Current Shows

Ivy Cooper encapsulates the St. Louis art scene

Abstract Painting: Six Points of View Guest curator Belinda Lee has assembled a modest but rich collection of works by some of St. Louis' best artists, some emerging and some well-established. Gary Passanise's Structure of War (2004) is an indescribably dark, moving work, which seems locked in sorrowful engagement with a series of four untitled Barry Leibman pieces that comprise layers of charred wood, paper, fabric and floor tile. The mournful chord these works strike is delicately counterbalanced by colorful, recent pieces by Christopher Kahler, Ron Laboray and Laura Beard Aeling. Two of Michael Byron's "Generic Dada Abstractions" (from 2000 and 2001) round out a very strong showcase. Through November 24 at the Gallery at the Regional Arts Commission, 6128 Delmar Boulevard; 314-863-5811. Gallery hours 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Fri., noon-5 p.m. Sat. and Sun.

Art St. Louis XX: The Exhibition Art St. Louis shows tend to be mixed bags and this is no exception, save for the fact that it was juried by New York-based Chakaia Booker, one of the finest artists working today in mixed-media sculpture. Booker's criteria appear to have been diffuse, as the exhibition includes just about everything but the kitchen sink. Nevertheless, it's all quite strong and there's always something to be said for variety. Jesse Thomas' large oil painting The Studio (2003) makes a scathing, humorous comment on art and popular culture, and painter Chris Kahler (Colony 69, 2004) just can't go wrong these days. Several very strong ceramic artists are represented, among them Ron Johnson, Tim Eberhardt, Jimmy Liu and Brock Rumohr. Among the five Awards of Excellence winners are the polymer photogravure by Khanh H. Le and the mixed-media piece by Sharon Davie-Barrett. Through January 7, 2005, at Art St. Louis, 917 Locust Street, Suite 300; 314-241-4810. Gallery hours 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sat.

Jenna Bauer: As Everything Becomes One... These new paintings by St. Louis artist Bauer represent both a change in artistic gears and a coming together of forms and ideas that have long inhabited her work. Bauer is well known for her softly translucent, minimalist prints, which she relates to landscape features -- light, horizon lines and color. These bold oils foreground muscular gesture and earthy, rich tones in swirls of tumbling energy. Work: Light pitches the eye through a riotous tunnel of energetic brushstrokes and into a calm, distant patch of land. Morning Lea presents a thicket of icy blue and pink rooted in steely gray and black. These works connect earth and sky, energy and color, movement and stasis, and combine them all into a joyous multitonal statement. Through November 27 at Gallery Urbis Orbis, 419 North 10th Street; 314-406-5778. Gallery hours 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Tue.-Thu., noon-7 p.m. Fri., 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sat.

Currents 92: Anna Kuperberg After earning her BFA at Washington University, Anna Kuperberg spent much of her time in south St. Louis, snapping images of neighborhood kids. These astonishing photos show the kids playing, crying or lost in their thoughts; they reveal moments of sheer joy, straight-faced seriousness and -- quite often -- disquieting ambiguity. Like street photographers of the 1950s and '60s, Kuperberg works the old-fashioned way, with a 35mm camera and without cropping the negative, which means it's all in her eye. And but for the stray contemporary logo, these photographs could have been made 50 years ago. Through November 28 at the Saint Louis Art Museum, 1 Fine Arts Drive; 314-721-0072. Gallery hours 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sun., 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Fri.

Teo González: Recent Explorations The sixteen paintings by this Spanish-born, Brooklyn, New York-based artist vary in dimension, but each features a similar format: a square grid of cell-like structures with dots of paint in each. What sounds so simple in description, however, is astonishingly complex in reality. Untitled #290 is a large, dazzling arrangement, with dots of gold paint in white cells, while the much smaller Untitled #336 features more densely arranged black dots against a stunning red grid pattern. Beyond color, there is the random accident in each piece that catches the eye -- each cell in each grid, and each dot in each cell, is handpainted, so what appears to be a general uniformity is actually, on closer inspection, complete irregularity. González's work is far from mere op art redux; it's intimate, gently insistent and not at all interested in visual game playing. Through December 4 at William Shearburn Gallery, 4735 McPherson Avenue; 314-367-8020. Gallery hours 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Tue.-Sat.

Hubblevision: New Sculptures New York-based Jill Viney has produced some startling hybrid forms that seem to morph undersea creatures with structures for exploring outer space. Drifter 2 (1999), Vigil 3 and Vigil 4 (both 2004) appear to float in the gallery like manned satellites, but their fiberglass skins look fleshy and organic. Out on the gallerys lawn, a multicolored fiberglass Dwelling (2004) invites you to enter its uncanny, bejeweled interior. Whether these things belong to this world or another is not altogether clear, but it is a world of wonder -- dreamlike, a little creepy and totally enchanting. Through January 15, 2005, at Gallery 210, TeleCommunity Center, UM-St. Louis, 1 University Boulevard (at Natural Bridge Road), Normandy; 314-516-5976. Gallery hours 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sat.

