mirror the repetitive patterns on the walls. The title of the exhibit recalls Goya's eighteenth-century anti-rationalist etching, The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters. Monsters, indeed, seem to be just beneath the seams here — the leering, graphic tray images a cross between a Krazy Kat-era comic and the unsettling whimsy of Lewis Carroll. Where historic periods collide, high and low references do as well, as the refuse of intoxication commingles with the austere order of opulent interior décor. Through June 26 at Hoffman LaChance Contemporary, 2713 Sutton Boulevard, Maplewood; 314-960-5322 or www.hoffmanlachancefineart.com. Hours: noon-3 p.m. Fri.-Sat. and by appointment.

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.

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 19th-century cartes de visite (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.)

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

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