St. Louis Art Capsules

Jessica Baran encapsulates the St. Louis art scene

partly cloudy with a chance of scattered showers In a series of candy-colored, tapestry-esque digital photographs titled "One Ordinary Day of an Ordinary Town," Mimi Kato portrays a world of petty daily rivalries, casual voyeurism and glossy brand-name consumerism, with herself as the sole actor. Wearing costumes as wildly varied as truant schoolgirl, meddling old neighbor and eerily ferocious giant rabbit, Kato enacts scenarios that draw upon traditional narratives of her native Japan as well as the stockpile of unfortunately universal pessimistic truisms about human behavior. In this pastel-hued, cookie-cutter town, nothing is safe from either minor calamity or corporate branding, be it laundry, the assessment of fresh produce at the market or an afternoon ice-cream break. As the sun rises and sets in this series, another suite of four images depicts the passing seasons, their imagery more spare and, as a result, more surreal. Spring brings cherry blossoms and bizarre drunken picnics; summer seems to lure hooded thieves and the urge to compare fresh cuts of red meat. Gifted with a seemingly limitless ability to assume every age, gender and small-animal species, Kato imbues this otherwise impossibly absurd world with enough shades of truth to keep it both freshly strange and unexpectedly trenchant. Through July 22 at Good Citizen Gallery, 2247 Gravois Avenue; 314-348-4587 or www.goodcitizenstl.com. Hours: noon-5 p.m. Fri.-Sat. and by appointment.

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.

Tom of Finland
Tom of Finland

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.

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