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Ivy Cooper encapsulates the St. Louis art scene

David Hammons: Phat Free Hammons has long been a subtle provocateur, focusing his work on cultural paradigms we build around racial relations. And while this latest in the Saint Louis Art Museum's new-media series is not new — it dates from 1995 — it demonstrates that Hammons' treatment of the volatile subject wears well. The video is dark for several minutes; a noisy, percussive sound fills the viewing space, seeming at times to be scripted musically, at other times like random, grating street noise. When the visual jumps to life, the source of the sound is revealed: Hammons himself, kicking a metal bucket down a busy city sidewalk. Passersby tend to look away and ignore him as he negotiates crosswalks in traffic, kicking the bucket all the way. Finally he lifts the bucket with his toe, catches it in one hand — and the video concludes. Hammons knows how to be a nuisance and make a spectacle of things we'd rather let fade into the background. For the viewer of Phat Free, there's no escaping the raw, scraping sound of metal on asphalt. The question is whether to really listen or act like you don't hear it. Through May 31 at the Saint Louis Art Museum, 1 Fine Arts Drive (in Forest Park); 314-721-0072 (www.slam.org). Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sun. (10 a.m.-9 p.m. Fri.)

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