St. Louis Art Capsules

Jessica Baran encapsulates the St. Louis art scene

Newly Reviewed
Adrian Kellard: The Learned Art of Compassion A show of rare impact, this concise but powerful retrospective of the late Adrian Kellard's work reveals an artist of masterful formal skill and emotional immediacy. Held on the 20th anniversary of Kellard's passing and the 30th anniversary of the discovery of the HIV virus, the exhibit collects a number of signature large-scale painted and carved wood assemblages that celebrate Kellard's identity as a gay man and devout Catholic. Originally trained as a printmaker — as an undergraduate his instructor was woodcut artist Antonio Frasconi — he uses printmaking tools to carve pinewood blocks depicting images of Christian subjects, often derived from canonical art historical sources including Michelangelo and Giotto. His style is a combination of German expressionist and midcentury illustrative: Jagged but meticulous black lines etch the outlines of his figures and patterns, while bright, comic-book primaries fill in their interiors. Though his career was brief — he died of AIDS in 1991 at the age of 32 — Kellard forged an indelible style; this survey conveys a sense of a mature, self-assured artist with a life's worth of range. As he bore witness to the passing of many of his peers during the AIDS epidemic and illness ravaged his own last years, his work took on fresh urgency, resulting in exuberant shrines to those passed or were soon to pass. The resulting effect is both profound and generous: Rising above the specifics of Kellard's narrative and identity, the works speak boldly of something at once grievous, celebratory and fundamentally human. Through December 11 at the Museum of Contemporary Religious Art, 3700 West Pine Boulevard (on the Saint Louis University campus); 314-977-7170 or http://mocra.slu.edu. Hours: 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Tue.-Sun.

Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara in the Form of Khasarpana Lokesvara, late 11th or early
12th century, India, Bihar or Bengal.
Asia Society, New York: Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection
Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara in the Form of Khasarpana Lokesvara, late 11th or early 12th century, India, Bihar or Bengal.

I'll Be Your Mirror Taking its title from Nico's ethereally creepy Velvet Underground ballad, this group exhibition of work by artists near and far flung delves into the realm and refractory meaning of doubles, doubling and dopplegängers. According to curator Daniel McGrath, look-alikes aren't just deeply unsettling; they're harbingers of evil. It sounds forbidding, but do not fear: The artwork assembled is strangely melancholic yet elegant. Juan Chávez contributes two pieces from his Drawings from the Cave series which riff on the sci-fi film Blade Runner; the pairing and the film source itself create both a cross-historic dialogue and one about real and ersatz versions of the human. Robert Goetz's print series Common Intervals near Shrewsbury Exit play on repetition as a formal audio and visual device, resulting in a piece at once austere and nostalgic of road-narrative Americana. Bookending the interior gallery is an inspired pairing: Slater Bradley's Dark Night of the Soul, a video in which Bradley's doppelgänger, dressed in a space suit, wanders New York's Museum of Natural History; and B.j. Vogt's Tresspasses, a video in which two crudely and identically masked characters (in fact, the artist and his brother) harass one another in alternately comic and sadistic ways. Projected at opposite ends of the space, the two pieces seem to illustrate the pendulum swing of any given interior life: fraught by duality, at once lost and contemplative, or aggressive and confounded by action. And the reverberations continue with work by Nick Crowe and Ian Rawlinson, Hannah Greely, Pablo Helguera, Gunther Herbst, Charles Ray and Darren Harvey-Regan. Through February 11, 2012, at the Sheldon Art Galleries, 3648 Washington Boulevard; 314-533-9900 or www.sheldonconcerthall.org. Hours: noon-8 p.m. Tue., noon-5 p.m. Wed.-Fri., 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sat.

Ongoing
David Noonan The extent to which the world is a stage and all of us mere actors is wisdom darkly revisited in this solo exhibition of recent works by London-based Australian artist David Noonan. Using found imagery of theatrical performances from the '60s and '70s, Noonan creates large-scale screen prints on linen that's patched together in textures that recall Japanese Boro textiles (an intuitive patchwork clothing style from the late 19th century). Noonan constrains his palette to inky black and the earthen tones of the fabric, which imbues his works with a saturated, macabre character, amplified by the black-painted eyes and mouths of the sinister performers he depicts. Suggestive of extreme avant-gardism and occult ritual, the players in these fractured scenes are at once frozen in bizarre contortions and animated by the frayed and tactile nature of their substance: The torn swaths of linen beg to be touched, if not worn, like a costume. Abstract patterns printed over the images underscore the work's identity as fabric and artifact of the past, resembling both stitch lines and the marks of distress. A roomful of just-beyond-life-size dancers, also printed on linen but affixed to freestanding pieces of wood cut to the figures' silhouettes, is more physically confrontational in real time. The specter of the past — when experimentalists' utopian aspirations were sincere and hopeful — thickly permeates the show like a sinister symbol of misguided folly, vain indulgence or worse. Also showing: Sick Serena and Dregs and Wreck and Wreck In this Gothic-inspired 16mm film, British artist Emily Wardill uses the morality-tale paradigm as an absurdist analogy for the mis-education espoused by contemporary media, wherein the common phrases we use to communicate with one another (e.g., "sex and drugs and rock & roll," which is mangled and re-imagined as the film's title) are reduced to hollow rituals and empty acts of aimless devotion. Through December 30 at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, 3750 Washington Boulevard; 314-535-4660 or www.camstl.org. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Wed.-Sat., 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sun.
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