St. Louis Art Capsules

Jessica Baran encapsulates the St. Louis art scene

Newly Reviewed
Featured Review: Currents 105: Ian Monroe Washington University alum Ian Monroe returns as this year's Freund Fellow, exhibiting a new body of work inspired by Minoru Yamasaki's original 1956 design for Lambert-St. Louis International Airport. Using sheets of aluminum, upon which pristinely cut pieces of colored vinyl are applied, these austere, painterly collages depict a nearly obsolete culture of flight populated by immaculate fountains, phone banks, lounges and business-attired travelers. Scenes of the architect and his design team at work, pens in hand and sleeves rolled up, appear as abstract reductions of original archival photographs. Monroe's slick renditions heighten the original utopian ambitions for the terminal. While perhaps it's difficult to recall amid an era of groping security checks and dim anxiety, traveling by air was once a crowning progressive achievement. Monroe's works are rife with nostalgia for this older era's Modernist faith in technology, his attentive craftsmanship and bold, midcentury palette drawing out the timelessness of its design. The exhibit — which includes a large-scale sculptural installation — exudes a material presence that complements the stuff of the airport accoutrements depicted, aligning itself in tactile spirit with this pre-digital culture of architecture and design. Through July 31 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.)

How to Disappear This show, titled after Seth Price's self-published book How to Disappear in America, brings together seven contemporary artists whose work explores the removal or dissolution of personal identity. Paris-based conceptual art collective Claire Fontaine contributes a pile of quarters with box-cutter blades soldered onto them, a riff on the notion of "constructed" identity. Tatiana Grigorenko presents a haunting group of old family photographs, the images enlarged to painterly proportions, sections of them literally painted out to remove a number of those depicted. A strip of camouflage-patterned carpet trails across the gallery floor in a work by Cayetano Ferrer, with a book bound in identical fashion lying on top of it so as to appear invisible. Ben Alper's photographs display pages of photo albums from which snapshots have been removed, leaving holes and yellowed tape, magnified nearly to the point of abstraction. In a text-based video animation by Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries, a noir-esque narrative unfolds, an air of suspense emerging from its suggestions of character, plot and displaced intrigue. Amid all the vanishing, the show leaves the viewer with an impression — that we are all identifiable by the traces left behind in our absence. Also showing: Charles Gick's Three Clouds in Waiting, a site-specific installation involving a floor cover of parched and crackling red earth, on which sit three large black-framed encaustic paintings of blue sky and clouds. Mesmerizing and tactile, it feels like a Magritte-themed diorama — if the French Surrealist had gone through a Southwestern phase — evoking at once pneumatic dreams and rough-handed American realism. Through May 20 at the Luminary Center for the Arts, 4900 Reber Place; 314-807-5984 or Hours: noon-6 p.m. Wed.-Sat.

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.

Larry Fink, Little Brown Jug, 1997, gelatin silver print.
Larry Fink
Larry Fink, Little Brown Jug, 1997, gelatin silver print.

Eyedeas Washington University art school dean Carmon Colangelo assembles a group of recent works on paper and canvas that appear like torn-out and magnified diary pages. Or, more specifically, notes from meetings, embellished with incidental doodles, personal asides and recorded sound bites that read like scripts of the inner mind taking counsel from itself. Using digitally printed templates, Colangelo builds the images by hand, adding water color, pencil sketches and collaged elements, which are then re-scanned, printed, and built upon again. The end products are wild landscapes — of gridded or wide-ruled paper — upon which colors explode, data collide and playful, abstract sketches are annotated with pleas for (literally) "Help." Pages of '50s-era art magazines warp into amorphous inkblots, while minute swatches of pixelated imagery enlarge to form nearly psychedelic color fields. A sense of play is key in navigating this cross-historical collapse — of culture, technology and personal reflection — the prevailing spirit being one that would find relief, as opposed to tragedy, in, say, a computer network crash and use it as an excuse to take the day off. Through May 7 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.

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