St. Louis Art Capsules

Jessica Baran encapsulates the St. Louis art scene

Newly Reviewed
Doing Easy In a riff on William S. Burroughs' Zen manual-like story, "The Discipline of DE," which details the fastidiousness that underlies effortless-seeming cool, Cole Root assembles a group show of disparate work by Glen Fogel, Dani Kantrowitz, Gregg Louis, Mike Schuh and Matthew Strauss. What does it mean to "do easy"? It means setting down a fork without it clattering, landing each crumpled and thrown wad of paper in the wastebasket, gripping items with the right force so they don't spill or shatter. In the art studio, DE seems to function as a metaphor for the hermetic agony that precedes the creation of works that, when complete, appear like foregone conclusions. Kantrowitz contributes a series of found photographs that depict the interior of a middle-aged man's home, juxtaposing the impersonal and the intimate to jarring effect: the recurring appearance, for instance, of a pair of Bert and Ernie dolls amid otherwise banal décor. Normal is never normal enough. Fogel's milieu here is the subway platform, where he has snapped cell-phone pics of ads that have been tweaked by bored commuters or general wear and tear: grim Marines sporting Sharpie-drawn fangs; glossy-haired models whose visages have been torn out and supplanted by that of Kanye West. Schuh's work suggests a mind exposed to reveal its makeshift internal wiring and idiosyncratic infrastructure. An example: A utility bucket, flipped upside down, sits on a white pedestal with a chunk of cracked concrete resting on top and a vintage postcard of the inside of a cave folded in half and perched like a crown at the piece's apex. A sense of logic informs the work's unexpected disjunctions, mixing a kind of pragmatic poeticism with a dash of self-mockery: It's an absurd totem to absurdity at its best. Louis' piece — two sheets of paper upon which the word "simultaneous" is scrawled — was executed in precisely that manner: by both hands, at once. This exercise in deliberately useless prowess examines self-critique from further afield: What's the value of such an accomplishment without a witness? In this way Doing Easy wittily vivisects the elegance and mild tragedy inherent in any attempt at crafting a sense of self: Sometimes you land the trash in the can, sometimes you miss, sometimes no one notices or cares. Through October 15 at Los Caminos, 2649 Cherokee Street; Hours: by appointment. (Editor's note: Visual arts writer Jessica Baran is the assistant director of Matthew Strauss' art gallery, White Flag Projects.)

David Noonan, Untitled, 2010. Screen print on linen, 84.25 by 119.69 by 2.36 inches. Private Collection Rosana and Jacques Seguin, Switzerland.
Courtesy of David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles.
David Noonan, Untitled, 2010. Screen print on linen, 84.25 by 119.69 by 2.36 inches. Private Collection Rosana and Jacques Seguin, Switzerland.

Featured Review: Tomás Saraceno: Cloud-Specific Working at the impossible intersection of pragmatism and practicality, Argentinean-born, Frankfurt-based artist and architect Tomás Saraceno creates prototypes for a future city in the sky, a buoyant cloud of molecule-like modules amiably drifting above the overburdened environs below. In this installation Saraceno presents a massive aluminum framework encasing a similarly massive clear-plastic bubble. Viewers are invited to climb inside (after divesting themselves of shoes, rings, keys — anything that might pop Saraceno's balloon), lie on their backs and admire the silver solar cookers affixed to the capsule's upper regions or peruse one of Saraceno's source texts: The Cloudspotter's Guide, Biology of Spiders and R. Buckminster Fuller's seminal essay Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth. The reclining visitor may also take in the view of the gallery outside Saraceno's One Cloud Module: a cluster of iridescent bubbles that resemble Gothic stained glass, bound in black webbing and elastic ropes; a massive mural depicting a model cloud city, with our digitally rendered descendants in their modules, going about their daily tasks; a video projected on another wall that shows Saraceno and a team of collaborators attempting to send aloft his tessellated objects in the manner of NASA test flights. At once whimsical, revolutionary and nostalgic, the work hovers between the absurdly cerebral and the elementally alluring. It's hard not to succumb to the artist's ambitious vision while you're lying on a cloud and contemplating the sky. Through January 9, 2012, at the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Forsyth and Skinker boulevards (on the campus of Washington University); 314-935-4523 or Hours: 11 a.m.-6 p.m. daily (closed Tue., open till 8 p.m. Fri.).

Exposure 14 Nature is a durable muse. So says the work of the three artists selected for this year's annual local showcase, Exposure, hosted since 2005 at UMSL's Gallery 210. Brigham Dimick's pieces are literally infested with natural life: Bees inhabit a series of observation hives in which the artist's portrait, encased in wax, is slowly devoured by the insects. The oak-framed contraptions take on the form of altarpieces — a deeply unsettling take on the notion of the iconic. Greg Edmondson's meticulous pencil-on-vellum drawings trace the microscopic patterns of plant species, distilling their self-organizing systems to undulating abstractions. A procedural dimension informs the work, which is at once taut and diaphanously delicate. This temporal aspect is explored in two videos — one consists of the slow phases of the moon; the other features various drawings infinitely interlocking — that reinforce via metaphor the elegant relentlessness of the artist's painstaking approach. Ronald Leax's medium is the common Petri dish, arrays of which he mounts on paper in grid-like fashion, dates and stamps as "specimens," and encloses in frames. The dishes contain organic cultures in advanced stages of luminous decomposition: the peculiar aesthetics of science itself, in its most minimally adulterated state. Cumulatively, the works' slippage between science-as-art and art-as-science speaks to a kind of longing: In his unstinting, solitary experiments, the artist yearns to produce something of lasting and vital utility, something less like art and more like a cure. Through October 1 at Gallery 210, TeleCommunity Center, University of Missouri-St. Louis, 1 University Drive (at Natural Bridge Road); 314-516-5976 or˜gallery. Gallery hours: 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sat.

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