Currents: Chelsea Knight
Chelsea Knight In this two-part body of work — the latest installment of SLAM's Currents series — New York-based artist Chelsea Knight (recipient of a 2012-13 Freund Teaching Fellowship at Washington U.) explores language's capacity to define power structures, gender roles and other mechanisms of cultural stratification. In the 2010 video The End of All Resistance, a series of duos — male soldiers, young actresses, a middle-aged married couple — carry out military-style interrogations, demanding information ("What insurgent organization are you in?" etc.) over and over in different tones: whispering, shouting, singing. Inherently elastic, language can shape-shift at the speed of sound, from bland to erotic, evocative to somnolent, conciliatory to threatening. It's among the most volatile of human constructs, and slippery. The central aspect of Frame, a multimedia installation crafted for this exhibit, is also a video. Construction workers (the bona fide variety) frame out a building while reciting from memory bits of feminist theory and modern poetry. The disjunctions are predictable — burly man in hardhat talking about the experience of the female body or waxing lyrical about childbirth — but the effect is anything but. Unlike the verbiage of torture manuals, poetry and (occasionally) theory are capable of linguistic elegance (i.e., beauty), in the face of which all conventional roles dissolve. The raptness with which the participants speak their lines hints at language's capacity to humanize — to encourage empathy, to broaden one's conscience, as opposed to simply tearing people apart. Through July 1 at the Saint Louis Art Museum, 1 Fine Arts Drive (in Forest Park); 314-721-0072 or Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sun. (10 a.m.-9 p.m. Fri.) — Jessica Baran

Liquid Terrain: 20 Years of Works on Paper by Eva Lundsager
A chronicle of dots, washes, saturated color fields and explosive fissures of ink, this survey of St. Louis-based painter Eva Lundsager's abstracts on paper has the feel of an opened diary, each piece an impressionistic recounting of life's varied currents. By and large intimate in scale, the works are presented here in small groups, topically linked by media (water color, gouache, ink) and date, but more revealingly by form and content, an intricate grammar of subtle, intuitive marks that evolves over time. Early pieces convey a jagged, pointillist universe characterized by violent splatters, swarms of pin-like dots and an effusiveness that's heedless of orientational niceties like perspective. More recent works wax into languid brushstrokes, bold hues and a watery environment in which the ground often gives way to volcanic emissions and an absent sun is always setting or rising in shades of red. Lundsager is best known for her works on canvas, which makes this exhibit all the more illuminating, a testament to the preciousness of privacy and unhindered experimentation. Like a journal, it conveys a true sense of lived time — sputters of joy, interstices of black, journeys undertaken and completed — as well as a glimpse of a rich and active interior life, most at home in the fluidity of paint. Through August 18 at the Sheldon Art Galleries, 3648 Washington Boulevard; 314-533-9900 or Hours: noon-8 p.m. Tue. & Thu., noon-5 p.m. Wed. & Fri., 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sat. — Jessica Baran

Warrior lanterns at MOBOT’s 
Lantern Festival.
Photo by Sonia Lalla, courtesy of the Missouri Botanical Garden.
Warrior lanterns at MOBOT’s Lantern Festival.

An Orchestrated Vision: The Theater of Contemporary Photography
Focusing on large-scale contemporary photography, this show identifies a new, prevalent strain whose practitioners eschew traditional realism in favor of deliberate fabrication and snapshot immediacy in favor of meticulous manipulation. Divided into four sections — public spaces as theater; elusive narratives; portraiture as performance and constructed spaces — the exhibit inspects its theme with acuity, drawing several dozen expansive works into its discerning field of view. A woman standing in a driveway stares blankly into a lit domestic window in Untitled (snowy valley) (2006) by Gregory Crewdson; a spectacularly ravaged, abandoned theater in equally decimated Gary, Indiana, inverts the equation in a 2008 photograph by Andrew Moore. Figures are scarce here; when they do appear, they function as props or narrative prompts: static, manicured, pre-positioned. Seen from this perspective, it's space itself (as opposed to we who merely occupy it) that embodies endless dramatic potential. The suggestive stillness of these pieces highlights a curious contradiction: In the context of our spectacle-saturated culture, images rooted in the all-too-familiar tropes of popular entertainment (cinema, theater) are resolutely unspectacular, while those that depict a baldly contrived "reality" strike a salient emotional chord. Doubtless, at this very moment, someone in some distant (and cluttered) room is on the verge of untangling that mystery. We, meanwhile, must content ourselves with the knowledge that the mere act of looking closely is a surreal, creative feat. Through May 13 at the Saint Louis Art Museum, 1 Fine Arts Drive (in Forest Park); 314-721-0072 or Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sun. (10 a.m.-9 p.m. Fri.) — Jessica Baran

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