Along the Mississippi: Photographs by Jo Ann Walters Road trips have produced some of the most valuable documentaries of American life we have, from Mark Twain's Life on the Mississippi (in which the river stands in for the road) to Jack Kerouac's On the Road to photographic projects such as Robert Frank's The Americans and Alec Soth's Sleeping by the Mississippi (which was featured in the 2004 Whitney Biennial). Alton native Jo Ann Walters has been taking road and river trips since the 1980s (a lot longer than Soth), and she has amassed a formidable and fascinating collection of photographs -- a medium-size collection of which is on display here -- that speaks volumes about who we are and how we live along the Mississippi and the eastern seaboard. Don't miss the photo of the girl in St. Louis curling her eyelashes; it's an unforgettable coming-of-age portrait. Through September 4 at the Sheldon Art Galleries, 3648 Washington Boulevard, 314-533-9900. Gallery hours 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Tue., 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Wed., 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sat.
Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Art... Elliot Smith's St. Louis director is Bruno David, and a nicer person you will never meet, but he comes up with the strangest exhibition concepts (Size Matters? What was that?) Luckily, David has an exceptional eye for art, and the exhibitions glow in blissful ignorance of their titles. Case in point: this show, which contains some of the best works by local artists working now. Takashi Horisaki's latex skin-suits from his Birth Right performances (2004) are eerie and postapocalyptic, representing some of the only non-two-dimensional works in the show. The paintings are the exhibition's high point, particularly Chris Kahler's 2004 Culture and Colony. Paintings by Amy Morose, Kim Humphries and Charles Schwall are pure neo-Pop pleasure. No, the show won't give you everything you ever wanted to know about art, but it's a start. Through September 4 at Elliot Smith Contemporary Art, 4729 McPherson Avenue, 314-361-4800. Gallery hours 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Tue.-Sat.
Exploring Ando's Space: Art and the Spiritual Architect Tadao Ando's buildings tend to be somber, contemplative affairs that encourage reflection and meditation. They also possess a gentle spiritual sensibility, one that's hard to define and yet present in every detail. The Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts is one of his finest designs and a perfect setting for an exploration of the spiritual in art. This spare show brings together objects from a variety of cultures and considers the spiritual resonance they share with one another and with the space itself. Asmat ancestor poles from Indonesia are offset by delicate French enamel religious paintings; Wolfgang Laib's Rice House (2002) seems to gain an entirely new meaning in the context of Ando's architecture and an African Nkonde figure; and images from Albrecht Dürer's 1498 "Apocalypse" cycle mingle intriguingly with a finely painted page from an ancient Koran. The show's focus is a bit fuzzy and it lacks a sense of curatorial rigor, but that's all offset by the objects themselves, which are rich with meaning and sure to spark everyone's intellectual, if not spiritual, curiosity. Through January 22 at the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts, 3716 Washington Boulevard, 314-754-1848. Gallery hours noon-5 p.m. Wed., 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sat.
Exposure VII: Mind Games Ron Laboray has made his reputation as a smart local artist who takes on sites, maps and psychological characteristics of place. Here he takes on a dual role as artist and curator; Mind Games is a quirky collection that features a group of Laboray's paintings that populate maps of Springfields throughout the U.S. with creepy abstractions of The Simpsons. Also included are DVD works by Brian Goetz, including the brilliant Nosey Parker effort "Radiation Always Wins." Rounding out this little show -- which just might be the exhibition of the year -- are Brian Burnett's scary photos of big-box storefronts with names digitally scrambled like criminals' faces; Michael Keller's superb text paintings; and other works. Through September 11 at Gallery 210, University of Missouri-St. Louis, Building 44 (TeleCommunity Center); 314-516-5976. Gallery hours 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sat.
In the Cool of the Night This is billed as a minimalist show, but don't let that scare you: There's nothing cold or remote about any of the works by this group of eight artists. The paintings, sculptures and mixed-media works on display here are loosely connected by a certain spare quality and lack of razzle-dazzle; they're pieces you'll want to look at for a long time. Randall Shiroma's The Muse/Landscape (2002), of terrazzo and salt, is altar-like; Donald Damask's oil on canvas White Rose (2004) is a lovely study in surface and depth. Three small Japanese paper works by German artist Lore Bert are awkwardly hung in a small hallway -- and it's a shame, because they're probably the best pieces in the show. Through September 25 at Atrium Gallery, 7638 Forsyth Boulevard, 314-726-1066. Gallery hours 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sat. -- Ivy Cooper
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