St. Louis Art Capsules

Jessica Baran encapsulates the St. Louis art scene

Newly Reviewed
Featured Review: Grab grassy this moment your I's It is difficult to create a sense of cohesive inevitability from a music stand, fluorescent light, electrical cord and a metal can — and to make these materials convey sculptural and painterly sophistication. But such are the materials and their miraculous, galvanizing effect in artist Jessica Stockholder's pioneering craft, once again made startlingly apparent in this exhibit of recent work. Presaging the contemporary "unmonumental" aesthetic of repurposing disparate consumer materials to poetic ends, Stockholder has been mining this space between conceptual and traditional practices since the onset of her career, finding her forebears in Rauschenberg, Picasso and Judd. Each assemblage here creates a giddy, self-sufficient landscape complete with its own lighting scheme, its parameters dictated by the familiar living-room logic of a rug. While the elements included are discrete and stark (an orange extension cord that powers a neon light fixture dangles down and snakes into a wall socket), they combine to create an intractable whole — at once sculptural and painterly — in which a raw stroke of paint will move from the rug to an end table to the bulb of a lamp. It's a maniacally determined world of high-end formalism colliding with blue-light specials that, amid its cacophony of plastic, neon hues and shag, manages to communicate a clear, intuitive utterance not unlike the Dylan Thomas-like directive of the exhibition's title. Through May 29 at Laumeier Sculpture Park, 12580 Rott Road, Sunset Hills; 314-615-5278 or Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Fri., noon-5 p.m. Sat. and Sun. (outdoor grounds open daily from 8 a.m. to a half-hour past sunset).

Poems by Bobby Thiel In this elegant suite of collaborative works on paper by local artists Gina Alvarez and Jana Harper, a too-often-lost sense of innocent wonderment is harnessed and safe-kept in line, color and texture. Inspired by a child's notebook made in the 1940s by one of Alvarez's distant relatives, the artists used the titles of Thiel's poems to generate new imagery, combining their own photographs with found images, along with shapes and hues drawn from Japanese prints and Indian miniatures. Beginning with digital prints, they applied printmaking techniques and handwork to each unique piece, drawing, stitching and collaging elements into to the imagery. An aerial image of plotted land, as one would see from an airplane window, is punctuated by inset rhinestones, washing those squares of fields in emerald and yellow. The blurred impression of a figure behind a shower curtain turns spectral, with the dappled mist punched through with multicolored dots. A rain cloud hovering over a cityscape swirls with minute circular gestures, emitting a dotted-line rainfall, as a child would render it. Memory, here, is embodied in the impressionistic mark, amassing a gestural journal of days defined by changes of light, shifts in weather and all-but-ephemeral glimpses of the modestly sublime. Through Saturday June 4 at the Sheldon Art Galleries, 3648 Washington Boulevard; 314-533-9900 or Hours: noon-8 p.m. Tue., noon-5 p.m. Wed.-Fri., 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sat.

Brookhart Jonquil: Physical Spectrum A spare meditation on reflection and refraction, the first St. Louis show by Chicago-based artist Brookhart Jonquil exploits the fundamental properties of high '80s corporate-era materials — glass, metal and mirrors — for philosophic, pragmatic and contemporary effects. A full-length beveled vanity mirror is split in half and affixed to the edge where wall meets floor, appearing like a slumped figure or a perspective-altering portal. In Envelope a series of windows fan out to form a transparent partition; the pristine, off-the-Home-Depot-shelf items dimly reflecting fractured portions of the gallery space. Embedded into the opposite wall are letters created in cut mirror glass that spell out "AMBULANCE," arranged in reverse. It's as though artist Dan Graham re-imagined Charles Demuth's Modernist classic The Number Five in Gold, which rendered in paint William Carlos Williams' poem about a fire truck receding into distant streets of a city at night. In this updated version, the viewer is left to (literally) reflect on the spectacle of oneself in a state of emergency, rather than any particular sense of place or quality of mind — a revision that, however direly, very much speaks to the moment. Through March 12 at Los Caminos, 2649 Cherokee Street; Hours: by appointment.

Ryan Thayer: Timemachines
Ryan Thayer: Timemachines

Christina Shmigel: This City, Daily Rising A weathered wooden child's chair is stacked atop its twin, with two bright pink plastic bowls stacked on the top seat. In an adjacent vitrine sits a miniature version of this assemblage, the tiny pieces placed in the center of a bright orange square of velvet. Vacillating between the small human-scale and the impossibly small, this exhibit plots out a curious landscape of material correspondences — between the prefabricated and the hand-wrought, between massive and minute, and between the Eastern and Western ends of the cultural spectrum. In response to having lived for the past five years in Shanghai, artist Shmigel unpacks the commercial and tactile associations of the objects in this show and explores their capacity to become, literally, foreign. An intricate gridwork of scaffolding is wrought out of bright-painted bamboo; galvanized oilcans are equipped with dangling appendages of blue plastic tubing, calling to mind a sense of practical purpose no true function. Surveying the peculiar but ordinary materials, the viewer sees both a landscape of familiar objects made strange and a bright composition of shapes laid out like a traversable, albeit surreal, painting. Also showing — Shawn Burkard: Oranges/Megalithic is a large angular mound of several dozen neon-orange plastic shapes, letters from from an invented alphabet. The form has the classic dignity of, say, an obelisk, but its core appeal is elementally childlike: the most desirable pile of toys in sight. Through March 5 at Bruno David Gallery, 3721 Washington Boulevard; 314-531-3030 or Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Wed.-Sat., noon-5 p.m. on the first Sun. of every month and by appointment.

Next Page »