St. Louis Art Capsules

Jessica Baran encapsulates the St. Louis art scene

Newly Reviewed
Brutal Truths Printmaker Tom Huck plumbs the dark night of America's soul via his back-roads hometown of Potosi. Filtered through Huck's pitiless gaze, pregnant strippers hustle, marauding hillbillies heedlessly brutalize, elderly couples curl contentedly into bed with the bones of several generations of pet dogs and spiritual and moral bankruptcy resound as the implied favorite T-shirt slogan. This survey of 40-odd prints from the virtuosic woodcutter's major series remind us how low our friends and neighbors can go. And how persistent Huck's skills are: Nobody does vomit, cows' brains, monstrous lawn ornaments and the grotesqueries of the unbridled democratic appetite better. Through April 17 at the Saint Louis University Museum of Art, 3663 Lindell Boulevard; 314-977-2666 or www.slu.edu/x16374.xml. Hours: 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Wed.-Sun.

Thea Djordjadze & George Maciunas For this Front Room exhibition, co-curators Mel Trad and Mari Dumett couple George Maciunas, one of the founders of the mid-century art movement Fluxus, with Berlin-based contemporary artist Thea Djordjadze. Maciunas, who was primarily a graphic designer, is represented via artifacts posters and postage stamps, business cards and brief, atmospheric films tracing the lineage of a conceptual medium that blithely elided any false promise of providing logical meaning. Djordjadze, who constructed her piece during a brief residency in St. Louis, takes her title, His Vanity Requires No Response, from T.S. Eliot a dual homage to the birthplace of the poet and to the poetic in general. Gathering salvaged fragments swaths of carpet, a bent screen, a terracotta shard she arranges the discarded materials on the floor to form an assemblage that draws attention to the simple consequences of overlapping, proximity and the movement of the hand. Above the piece hangs a series of printed instructions Maciunas designed for installations by fellow Fluxus pioneer George Brecht. A kind of dialogue, like that between gravity and rain, emerges and proliferates here, yet manages never to conclude in a tidy summary rendering this exhibit an elegant testimony to the durable tradition of visual mystery. Through March 20 at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, 3750 Washington Boulevard; 314-535-4660 or www.contemporarystl.org. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Wed.-Sat., 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sun.

Ongoing
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; www.loscaminosart.com. Hours: by appointment.

Ghost: Elizabeth Peyton Like one of her closest forebears, Andy Warhol, Elizabeth Peyton made a name for herself as a noted barometer of ultra-contemporary culture painting diaphanous, unapologetically sentimental portraits of (in her case) '90s-era pop figures, from artists to musicians to gallerists and friends. Now Peyton serves as a marker of how rapidly trends age, and of the unforeseeable patina they acquire in the process. In this first museum survey of the artist's print-based work, Ghost casts Peyton in a slightly new light as an inheritor of the deeply historical tradition of portraiture. While depictions of Eminem and Julian Casablancas, to name two, locate the work in the timeline of hype, those of Robert Mapplethorpe and Georgia O'Keefe widen and deepen the range of Peyton's amorous gaze. The technique of printmaking seems to complement her craft, drawing out the delicacy of her brushwork while thanks to the medium's inherent reproductive element underscoring the more conceptual aspect of her practice as a meditation on fame. Mass-produced icons can be intimately reclaimed alongside personal heroes and dear friends. This may not be entirely new "news," but in the sky-blue galleries it inhabits, Peyton's work appears dreamily revelatory a timeless reflection on the past and the ghostlike traces culture leaves upon us. Through April 18 at the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Forsyth & 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.).

Brutal Truths Printmaker Tom Huck plumbs the dark night of America’s soul via his back-roads hometown of Potosi.
Brutal Truths Printmaker Tom Huck plumbs the dark night of America’s soul via his back-roads hometown of Potosi.

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 www.laumeier.org. 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).

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