St. Louis Art Capsules

Jessica Baran encapsulates the St. Louis art scene

Elad Lassry: Sum of Limited Views Israeli-born, Los Angeles-based artist Elad Lassry repurposes our collective sense of stock photography to bizarre and uncanny effect, creating still lifes and portraits that straddle popular advertising and surreal conceptualism. With their intimate, domestic scale, the pieces inhabit a snapshot realm even as they swerve away from the familiar. A series of open, pink lipsticks set on small green pedestals are presented against a green background within a green-painted frame. A well-groomed young man with a large white smile appears poised for product placement, but the image is double-exposed, giving him four eyes. The works appear simultaneously static and shaken — or on the verge of some subtle movement — an effect Lassry explores further in a series of sixteen-millimeter films. Also showing — Richard Artschwager: Hair A former furniture maker, Artschwager has employed rubberized horsehair of the type used in upholstery to create works that exist in a realm of inconclusiveness like that of Lassry's photos, where hard lines of exclamation points, thrones, tables and figural silhouettes blur in the frayed surface of their hirsute material. These pieces, made over the past three decades and rarely exhibited, expose a new dimension of this elusive artist's large and varied canon: an effort to soften the cerebral nature of the principal mid-century art movements. Through January 2, 2011, at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, 3750 Washington Boulevard; 314-535-4660 or www.contemporarystl.org. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sat., 11 a.m.- 4 p.m. Sun.

Infrastructure Reversing the everyday use of rebar, local sculptor Arny Nadler exposes the ribbed steel to exploit its formal potential. Strands of the metal are joined side by side and shaped into undulating, wave-like forms, producing work that is at once delicate, porous and weightily proletarian. Accompanying the Rebar Studies are upright, totemic sculptures made of concrete, beneath the surface of which rebar writhes and occasionally protrudes with stitch-like ridges. These works appear like cloaked figures, the surface texture of the concrete revealing all the imprints of plastic coverings and other molding devices, producing the vague appearance of wrinkled and lacerated skin. While these roughly elegant works proclaim a determined formalist agenda, they — like Nadler's other evocative sculpture series, Beacons — suggest strong narrative associations, from the bound body and oceanic waves to the decline of industry and disappearance of cottage-craft expertise. Through January 8, 2011, at Good Citizen Gallery, 2247 Gravois Avenue; 314-348-4587 or www.goodcitizenstl.com. Hours: noon-5 p.m. Fri.-Sat. and by appointment.

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.

Infrastructure at Good Citizen.
Infrastructure at Good Citizen.

Pae White: Dying Oak In this cosmos-like trip through the inner strata of an 800-year-old oak tree, Los Angeles-based Pae White creates a digital approximation of her dangling, delicately handmade mobiles and tapestries. White's work, which has previously focused on the details of traditional craft and the minutiae of nature, here takes on the medium of video with the same obsessive, patient eye. Each pixel in this animation appears, like White's mobiles, to dangle from invisible strands; the viewer is drawn in and through the impossible space of the tree's interior as though it were simultaneously solid and penetrable. Striking a mesmerizing balance between the urge to deeply and pragmatically study a subject and simply absorb the intangible qualities of its aesthetic presence, Dying Oak draws something tactile out of the virtual ether. Also showing — Portraits of Depression-era America This collection of photographs, predominantly drawn from Farm Security Administration commissions, is a frank testament to the art of directness, in which candid documents convey formalist sophistication and profound humanism — and exemplify one of the finest uses of federal funding. Through January 9 (Depression) and January 16 (Oak), 2011, 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.).

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