St. Louis Art Capsules

Jessica Baran encapsulates the St. Louis art scene

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.

[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.

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 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).

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

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.

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