St. Louis Art Capsules

Jessica Baran encapsulates the St. Louis art scene

[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 www.snowflakestl.com. Hours: 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Sat.

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.).

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).

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 June 4 at the Sheldon Art Galleries, 3648 Washington Boulevard; 314-533-9900 or www.sheldonconcerthall.org. Hours: noon-8 p.m. Tue., noon-5 p.m. Wed.-Fri., 10 a.m.- 2 p.m. Sat.

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