St. Louis Art Capsules

Jessica Baran encapsulates the St. Louis art scene

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 counterclockwise 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.

Triumph of the Wild Chronicling America's history of violence from the Revolution to the War on Terror, indie animator Martha Colburn compresses this durable urge into a ten-minute phantasmagoric onslaught in the most recent installment of Saint Louis Art Museum's New Media Series. Aligning hunters with soldiers, Colburn sketches a parallel between bloodlust in the natural world (where man seeks game) and the technology of war (where man seeks man). Using swatches of old magazines, discarded portions of advertisements, bright cartoon drawings and tiny jigsaw puzzle pieces, Colburn is a scavenger herself, mining vernacular cultural detritus to illustrate her grand theme and, in the process, creating yet another analogy: between war and waste. The self-trained New York-based artist, whose prolific career has involved many musical collaborators — from Jad Fair and Serj Tankian to the band Deerhoof — here chooses a frenetic piano score written by Thollem McDonas, lending the brief film a retro-patina. Bombs explode, fires ravage forests and platoons and animals plot against one another in a jagged, sped-up pace that recalls Buster Keaton slapstick. What initially appears to be a twee montage of colorful cartoons and coupon-book clip-outs proves to be nothing of the kind. Limbs fly, corpses disintegrate and Jesus blooms from the clouds to carry a soldier to darker fates, all in a swift, relentless sequence that complicates whatever awkward beauty gilds the film's surface. Through September 5 at the Saint Louis Art Museum, 1 Fine Arts Drive (in Forest Park); 314-721-0072 or www.slam.org. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sun. (10 a.m.-9 p.m. Fri.)

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