St. Louis Art Caps

Jessica Baran encapsulates the St. Louis art scene

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 the woodcut artist Antonio Frasconi — he uses printmaking tools to carve pinewood blocks that depict images of Christian subjects, often derived from canonical art-historical sources including Michelangelo and Giotto. Kellard's 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 them in. Though his career was brief — he died from AIDS in 1991 at age 32 — Kellard forged an indelible style; this survey conveys a sense of a mature, self-assured artist with a lifetime'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 who'd passed or were soon to. The effect is 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.

Andrew Millner: Rose is a rose is a rose Starting with a digital drawing pad and a stylus, St. Louis-based Millner drafts meticulous renderings of leaves and other botanical subjects, then projects the drawings onto stretched raw linen and traces the lines with thick beads of paint, often straight from the tube. Millner's earlier work held fast to its source (down to every last serration and vein on a single leaf), but Rose finds him radically essentializing and abstracting the renderings in transferring them to canvas. Titled after the single hue in which it is painted — White Rose, Red Rose, Crimson Rose, etc. — each canvas exists somewhere between absolute adhesion to its muse (the rosebush) and the capacity to lose that grip entirely. Some sustain a crisp and conventional line quality, while others are set loose to drip to excess. The result is as texturally rich as piece of lace but with an overarching component of frenetic abandon — as though something has literally unraveled on the canvas. Every painting's tangle of sanguine thread embodies the rift that, we all imagine, separates the "real" from the wholly impressionistic. Again and again the rosebush returns, each time pitting a former conception of self against a startlingly new one. Through December 23 at William Shearburn Gallery, 4735 McPherson Avenue; 314-367-8020 or www.shearburngallery.com. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sat.

Follow the Leader All the assaulting joys of navigating an amply stocked thrift store are harnessed here in this large-scale sculptural assemblage by Guerra de la Paz (a punny but accurate composite moniker for Cuban artists Alain Guerra and Neraldo de la Paz). Using cast-off items accrued through a local clothing donation drive, the artists crafted an enormous snake of piled shirts, pants, skirts, ties and then some, all set precariously atop a static marching line of boot-clad mannequin legs. Like the children's game of the show's title, the hollow and headless ensemble follows itself through the gallery space with mindless and aimless propulsion. Those polyester neon paisley bell-bottoms that looked so great (and terrible) at Goodwill? They're here, along with every other species of absurdly loud, outmoded fabric pattern, tossed in dessert-topping heaps. At the mouth of the gallery, the otherwise orderly chaos collapses as the now-legless mass becomes a solid mound that confronts you with the imperious scale of collective wastefulness. So much stuff, so few excuses for it. Through January 29, 2012, at the Craft Alliance Gallery (Grand Center), 501 North Grand Boulevard; 314-534-7528 or www.craftalliance.org. Hours: noon-6 p.m. Wed.-Sat., noon-5 p.m. Sun.

Monet's Water Lillies.
Monet's Water Lillies.

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 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. From his Drawings from the Cave series, Juan Chávez contributes two pieces that riff on the sci-fi film Blade Runner; the pairing and the film itself create both a cross-historic dialogue and one about real and ersatz versions of the human. Bookending the interior gallery is an inspired pairing: Slater Bradley's Dark Night of the Soul, a video in which the artist's doppelgänger, dressed in a space suit, wanders New York's Museum of Natural History; and B.j. Vogt's Trespasses, 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. The reverberations continue with works 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.

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