St. Louis Art Capsules

Jessica Baran encapsulates the St. Louis art scene

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Return of the Outlaw (Printmakers) The beast is back, though with less roar and more, well, skilled craftsmanship. This group exhibit featuring printed work by Phyllis Bramson, Art Chantry, Don Colley, Bill Fick, Peregrine Honig, Tom Huck, John Jacobsmeyer, Michael Krueger, Tom Reed and Frank Stack rekindles a relationship with Philip Slein Gallery formed early in the space's history, with a few updates. A curious highlight: new member Jacobsmeyer's small, peephole-like etchings of pop characters (Star Trek's Mr. Spock, the robot from Metropolis), who spell out a line from James Dickey's poem "The Sheep Child" in sign language. Another striking change is the lack of palpable anarchism. Instead, the work looks lush, meticulous and collectively beautiful (perhaps in spite of itself). Bramson's diptych illustrating a dark, tilting world of glitter-frosted Christmas trees has all the charm of a vintage snow globe; and Stack's snapshot-like etchings of anonymous spots in Columbia, Missouri, recall Edward Hopper at his most starkly existential. In the back room, Tom Reed has crafted a mock mine shaft of a mini-exhibit wherein his jewel-like work resides, drawing you into its world of tree-stump interiors, miniature waterfalls below which sunken cabins pool and wood-bound journals full of pencil-sketched trees. Through April 30 at Philip Slein Gallery, 1319 Washington Avenue; 314-621-4634 or Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sat.

[F]utility Kitchen Austin-based printmaker Leslie Mutchler realizes the twin dreams of organized living and boutique organic farming, with a critical wink and cool commercial allure. Beneath grow lights suspended from the ceiling in the gallery's center, a custom-built system of trays holds handmade paper bowls from which lentil seeds delicately sprout. The bowls are laid out in a neat pattern, and the long white cords from the lights are braided to look like decorative macramé. Mutchler has wallpapered one gallery wall in a minimalist lentil-sprout motif and lined the adjacent walls with a series of fetishistic drawings depicting vases and other ceramic ware that range in brand quality from Ikea to, say, Moss. Though to the casual eye it looks to be a perfect realm of modular shelving and stackable containers, its conspicuous materialism — tempered by suggestions of DIY spirit and eco-friendliness — gives rise to unsettling intimations. Inspired by Marie Antoinette's faux farm, the Hameau de la Reine, where, on the grounds of Versailles, she'd play milkmaid to adopted animals using the finest grade of rococo dishware, Mutchler provides a modern-day Hameau: a sleek adult playpen where one's taste for good design and locally grown produce can be dually satisfied. At once a witty spoof and the product of a true believer, the show thoroughly plumbs the guilt-ridden psychological depths of "enlightened" consumerism. Through May 7 at Snowflake, 3156 Cherokee Street or Hours: 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Sat.

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 Hours: 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Wed.-Sun.

Do Ho Suh, Staircase ‑ Pulitzer Version, 2010. Polyester fabric and stainless steel rods, 246 3/8 x 247 9/16 x 246 inches
Do Ho Suh and Lehmann Maupin Gallery, New York.
Do Ho Suh, Staircase ‑ Pulitzer Version, 2010. Polyester fabric and stainless steel rods, 246 3/8 x 247 9/16 x 246 inches Do Ho Suh and Lehmann Maupin Gallery, New York.

Dreamscapes This exhibit subtly trains the viewer to navigate the Pulitzer's inimitable space as though it were an exquisite dream recalled. De Chirico's Transformed Dream sets the stage: a train in the painting's high horizon line directing one to unforeseeable locales. Nearby sits a piece by Janet Cardiff: a black rotary phone you pick up to hear the voice of the artist relaying her dreams. A golden, recumbent Brancusi head rests on a plinth, while at the gallery's far end, Magritte's Invisible World hints at a watery vista beyond its French doors and the imposing gray stone that blocks them. Here is where you reach the hinge in this surreal sonnet: Arriving at the Pulitzer's water court, you see Magritte's stone in solid form: Scott Burton's Rock Settee, which overlooks the narrow, placid reflecting pool and a swath of city beyond. Only now do you pause to consider the multitude of portentous cues inhabiting the masterworks curator Francesca Herndon-Consagra has assembled, transforming the museum into a dreamlike tableau vivant. Highlights include Do Ho Suh's diaphanous fabric staircase to nowhere, two late, dark paintings by Philip Guston, an early suite of Max Klinger's Glove etchings and the nebulous Wolfgang Tillmans forestscape that marks the dream's end. (A series of programs exploring the exhibition's theme will unfold through the spring and summer, on Saturdays at 1 p.m.) Through August 13 at the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts, 3716 Washington Boulevard; 314-754-1850 or Hours: noon-5 p.m. Wed., 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sat.

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