Using a hybrid technique somewhere between painting and collage, St. Louis artist Joy Wade assembles realist portraits that celebrate African American culture. Laying down on paper initial washes of deep blue or ochre acrylic paint, she builds her compositions by adding layers of mid-tones and shadows, slowly homing in on details. Strategically interspersed, clippings from magazines appear not unlike strokes of paint; cut into jagged swaths, they blend into the painting and imbue it with uncanny bursts of photorealistic texture. The denim fabric of a gardener's jeans looks as though you could reach out and touch it; all around her teem massive, blooming flowers swarming with similarly rendered butterflies. A fiddler sports gleaming dog tags, and the watermelon, pies and fried chicken at a church social fairly glisten against the backdrop of a red-and-white gingham tablecloth. The subjects depicted are unmistakable; the texture, inspected closely, proves virtually abstract. It's an intimately perfected craft that's entirely Wade's own, in which the wholly familiar is reinvigorated by the inimitable touch of a singular hand. Through March 2 at the Metropolitan Gallery, 2936 Locust Street; 314-535-6500 or www.thenu-artseries.org. Hours: 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Wed.-Fri. (Sat. by appointment).
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