Craig Norton: Shot and Killed A reporter, photo-realistically rendered in Bic pen and collaged wallpaper, instructs us that the United States averages 30,000 deaths by gun annually and that 48 percent of the victims are African American. What follows is a series of mural-like depictions of African Americans amid or in the aftermath of firearm-related violence, played out in 2-D dioramas of high tragedy and occasionally punctuated with reportage-like text in a wavering pencil scrawl. How is the viewer to assess this critical but statically breaking news, relayed, most perplexingly, via obsessively crafted and well-composed visuals in a commercial gallery? Norton, a St. Louis native whose biography describes him as a self-taught artist (though he briefly studied art at St. Louis Community College-Meramec), has made a show that unwittingly probes a host of salient dilemmas — notably, the role of topicality and marginality in art, and to what degree aesthetic appeal mitigates overt prosaic concerns, however naively stirred up. The show ultimately seems effective in advocating the solutions born of cold empiricism, and all that goes against slippery, creative permissiveness. Through June 21 at William Shearburn Gallery, 4735 McPherson Avenue; 314-367-8020 or www.shearburngallery.com. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sat.
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