St. Louis Art Capsules

Jessica Baran encapsulates the St. Louis art scene

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.

Richard Aldrich and the 19th Century French Painting The uniform 84-by-58-inch white-primed canvases that compose New York-based painter Richard Aldrich's exhibition appear, in their close-hung repetition, like pages in a notebook. Upon each page paper clippings, splints of wood or the erratic trace of a brush's single gesture are collected, producing the effect of a most intimate journal, perhaps written by a cloud. The gestural focus is underscored by what is presented as Aldrich's historical forebears, a select four paintings, drawn from the Saint Louis Art Museum's collection, by French intimist painters Vuillard and Bonnard (with one Irishman's self-portrait added, for discontinuity's sake). These nineteenth-century footnotes, describing in obsessional detail daily artifacts such as fruit, the domestic space and the more immemorial varieties of light, place Aldrich's contemporary fixations (Syd Barrett, slide film, BAM Cinema ticket stubs) firmly in an elegant tradition. Granted, these "newer" artifacts are throwbacks in themselves, suggesting a more complex relationship to the daily in which the present, and our most banal and intimate moments, are no longer a safe source for nonderivative authenticity but yet another space to compose the myth of oneself. Our masterpiece is, indeed, the private life. Through May 1 at Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, 3750 Washington Boulevard; 314-535-4660 or Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sat. (open till 8 on Thu.), 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sun.

Jana Harper and Gina Alvarez, Title Page, 2009, digital print, monoprint, collage and hand embellishment, 22 by 30 inches.
Jana Harper and Gina Alvarez, Title Page, 2009, digital print, monoprint, collage and hand embellishment, 22 by 30 inches.

William Kentridge: Two Films The animated shorts Weighing...and Wanting (1998) and Journey to the Moon (2003) embody South African artist William Kentridge's signature stop-motion technique, in which single charcoal drawings are erased and redrawn to form atmospheric narratives of a post-apartheid culture. Moving between the personal and political, Kentridge's invented alter-ego, the industrialist Soho Eckstein, rises and falls in from the small heaps of charcoal detritus, allegorizing attempts to resurrect personal integrity, if not a fresh national identity. Also showing — Visual Musings: Prints by William Kentridge Two recent series of hybrid aquatint, drypoint and engraved prints are also on view, one inspired by Nikolai Gogol's short story "The Nose"; the other, Thinking Aloud, a fantasia of personal imagery. Other prints explore Kentridge's long-time relationship to theater and, in this case, opera, with themes from Mozart's Magic Flute and Shostakovich's adaptation of "The Nose" putting in frequent appearances. Through May 22 at the Saint Louis Art Museum, 1 Fine Arts Drive (in Forest Park); 314-721-0072 or Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sun. (10 a.m.-9 p.m. Fri.)

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