St. Louis Art Capsules

Jessica Baran encapsulates the St. Louis art scene

Newly Reviewed
A is For... In this playful and affecting group exhibition curated by Gina Alvarez, the relationship between art-making and child-rearing is explored through that fundamental building block of communication: the alphabet. Twenty-six local artists were each assigned one letter as point of departure and, often in collaboration with their offspring and spouse, off they went. John Sarra has crafted a low-lying table with F's for legs; Lindsey Obermeyer embroiders a swarm of H's in the manner of old Americana; architect Matthew Jeans contributes a massive K made of engineered Plexiglas of the type used for building models; Jim Ibur crafts a porcelain vase full of eyes (for I). The array of materials and approaches are as diverse as the artists' concisely written reflections on their lives as parents. Tom Huck contributes a linocut tattoo design for one of his fictional characters (a crossed devil's tail that forms an X) and admits to envying his daughter for her imagination. His wife, Anne Teeger Huck, goes the linocut route as well, rendering swirling words that begin with Q — a nod to inquisitiveness that complements her assertion that her kids bring her back to the most basic joy of making art: beginning with a simple line. Eric Repice builds a massive M from handmade paper, explaining that he often borrows art supplies from his daughter. The list goes on, with letter-bearing gems contributed by John Early, Jana Harper, Robert Longyear, Jason Hoeing, Dionna and Daniel Raedeke, Ken Wood, Amy Rosen and more (not to mention a poster by Eric Woods of Firecracker Press). Through August 13 at the Millstone Gallery at COCA, 524 Trinity Avenue, University City; 314-725-6555 or www.cocastl.org. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Fri., noon-5 p.m. Sat.-Sun.

Take 4 Drawing together otherwise radically disparate practices, this minimalist, elegant show highlights the elemental restraint and conceptual confidence shared in the work of local artists Juan William Chavez, Greg Edmondson, Jamie Kreher and Brett Williams. Chavez uses promotional shots from the dystopic 1980s sci-fi flick Blade Runner as his substrate and obscures the imagery in black charcoal dust and intuitive, iridescent brush marks; the effect is like a counter-clockwise historical loop, moving the items from their futuristic source back to the primeval theater of the cave. Edmondson's work has a raw simplicity that complements Chavez's appropriations, contributing delicate, abstract pencil renderings that alternately recall the patterns of nature or suburban sprawl; etched in small, fine lines, their arterial branches waver between cool precision and an apparent hand at work. Kreher has enlarged one of her signature portraits of architectural banality, focusing on a set of glass entrance/exit doors. Stacked and repeated on an enormous sheet of vinyl, the image takes on a more ominous dimension, suggesting ubiquitous surveillance or the overwhelming excess of similar nowhere zones in America. A colorful foil to all the rest, Williams' two videos (Blur 1 and Blur 2) feature bright-hued haloed lights that throb and flicker to an ambient soundscape. One is viewable on a flat video screen, while the other is projected from the gallery floor beneath an air duct grate. Both are evocative of memory's impressionistic focus — more sensory than specific — and lend an elegiac air to the exhibit, which seems, as a whole, bound by various forms of absence and attendant nostalgia. Currently showing at PSTL Gallery at Pace Framing, 3842 Washington Boulevard; 314-531-4304 or www.paceframing.com. Hours: 10:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sat.

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.

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