For this refreshingly unassuming and clear-eyed exhibit of recent drawings, prints and mixed-media works on paper, curator Dominic Molon selected six contemporary artists whose practice involves that ever-durable muse: the figure. Recovering a medium and mode of art-making otherwise designated second-class or passé, the artists all betray a winking awareness of the peculiarity of their modest project, displaying as much via unsentimental homages to kitsch or historical antecedents. Highlights include Ida Applebroog's witheringly slender women rendered in grease-colored tones on Mylar, which resonate as eerily lascivious versions of Giacomettis as they leer and gape with photo-realistic lips and eyes. John Bankston seems to take Tom of Finland as a blank slate in need of updating, reimagining his homoerotic beefcake idylls to include African Americans, drag queens and flourishes of wild abstraction, all rendered in coloring-book lines and rainbow-crayon scrawls. St. Louis-based artist Tom Reed, meanwhile, peoples his complex, neo-Outsider drawings with bears, birds and the rustic dwellings of campers or pioneers. Drawn atop patched-together substrates of word-find puzzles, comics and graph paper, Reed's tableaus depict a world where forest-dwelling animals reign sovereign and "home" is any kind of fort. They pull you in with the ease of an oft-told fable, though what seems so vaguely familiar clearly isn't. Also included are works by Jennifer Bornstein, Alejandro Cardenas and Djordje Ozbolt. Through April 22 at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, 3750 Washington Boulevard; 314-535-4660 or www.camstl.org
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