Featured Review: A Dance to Jules Feiffer The career of this pioneer of Seinfeldian existential humor is as impressive as they get — his vita includes a 40-plus-year stint as a cartoonist for the Village Voice; being the New York Times' first op-ed cartoonist; authoring a Mike Nichols-directed, Jack-Nicholson-starring film script (Carnal Knowledge); and winning the Pulitzer Prize. This exhibition focuses on a series of recent large-scale water colors of long-limbed dancers, as well as a select group of Feiffer's '90s-era dancer cartoons. These serials, which feature a woman with a determined sense of positivity, mildly spoof the ambitions of avant-garde expression by plying the elegant, creative urge with more desperate content — such as the wish for more rational gun control, racial equality and higher public education standards, along with the general desire to simply be better understood by one's parents. As much as she'd have to say about recent news, she has already said it. She's a blithe soul, whose strident leaps and drooping downfalls have an empathetic whimsy to them, keeping her message both trenchant and buoyant (not an easy bargain to strike) and always a step before her time. The show is a great introduction to Feiffer — a quiet inventor of a brand of contemporary frankness about art, politics and life — so prevalent today we pass it off as not mere wit but true-blue common sense. Through February 13 at the Millstone Gallery at COCA, 524 Trinity Avenue, University City; 314-725-6555 or www.cocastl.org. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Fri., noon-5 p.m. Sat.-Sun.
Roger Ackling Using rescued pieces of driftwood collected during oceanside walks, British artist Ackling crafts intimate minimalist sculptures whose presence far exceeds their small scale. Softly weathered but sharp in form, the pyramidal, cubic and rectangular wood pieces are etched with meticulous burnt striations, created by training the sun's rays through a magnifying glass. These lines, which cover the diminutive items' full surface area, move steadily over and between the occasional bent and rusted nail. The work speaks as much in its finished form as it does of its means of arriving there: distilling a habitual communion with nature — from ritual walks to the studied harnessing of the sun — the small sculptures are products of the elements as much as they are of the artist's hand. Jewel-like, the ten pieces appear as relics to moments perhaps otherwise quantified as trivial, when nothing was uttered and no greater action occurred than the lapping of waves and the clearance of a cloud layer. Through January 22 at Schmidt Contemporary Art, 615 North Grand Boulevard; 314-575-2648 or www.schmidtcontemporaryart.com. Hours: noon-5 p.m. Wed.-Fri., 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sat. and by appointment.
Maturity and Its Muse The only two traits shared by the artists in this wildly eclectic show of sculpture, painting, drawing, photography and then some is that they're based in St. Louis and on the other side of age 70. And they wear these aspects well. As the first exhibition by the new, locally based nonprofit of the same name (which aims to support positive and productive aging through creativity in the arts), M and Its M has managed to gather a deeply accomplished group of individuals whose biographies and personal accomplishments alone could have provided substance for an exhibition. But the art does not fail to deliver, ranging from quilts made of neckties to drawings of roaring orangutans to beak-shaped ceramic pitchers to colorful pop collages to gold chain-mail chokers. Confident diversity is apparently at the heart of growing old gracefully — a message that addresses art's durability or its importance in keeping us young. Through February 5 at the Sheldon Art Galleries, 3648 Washington Boulevard; 314-533-9900 or www.sheldonconcerthall.org. Hours: noon-8 p.m. Tue., noon-5 p.m. Wed.-Fri., 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sat.
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