In the Galleries - John Stezaker CLOSES April 23 at Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum

With surgical precision, British collagist John Stezaker grafts together seemingly incongruous elements from early-twentieth-century film stills, publicity shots and other found imagery, creating intimate ensembles that feel at once startlingly complex and effortlessly inevitable. Surveying more than 30 years of work, this exhibition collects a number of the artist's collage series, which were often composed over the course of several decades. Extracted from movie stills, Sublime zeroes in on the very tops of steam-locomotive smokestacks and the smoke that billows forth from them. For the 3rd Person Archive, Stezaker clipped tiny human figures from the backgrounds of larger photographs, then placed them individually in spacious frames — a homage to the anonymity of the bystander. Stezaker, who finds his raw materials in flea markets and secondhand shops, has a keen eye for metaphor: A black-and-white headshot of a long-forgotten movie couple posed for a kiss is overlain with a tinted postcard of a gorge in Switzerland, whose twin bluffs, in this unfamiliar context, suddenly look like obscured faces, rent apart by the river between them. He pulls off such tricks again and again with unerring sleight of hand, reminding us all the while that, truthfully, he has nothing up his sleeve. Through April 23 at the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Forsyth and Skinker boulevards (on the campus of Washington University); 314-935-4523 or www.kemperartmuseum.wustl.edu. Hours: 11 a.m.-6 p.m. daily (closed Tue., open till 8 p.m. Fri.).

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