St. Louis Art Capsules

Jessica Baran encapsulates the St. Louis art scene

Brandon Anschultz: Stick Around for Joy Compulsive exercises in the deconstruction of painting yield new forms of painterly pleasure in this year's Kranzberg exhibition, which features St. Louis-based painter, sculptor and printmaker Brandon Anschultz. Canvas is removed from the stretcher frame and wrapped into amorphous, folded sculptures; wall-hung canvases are flipped, revealing seeped-through imprints of paint; canvas is forgone altogether and replaced with fiberboard or plaster as the painting substrate, which then occasionally takes a sculptural shape; canvas is chewed into or severed in half by saw cuts. In the supreme act of creative desperation, piles of paintings on wood appear in a life-size bag after having been fed through a wood chipper. In challenging every method for taking apart and re-inventing the traditional parameters of painting, Anschultz illustrates both a capricious compendium of the medium's history and the peculiar plight of the artist at odds with his own expertise. An intense desire to unearth something both fundamental and fresh seems to lie at the heart of this exhibition. Whether that desire is fulfilled is not entirely the issue; rather, the rigorous and playful spirit that pervades the exhibit is its most rare discovery — and one made solely on the work's own terms. Through September 26 at Laumeier Sculpture Park, 12580 Rott Road, Sunset Hills; 314-821-1209 or www.laumeier.com. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sat., noon-5 p.m. Sun. (Outdoor grounds open daily from 8 a.m. to a half-hour past sunset).

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.

Jay Wolke: Architecture of Resignation While traveling through the southern Italian region of Mezzogiorno, Chicago-based photographer Jay Wolke documented the incongruous encroachment of contemporary architecture (often in decay) on the elegant ruins and natural landscape of this historic countryside. A crumbling terracotta brick structure is punched through and re-settled into with a teal mattress and a nest of fast-food paper waste; a cliffside of cascading villas is overlooked by what appears to be a spankin'-new restaurant terrace outfitted with white plastic porch furniture; a lush botanical garden is edged by the garden's offices, the exteriors of which are girded by a hedgerow of electrical power sources, each sporting the company logo. The inelegance of the modern era's material culture (predominantly an American export) is made plain in these images by its harsh juxtaposition with the earthen stock of ancient structures. In a previous series, Wolke juxtaposed the congested Dan Ryan Expressway with its Chicago environs; the current project is a compelling analogue, only with a wider historical gap between its polar elements. Through September 4 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.

Killbox This sculptural installation by local artist and Washington University sculpture instructor Noah Kirby uses the eponymous military strategy to engage the gallery space and dictate form. The strategy, invented by the United States in the 1980s and first used a decade later in the Gulf War, is a way of gridding targeted areas to plan for their optimal occupation by armed troops. Removed from its military function, the Kill Box can also serve as a way for any entity to optimally occupy a given space, which is how Kirby deploys it here. The central welded-steel form — an abstracted variation of a small, five-man squad — has the disconcerting dual presence of both an arresting art form and an entity poised for aggression, wherein you (the viewer) are the target. The planar, faceted form rests against a cut vinyl wall mural, which appears to be at once a reflection of the central sculpture and a disorienting variety of camouflage. The cool, blue-black palette, vinyl sheen and brushed-metal surfaces all put one in the absolute mind of viewing art. And yet the undercurrent of tactical maneuvering offsets the conventional experience with an art object. It's a compelling tension — and refreshingly nebulous, as politically charged work too often fails to be. Through August 28 at Good Citizen Gallery, 2247 Gravois Avenue; 314-348-4587 or www.goodcitizenstl.com. Hours: noon-5 p.m. Fri.-Sat. and by appointment.

Marshall Plan: The Intra European Poster Competition of 1950 This artfully weathered collection of mid-century posters — the product of a juried contest held by the Intra-European Cooperation for a Better Standard of Living — displays the winning designs from participating European countries. The spare imagery in flag-bright colors tells multiple stories — of hardened hope in the wake of World War II devastation; of renewed faith in industry; and of an almost pragmatic faith in diplomacy and peace — that appear not as farfetched ideals but as necessary solutions. An enormous key drawn in hard lines bears an edge painted in interconnected global flags; barbed wire is cut by similarly globe-regaled shears. Smokestacks and brick patterns appear as decorative motifs, as elegantly portentous as branches of budding white flowers or firmly clasped interlocking hands. The collection, on loan from Joe and Vicki Stone of Foristell, Missouri, is a small gem of a certain kind of design, informed as much by the spare aesthetics of the era as by the imagery determined by momentous history. Whatever vestige of propaganda is displayed here, it seems not only warranted but far beyond the superficial flourishes, shallow styles and commodity-driven intentions of our current saturation in the glossily virtual and the ideologically anchor-less. Also showing: Regarding Place, a group exhibition of area art juried by Jana Harper, which includes work in a wide range of media that explores the notion of place. Highlights include pencil drawings of daily receipts by Joseph Lupo, charcoal and ink drawings by Mary Lamboly, paintings of domestic interiors by John Sarra, light drawings (photographs) by John Early and a video of passing traffic, distilled to a wash of colored lights, by Felicia Chen. Through August 20 at the St. Louis Artists' Guild and Galleries, 2 Oak Knoll Park, Clayton; 314-727-6266 or www.stlouisartistsguild.org. Hours: noon-4 p.m. Tue.-Sun.

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