St. Louis Art Capsules

Jessica Baran encapsulates the St. Louis art scene

Newly Reviewed
Michael Hoffman Exploring little more than the lush properties of oil paint and color, this collection of recent abstract paintings by local painter Hoffman reaffirms the more fundamental joys of the beautiful. Taking cues from the natural landscape — particularly the Northern Pacific coastline near Seattle — these medium-scale works vacillate between intimate immediacy and cool, patterned abstraction. Each in a series of canvases utilizes vertical stripes as its primary mark, overlaying in dense proximity thin swaths of what resemble mid-century furniture hues: gray blues, moss greens, cadmium reds and white. Another series takes the striated lines of more familiarly wild, abstract-expressionist drips and tangles them in concentric knots, resembling the most precise tumbleweed or, conversely, a loose map of whirling atoms. Interspersed are watery landscapes that give a firmer sense of place. These works, which establish a horizon line and hints of landmasses amid an oceanscape, have the vitreous quality of manipulated Polaroids whose chemical properties have been jostled before properly setting, removing the captured scene from the grasp of quick apprehension. Through July 9 at Hoffman LaChance Contemporary, 2713 Sutton Boulevard, Maplewood; 314-960-5322 or www.hoffmanlachancefineart.com. Hours: noon-5 Fri.-Sat. and by appointment.

What's the Use? This affecting two-person show by local artist Wonder Koch and New York-based Eliza Newman-Saul presents an elegant ode to life's inanity in the manner of High Romantic humanism at its concise and philosophical best. Newman-Saul contributes a series of large-scale pencil drawings of massive sinking ships. From a distance they appear like old black-and-white photographs, but upon closer inspection they reveal a peculiar, wavering hand that almost colors in the image's tonal gradients and allows all incidental handprints to remain, like marks of humility or deep resignation to the inaccessibility of any manner of success. Accompanying these works is a lilting video of a man scouring the Coney Island beachfront with a metal detector. His quest, too, appears wholly quixotic, inviting the viewer to see more merit in the odd beauty of his movements and the video's haunting, bell-like score. Koch's pieces act as the straight men to her co-artist's more languorous proposals. Handcrafting a series of flags, she creates a world of awkwardly proclaimed defeat — a profusion of tiny red flags bursting from a white gallery wall, their small poles made of twigs, their pennants made of deflated balloons, tufts of felt and sections of red labels scavenged from streets. In a rear, cordoned-off area of the gallery dangles a white flag made from the white stripes of American flags, stitched with the words "you win" in yellow fabric. In the gallery window hangs a medieval-style flag in black with red letters that read "It's Too Late." Not all is deadly serious, here, but nor is it all crass sarcasm. Both artists seem to celebrate something historical about the world's long, sad story — reaching back to the patient media of pencil and needle while starkly confronting, with sober if winking clarity, the horrific spectacle of failure, observable from nearly any angle. Through August 1 at Snowflake, 3156 Cherokee Street; www.snowflakestl.com. Hours: by appointment only.

Ongoing
Analogue Inverting the equation wherein mass-produced items are considered the antithesis of all things unique and handmade, this succinct group exhibit draws together a collection of artisan-crafted big-box items made by five contemporary artists. St. Louis-based Ryan Thayer's my building has every convenience fills three shopping carts with outsize hollow drywall forms. The tricolor lineup makes the familiar seem strange, the tall white inserts heightening the carts' bright colors, polished steel and elegant geometry. Caleb Larsen's One Person, Three Days — Survival Kit lays out the products suggested for inclusion in FEMA survival kits. Arranged on the gallery floor in descending size, the boxes, bottles and cans begin to express the bold formalism of their design, shape and palette, transforming items that were chosen for their critical usefulness into useless aesthetic objects. Juxtaposed behind them on the gallery wall are two vacuum-formed plastic molds of concrete sidewalk slabs by Ethan Greenbaum. The flattened and dirt-flecked hangings comprise an apt foil to the streamlined products otherwise on view, suggesting in their rough-hewn utilitarianism a rawer brand of abstraction. Helmut Smits fills a Coca-Cola bottle with 0.26 gallons of oil, which appears nearly indistinguishable from the soda. Conversely, Zoe Sheehan Saldana performs the most painstaking illusion in three items selected from her "Ersatz" series. Her lifejacket, for instance, crafted by hand to industry standards, elevates the notion of "machine-made" to a level of life or death, versus the lovely but functionally superfluous art object. Also showing: Terra Firma, an elegant site-specific installation by St. Louis-based artist John Early that points a pinewood bike ramp toward a skylight while the sounds of the Voyager space probe fill the space — suggesting the extremes of human limits and potential. Through July 22 at the Luminary Center for the Arts, 4900 Reber Place; 314-807-5984 or www.theluminaryarts.com. Hours: noon-6 p.m. Wed.-Sat.

One of Eliza Newman-Saul's My Dear Impotent World ship drawings on display at Snowflake.
One of Eliza Newman-Saul's My Dear Impotent World ship drawings on display at Snowflake.
Zoe Saldana: "Ersatz" Series
Zoe Saldana: "Ersatz" Series

Cosima von Bonin: Character Appropriation A giant stuffed chick, slumped and vomiting on itself while straddling an enormous rocket; a large stuffed lobster, its heavy claws flopped over what appears to be the base of a chic, modern table; two tires trapped in a custom, wall-hanging white cage: Scale is everything — a means to the humorous and pathetic alike — for German conceptual artist Cosima von Bonin. In this mini-survey of work from the past ten years, certain material themes re-emerge — fabric, most significantly, and music-related electronics — as well as situational ones — the flaccid, the frayed, the privately composed. In von Bonin's world everyone has a theme song, often of a looped and electronic variety, optimally heard through large headphones. Sound works by her collaborator, electronic music producer Moritz von Oswald, accompany nearly every piece. Dense with stuff, the exhibit takes on a new dimension: With its mildly bubbly, mildly hypnotic score, it begins to feel like a high-end boutique, artfully staged and filled with desirable objects. Here's where von Bonin excels: "appropriating" the motifs that are so common to our everyday experience that they're no longer recognizable, and reconfiguring them in odd, endearing and darkly comic ways. And how tired it leaves us — like that big chick, sick and hanging its head. Through August 1 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.).

1
 
2
 
3
 
All
 
Next Page »
 
My Voice Nation Help
 
Loading...