St. Louis Art Caps

Jessican Baran encapsulates the St. Louis art scene

Newly Reviewed
Mary Jo Bang: Until Was Mickey Mouse and his ragtag gang of dogs and ducks are the Everymen of poet and photographer Mary Jo Bang's debut exhibition of delicate collages. Angular swaths of truncated comic dialogue appear amid bits of leafy, illustrative foliage and Mickey in sweat-beaded exasperation, while Alice, of Lewis Carroll's surreal children's book, slyly intervenes. It's a world of pratfalls underpinned by the unsettlingly bizarre — more like Beckett than Walt Disney. Assembled with the same incisive precision as Bang's poems, these small works portray a pantheon of comic and vintage characters that slip in and out of their familiar roles. As one piece — entitled For Freud and foregrounding a medical dissection of the brain — suggests, here the seemingly innocent rustles with the darkly trenchant import of memory and dreams. Through November 6 at PSTL Gallery at Pace Framing, 3842 Washington Boulevard; 314-531-4304 or www.paceframing.com. Hours: 10:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sat.

Kit Keith: New and Used Discarded naval maps of the Bahamas, West Indies, Australia and other far-flung locales serve as the substrate for this new series of mixed-media works by local artist Kit Keith. On the maps' surface, the faces of black-haired women with lipsticked mouths appear in an odd blend of period vogue and frayed distress. Magazine images of birds or orange blossoms or Campbell's soup cans are cut with pinking shears into triangular shapes that crown the various portrait heads, asserting a kind of heroism to otherwise anonymous characters. A pink ribbon frames one piece, while a large, cutout "F-" is affixed to another. The formal expertise — grafted from sign painting to mid-century illustration to a well-mastered brand of aesthetics entirely Keith's own — does little to hold at bay a raw sense of the sincerely autobiographical in these works. No matter how many guises the portraits borrow and wear, a vulnerably complex persona is clearly and consistently betrayed. Through October 16 at William Shearburn Gallery, 4735 McPherson Avenue; 314-367-8020 or www.shearburngallery.com. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sat.

Featured Review: Mary Sprague: Rhinoceros! This gnarled and otherwise inelegant beast is rendered almost pyrotechnic in this exuberantly expressive series of drawings and paintings by local painter, printer and ceramicist Mary Sprague. With a palette reminiscent of the acid hues of Matta and a similar penchant for surreal abstraction, these pieces move in and out of their totem animal, becoming at once portraits of a vibrant state of being and compendiums of every nervous variety of gestural mark. A wry sense of absurdity underscores the work via titles such as Decorated Veteran, Out from the Spa and How Much Does a Rhino Charge. High art treads on hard ground here — where pure joy is experienced with abandon and a wise half-smirk. Through October 16 at Duane Reed Gallery, 4729 McPherson Avenue; 314-361-4100 or www.duanereedgallery.com. Hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tue.-Sat. and by appointment.

Ongoing
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).

Crossing Paths A swarm of yellow-bellied finches pursues two gray foxes; a hippo is strangled by a python; a herd of deer is beset by predatory orangutans; a flock of black falcons pluck up a pack of warthogs. Brian Depauli executes this suite of large-scale landscape paintings, in which unlikely animal pairings confront one another on an otherwise placid field, with the kind of awkward expertise borne of prolonged intimacy with one's subject. Minute blades of grass and tufts of coarse fur articulate a world that's implausible without being a caricature, and oddly naturalistic without being anthropological. Nor is there any sustained sense of allegory for these strange spates of aggression, though the blue sky and hazy horizon line — steadfastly consistent from scene to scene — suggest that the subjects are secondary to more portentous weather. Coupled with Depauli's paintings is a series of small collages by Bevin Early. Tiny pedestrians, fastidiously cut from '60s- and '70s-era National Geographics, appear in mute isolation on single cubes of wood. Cubes dot the wall in a line, staggered like poetic stanzas; some bear images, others are blank. At the end of the line, in a corner alcove, the figures give way to cutouts of dappled light, producing an effect not unlike turning a corner and being struck by blinding sun. Like Depauli's vanishing distances, these works seem to murmur something about an alternative realm where more elemental states of being hold dominion, waxing far larger than their common lot as dismissible minutiae. Also showing —Nicole Stevens: Swelter, an installation in which a block of burnt candy melts on a plinth, keeping pace with the radical summer heat and perspiring passersby. Through October 2 at Snowflake/City Stock, 3156 Cherokee Street; www.snowflakecitystock.com. Hours: 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Sat.

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