St. Louis Art Capsules

Jessica Baran encapsulates the St. Louis art scene

St. Louis Art Capsules

Newly Reviewed
Overpaper This selection of works on paper features both local and national artists, including Carmon Colangelo, Jill Downen, Ann Hamilton, Judy Pfaff and Buzz Spector. Hamilton's Carriage is a handcrafted version of the pleated seventeenth-century collar known as a ruff; in this version the frills are the product of fanned-out paperback pages, which have been diced into thin strands and rebound at the neckline. Knowledge, it's suggested, is an awkward freight, or a conspicuously outdated adornment. Jill Downen has translated her white-on-white plaster installations into elegant two-dimensional forms, where bright white paper subtly ripples with an undulating (and fleshlike) surface texture of white gypsum. Judy Pfaff's piece is "paper art" at its most opulent extreme: In a large wall-mounted shadow-box, silk flowers, paper boats, scraps of newspaper and other seeming detritus cluster to assemble a kind of faux terrarium, where the most unnatural elements play the role of nature at its most wild. Also showing: Leslie Laskey's Portraits: Artists and Friends, which reimagines the gallery's entry space as a lamp-lit reading room, in which drawn and painted portraits of the artist's favored forebears hang in gilt frames or lean in piled decorative arrangements. The effect is unapologetically nostalgic and, as such, charming — endorsing full throttle the romantic myth of the golden age of avant-garde "genius," from Picasso to Giacometti to Stein. Through January 15, 2011, at the Bruno David Gallery, 3721 Washington Boulevard; 314-531-3030 or www.brunodavidgallery.com. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Wed.-Sat., noon-5 p.m. on the first Sun. of every month and by appointment.

Featured Review: Remembering Teddy An intimate reflection on an important friendship, this collection of photographs, needlepoint, cards and assorted other artifacts fondly exchanged and saved between two people is not merely a homage to Carla "Teddy" Trova, who died in 2008, but to the creative dimension of gift-giving. Assembled by local gallerist Jim Schmidt, the work included pays tribute to the wife of the late artist Ernest Trova, whom Schmidt befriended in the late 1960s, when he was employed as the sculptor's assistant. Teddy (as she was known as) taught Schmidt the art of needlepoint, along with, it seems, the other arts of living — cooking, greeting-card making and unconditional encouragement. What emerges is a portrait of two previously unsung talents: Teddy, it is clear, was a gifted collagist, deploying film stock from her casual practice as a photographer as a core material; and Schmidt reveals himself to be an inspired needlepoint maker whose work is both abstract and illustrative (enlarging panels of Buster Brown comics, which he collected). One of the most moving elements of the exhibit is a room dedicated to Schmidt's black-and-white photographs, which he developed, affixed to matte board and assembled in a box as a gift for Teddy. The imagery is largely composed of portraits of his former high school students (Schmidt, a native East St. Louisan, was an English teacher there for five years) and is accompanied by song lyrics by Bob Dylan, Jim Croce and other '60s-era singer-songwriters. The radiance of these portraits is almost shocking — the young people shine with a modest joy for life that can only be captured unself-consciously, by a friend or peer. Their fundamental artlessness encapsulates the tenor of this unique and moving exhibition of all that is impossible to commodify. Through January 8, 2011, at PSTL Gallery, 3842 Washington Boulevard; 314-531-4304 or www.paceframing.com. Hours: 10:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sat.

Ongoing
A Day Like Any Other This mid-career survey by 42-year-old Brazilian artist Rivane Neuenschwander features a suite of works that function like trenchantly clever pop refrains. The media are wildly diverse — installations, video, drawing, painting — but the constant is a core engine of simple play. In Rain Rains, silver buckets filled with water hang from the ceiling, dripping into buckets placed below. Holes punched from the text of 1001 Arabian Nights are scattered on black pages of paper, creating constellations made to mark every day of the exhibition. A soap bubble is filmed as it eludes bare light bulbs, hallway corners and kitchen cabinets in an empty urban apartment, in a poetical homage to Roman Polanski's paranoiac 1976 film The Tenant. Viewers are invited to make an appointment with a police sketch artist to whom they can describe their first love and have that love rendered, in a piece after Samuel Beckett's early novella First Love. And in Involuntary Sculptures (Speech Acts), the twisted tin labels and paper straw wrappers wadded in the hands of nervous bar goers are displayed in white vitrines. Time, perception and the bare inevitability of gravity, weather and idle hands are the operable mechanics, here, creating an elegantly blithe portrait of the weighty elements that encumber us. Through January 10, 2011, at the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Forsyth and 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.).

Ahmet Ogut: Underestimated Zones Amsterdam-based Turkish artist Ahmet Ogut stages a number of interventions that blend political activism with Buster Keaton-esque slapstick, highlighting the too-fine distinction between absurdity and moral efficacy. In one series of photographs, the artist has hung a sign, guerrilla-style, in undisclosed but distinctly urban St. Louis locations. The sign reads: "Under 23 Hour Surveillance," the Orwellian aura of ubiquitous intrusion undermined by the potential for a random hour of unsupervised chaos. Elsewhere, a dual slide projection transforms two unsuspecting commuter cars into a taxi and a police vehicle, via awkward paper appliqués the artist affixes surreptitiously. In spliced-together videos, Ogut reconfigures a sign that says "Amsterdam" so that it reads "Dreams," "Desert" and "Damned"; human figures slither through the life-size letters in a manner that suggests animals, or pestilence. And in a notable real-time infiltration, Ogut has paved one of Laumeier's galleries in fresh asphalt. The resurfaced space is as succinct in effect as it is multivalent: appearing like an urban spoof of Walter De Maria's "Earth Rooms," the black granulated material glimmers like spilled precious stones and exudes a distinctly pungent scent that, to the modern senses, is as redolent as seasonal flowers. Also showing: Things We Count, a short dream-like film that pans through a boneyard of defunct WWII aircraft in the Arizona desert: The abandoned fighter planes look harrowingly gorgeous, like a collection of ominous antiques. Through January 9, 2011, at Laumeier Sculpture Park, 12580 Rott Road, Sunset Hills; 314-615-5278 or www.laumeier .org. Fall-winter hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Wed.-Fri., noon-5 p.m. Sat.-Sun. (Outdoor grounds open daily from 8 a.m. to a half-hour past sunset.)

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