St. Louis Art Capsules

Jessica Baran encapsulates the St. Louis art scene

Tom of Finland A self-taught Finnish native who sought creative refuge in 1960s Los Angeles, where he was able, miraculously, to make a living drafting pencil-rendered cartoons of eroticized gay machismo, Tom of Finland straddled taboo and popular appeal long before the likes of Madonna and Lady Gaga. A former anti-aircraft officer and commercial illustrator, Tom (a.k.a. Touko Laaksonen) harnessed essential qualities from both fields, making uniformed dress as suggestive as negligee and a clear, graphic line evocative of Norman Rockwell, Marvel comics, Vargas Girls and Warholian Pop Art. In this exhibit of his relentlessly simple and strangely delicate drawings, finished works are interspersed between incomplete sketches. Square-jawed males with barrel chests, broad shoulders, petite waists and other proportional impossibilities appear in solitary, glorified repose or explicit couplings. Yes, the work was made to titillate — but hell, so was most Greek and Roman art. And like his classical forebears, Tom graces every male figure (and Tom's is a male-only universe) with a placid, enlightened-looking smile. The finished works exhibited here are much more demure than the sketches, the more overt sexual acts receding beneath dim erasures and incomplete limbs while suggestive gazes, sawed-off logs and rakishly angled sailor caps resonate in full black-and-white detail. This is where the work rises above genre: it's sheer bizarreness. In a motorcyclist's tilted hat, a single rolled-down leather boot or an outfit consisting of white gym socks and high-top sneakers, a microcosm of style and desire is written. How Tom's beefcake homoeroticism became a standard-issue brand is another story — but such is the course of any enduring style. Through August 6 at phd Gallery, 2300 Cherokee Street; 314-664-6644 or www.phdstl.com. Hours: noon-4 p.m. Thu.-Sun. 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.

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Hamper0
Hamper0

Gifts are the projectors of your emotions. No matter how far you are from your loved terms, just a simple gift can put the lights on the dejected faces of them, who have been missing your presence on their special day. A gift actually brings your inner self before them. Visit www.hampersnationwide.com/Deli... for details.

 
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