Image and Identity: Portraits by Philip Kwame Apagya, Samuel Fosso, Seydou Keita and Malick Sidibe The theme of identity in postcolonial Africa continues to be all the rage at art venues across the nation; this photography exhibition provides a fresh look at some lesser-known African artists. Viewers may be familiar with Keita's small, black-and-white images from the 1950s, but they look altogether new in the context of Apagya's large-scale, staged color scenes, such as After the Funeral (1998) and So What? (1996). Fosso's self-portraits as karate expert, businessman and pirate are disarming; Sidibe's snapshots from the 1960s and 1970s possess a fascinating, unscripted realism. Through January 8, 2005, at the Sheldon Art Galleries (Gallery of Photography), 3648 Washington Boulevard; 314-533-9900. Gallery hours noon-8 p.m. Tue. and Thu., noon-5 p.m. Wed. and Fri., 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sat.

Chris Kahler: Recent Work Kahler's paintings have been popping up around town recently, but this is his first major exhibition since joining Elliot Smith earlier this year. This large concentration of his works affords a brilliant glimpse into the variety and the consistency of Kahler's visual language. The works examine dazzling fictional organic systems: floating tumors, cellular colonies and tendons that strain to connect them all. These magical forms bleed fluids that are tangerine, magenta, gray and lime-green in color; they appear to float in some primeval soup borrowed from the fantasies of Joan Miró. A stunning show. Also on view: Elaine Blatt's "Gay Pride Parade Series," fabulous photographs taken in Paris and London. Through November 27 at Elliot Smith Contemporary Art, 4729 McPherson Avenue; 314-361-4800. Gallery hours 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Tue.-Sat.

Oil Man: Paintings by Jesse Thomas In his first solo exhibition, Thomas positively shines. His works careen through the history of painting, simultaneously referencing and confounding stolid modernist formalism as he synthesizes his own brand of critical humor. The "High Fashion Cubism" series (2004) unleashes that style's pop-art potential (Picasso and Braque only managed to hint at it). Thomas is a deft aesthetic ventriloquist in the vein of Michael Byron -- and you'd better be good at it if you're going to take on the modernist masters. "Thomas's Geneology of North American Bushes and Shrubs," a collection of black-and-white portraits of celebrity right-wingers painted on book covers, delves into political humor. Two large oils, Golden Helmet of Mambrino and The Art of Painting, are beatnik pastiches on the romance of painting. Having recently completed his MFA at Washington U., this Fort Gondo vet has a bright future ahead of him indeed. Through November 29 at Fort Gondo Compound for the Arts, 3151 Cherokee Street; 314-772-3628. Gallery hours daily, by appointment.

Showcase 3: St. Louis Photography and Video Invitational The last of a yearlong series of exhibitions to spotlight local artists is an uneven affair, with some odd juxtapositions and scattershot themes. Eric Shultis' Small Thoughts and Memories (2004) plants tiny male nude images under magnifying glasses and in daguerreotype frames in a haunting, surreal wall arrangement. It's a strong work, inviting quiet contemplation. But two frenetic video loops share its space: Nanette Boileau's "Arcade" and Van McElwee's "Modular Meander" (both 2004). Boileau's piece employs a video montage that corresponds nicely to Carol Crouppen's large Polaroids of mixed-media collages. Works by Nanette Hegamin, Susan Pittman, Jennifer Colten Schmidt and Eric Post are somewhat bland by comparison; they may as well belong to another exhibition altogether. Through February 12, 2005, at the Sheldon Art Galleries (Gallery of Photography), 3648 Washington Boulevard; 314-533-9900. Gallery hours noon-8 p.m. Tue. and Thu., noon-5 p.m. Wed. and Fri., 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sat.

Wind Drawings: Chance Readings in Ink and Mixed Media Floyd Kenneth Stein maintains his Atelier ISLY in St. Louis and Copenhagen and exhibits his peculiar brand of art all over the world. His "Wind Drawings" are just that -- marks made by the wind as it moves a wooden drawing "arm" attached to a tree branch. The scratchy, jagged marks possess a surprising amount of calligraphic lyricism; taken as a whole, the effort recalls the Surrealist, "automatic" drawings of André Masson, or even John Cage's use of the I Ching to generate compositions. Stein's show contains original drawings on paper and vellum, as well as digital reprints on acrylic panes, which are numbered, signed and noted as to place of production. Through November 28 at Left Bank Books, 399 N. Euclid Avenue; 314-367-6731. Store hours 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Mon.-Sat., 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sun. -- Ivy Cooper

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