St. Louis Art Capsules

Jessica Baran encapsulates the St. Louis art scene

Not Coming Home Playing the role of the trickster — or, in this case, summoning his memory of being (briefly) a child runaway — local artist Jon Cournoyer crafts an exhibit that unfolds like an illustrated fable of youthful self-exploration. In expertly composed collages, prints and mixed-media assemblages, Cournoyer presents a chronicle of revelatory bewilderment in psychedelic-patterned paper swatches, faded flour sacks, bingo pieces and cross-country commuter train schedules — the collision of chance and planning. The artist statement that accompanies the exhibit informs that the summer of '69 was one of leaving the Midwestern nest for the wilds of the West Coast, where anarchic theatrical troupes and other fringe collectives briefly brought Cournoyer under their wing. He depicts this bohemian epoch as a starry heaven full of whirl-a-gig astronomy unfettered by the familiar star patterns. A delicate gold stitch follows these swirling lines, as a kind of honorific nod to the artist's enthrallment with nostalgia; significant keepsakes — an arrowhead, a velvet-lined glasses case, a bell jar in which turned cabinet knobs form a tiny fantastical skyline — affixed to the pieces serve as similar memorials. While an illustrative finesse keeps everything in storybook order, the frayed edges of the found materials fondly anchor the work in marginality and what would be conventionally perceived as trash. Through October 30 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.

Smarter/Faster/Higher A clutch of wire-woven human forms crawl, run and gaze at their own images displayed on video screens in Elizabeth Keithline's site-specific installation. Wire-formed trees sprout from the hexagonal white tiles that carpet the areas on which the figural armatures pose. It's a skeletal world of reductive shapes and symbolic forms, suggesting a kind of Darwinian attrition from wildlife and infancy to the technocratic and ostensibly "adult." In this case maturity equals self-reflection, which is either an act of heightened consciousness or narcissism. Either way, whatever these characters discern in themselves must be yet one more reduction of humanity, like the hollow and de-gendered objects they are, despite their finely knotted nuance. Which is to say that this is one direly cynical diorama, lovingly handcrafted. Through January 16, 2011, at the Craft Alliance Gallery (Grand Center), 501 North Grand Boulevard; 314-534-7528 or www.craftalliance.org. Hours: noon-6 p.m. Wed.-Sat., noon-5 p.m. Sun.

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