Sean Landers: 1991-1994, Improbable History This survey of relentlessly self-dissecting and blogosphere-portentous paintings, videos, sculptures and photographs by the New York-based conceptual artist Landers makes every attempt to get a hold of that elusive quality known as sincerity. Covering massive canvases, full legal pads and several years' worth of calendar pages with hand-scrawled text, Landers iterates himself as a desperately ambitious but ever-human everyman, a kind of modern-day St. Augustine confessing his trials with art and life in a mode of unedited profusion that traditional social courtesy was established to discourage. There's a sense of rigor in Landers' ability to tolerate himself, which is mirrored by the viewer's tolerance for the work — a rigor that most have perhaps become accustomed to through the sudden ubiquity of social media, modern memoirs and all the other contemporary variations of self-advertisement/acceptable voyeurism now available. In light of this "new normal" (term courtesy of Dick Cheney), Landers comes across as less transgressive than strangely classical — he uses paint and canvas, he's apologetic, and he references Blake, Narcissus and the lyric impulse. But is he sincere? He doesn't even claim to know. Critical to motivating his furious desire to excavate earnestness is Landers' fraught identity as a working-class Irish Catholic, a fact that makes him incapable of escaping the crushing guilt of having committed the ultimate transgression: becoming an artist. Through April 11 at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, 3750 Washington Boulevard; 314-535-4660 or www.contemporarystl.org. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Wed.-Sat., 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sun.
Critical Mass Creative Stimulus St. Louis nonprofit Critical Mass awarded "creative stimulus" grants to local artists Asma Kazmi, Robert Goetz and two recent Great Rivers Biennial winners, Martin Brief and Cameron Fuller (Fuller is an RFT Mastermind Award winner). This exhibit of new work made within the year since the grant's receipt provides a salient diagnosis of the area's current visual temperament. Goetz's scattered wasteland of guitar parts is the product of an opening-night performance in which several local musicians (himself included) dismantled — with axes, drills, mallets and other tools — several electric guitars, plugged in to amplify the elegantly ambient murmur of willful obsolescence. Fuller displays an expertly handcrafted vitrine containing a diorama in which taxidermied dead howl in mute eternity beneath a blue-hued geometric pattern of stars. Kasmi resurrects another form of marginalized life — the hijra class in India, composed of hermaphrodites, eunuchs, cross-dressers and the transgendered — and films them in celebratory high fashion: bejeweled, clothed in opulent blue fabrics and striking poses that apparently translate globally as model-grade resplendent. In Brief's minimalist drawings, Jenny Holzer's noted Truisms undergo another kind of translation, wherein each of her words is replaced by its full definition and handwritten in minute print on white paper. The effect is as essentializing as it is estranging and embodies the all-but-overt anti-institutional sentiment that unifies the exhibition: that art is not intended to yield practical (read: commodifiable) sense, but to give voice to all that otherwise couldn't be uttered. Through February 28 at the Regional Arts Commission, 6128 Delmar Boulevard; 314-863-5811 or www.art-stl.com. Hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Fri. , noon-5 p.m. Sat.-Sun.
It's Getting Light: New Works by Christopher Gustave and Julie Malone Repetitive and multilayered geometries are the basic grammar of this exhibition of work by two St. Louis-based artists. Malone composes glossy oil paintings of the accumulated squares that come of a quick brushstroke, building the surface to reveal similar underlayers of dabbed chromatics and occasionally emphasizing the shape of the painted gesture with a drawn square outline. Gustave cuts small squares of paper and layers them in ascending sizes, creating tiny piles of color that are then affixed to a paper page or wood panel in idiosyncratic grids. Anonymous pills make their way onto these piles, and do formal service to the image by their offsetting pale hues and circularity. The exhibition appears like a chronicle of non-dramatic narratives — the kind inflected by mid-daylight, affective moods, weather in flux and the dim bruise of tedium — that over time manage to implicate something larger or incite a revelation by default. Through February 12 at Hoffman Lachance Contemporary, 2713 Sutton Boulevard, Maplewood; 314-960-5322 or www.hoffmanlachancefineart.com. Hours: 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Wed.-Fri., noon-5 p.m. Sat and by appointment.
Karin Hodgin Jones: Mimetic Labors This suite of five kinetic sculptures by locally based Hodgin Jones, each entitled Tug, takes as its source material this slight, often imperceptible gesture and magnifies it to produce distinctly stranger resonances. Each piece is a small machine in which a fabric is, yes, tugged at by a system of very thin threads connected to a small motor. Eluding gimmickry, these pieces manage to fixate on the slow landscapes and all-but-disorderly piles that slightly plucked pieces of cloth create. In a wall piece, a length of this semi-translucent material appears to slowly inhale and exhale. On a smaller scale, a tan swath seems to crumple and shakily uncrumple. The whole gallery softly whines with the variously motorized industry of the work, whose exposed engineering and cloth geometries also betray a concern for sly formal abstraction. Through February 13 at Good Citizen Gallery, 2247 Gravois Avenue; 314-348-4587 or www.goodcitizenstl.com. Hours: noon-5 p.m. Fri.-Sat. and by appointment.
Urban Alchemy/Gordon Matta-Clark The late New York-area artist who used entire blighted buildings as his sculptural material could not have found a more apt (temporary) home. The architectural stock Matta-Clark repurposed finds innumerable analogues beyond the Pulitzer's walls; each instance serves as a brief visual lesson in the aesthetics of simple dwelling spaces. Like archaeological strata, the layers of linoleum, plaster, wood beams, shingles, wallpaper and paint attest to the intricacy of the quotidian and the accretive elegance of all things driven by necessity. The message seems to be: Look closely and let nothing be taken for granted. Beyond the diffusions of daylight so scrupulously choreographed by the museum's celebrated architecture, siting this survey in St. Louis does a service to both artist and city. Matta-Clark was an innovator in the synthesis of architecture, activism and art — a catalyst of exactly the sort this town could use. Through June 5 at the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts, 3716 Washington Boulevard; 314-754-1850 or www.pulitzerarts.org. Hours: noon-5 p.m. Wed., 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sat.
Yinka Shonibare: Mother and Father Worked Hard So I Can Play Placing his signature life-size mannequins, clothed in Dutch wax-printed cotton (otherwise known as "African print"), in the period rooms on the museum's lower level, the notable British-Nigerian conceptual artist re-illuminates these fossilized moments of material history with fresh paradoxes. It is not Shonibare's figures — child-size, eerily static...and guillotined — that are the focal curiosities here, but rather the cultural incoherence of the historic rooms they inhabit. You suddenly notice how the quintessential American, English and French living spaces here are in reality odd collections of cultural artifacts: an ancient Greek krater in a British country manor; Qing dynasty vases and a Russian carpet in a South Carolina parlor. Ethnic authenticity is a fallacy, it seems, and social status a mere material import — validated by stuff made or acquired from any place (and time) other than one's own. The installation's multicultural theme may feel tiredly familiar, but the exhibit succeeds in making its point fresh. Household furnishings never appeared more bizarre. Through March 14 at the Saint Louis Art Museum, 1 Fine Arts Drive (in Forest Park); 314-721-0072 or www.slam.org. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sun. (open till 9 p.m. Fri.)
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