The three local artists whose work constitutes the current iteration of this anxiously anticipated juried exhibition find their raw materials in the city itself. David Johnson creates a portrait of the Contemporary Art Museum as a kind of theater, driven by an assorted community of off-scene professionals in a series of photographs that reveal only employee office quarters and the private homes of donors. Devoid of people, the exclusively interior shots focus on quality of light and incidental abstraction — angled intersections of wall and floor, gridwork of shelves or texture of architecture — telling their back-story through place, object and atmosphere. Mel Trad's work employs metal, cloth, wood and other dispossessed scrap to create tenuous, abstract sculptures that intimate the human body: A knotted strip of thick, flesh-colored rubber lies across a low white platform; its title, Untitled (Reclining Nude), anthropomorphizes the rough-hewn assemblage, transforming it into something feminine and sensual. For her exhibit, Between Word & Image, Asma Kazmi worked with a group of illiterate adults, inviting them to respond to poems, artwork and their own biographies. The participants used paper and ink to craft delicate images, each of which might be a pictorial rendering or a part of a written alphabet, but is neither. Though entirely disparate in its genesis, the exhibition as a whole celebrates the mind's capacity to coax elegance from whatever is close at hand — an existential statement that's salient, durable and bracingly affirmative. Through August 12 at CAM (Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis), 3750 Washington Boulevard; 314-535-4660 or www.camstl.org. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sat. (open till 8 p.m. on Thu.), 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sun.
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