Keith Piper: Crusade British artist Piper had never been to St. Louis and was only vaguely aware of the Dred Scott case when the Contemporary invited him to town. It's a testament to his keen eye, intelligence and wit that he has put together one of the most striking artistic commentaries on St. Louis' complicity in the slave trade and the Underground Railroad. Using the crusade as a metaphor for Manifest Destiny, slavery, colonization and subjugation, Piper combines in stunning tableaux high-resolution moving images and digitally collaged photographs of the city and its surroundings. Also on view is New Video, New Europe, video works from 39 artists from Eastern Europe. Through November 21 at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, 3750 Washington Boulevard; 314-535-4660. Gallery hours 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sat. (10 a.m.-7 p.m. Thu.), 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sun.
The Outlaw Printmakers and Michael Byron: A Decade of Work on Paper These two hefty exhibitions serve up a one-two punch of pure visual enjoyment and keen, often pathos-wracked political commentary. Byron's works range from the delicate Psychological Chart (1993-95) through several postcard works and the "Creation Myth" series of the late 1990s to the recent, abstract "Cosmic Tears" works. Matters get less delicate in the larger gallery, where fifteen "outlaws" let loose their stunning visual barbs. Local favorite Tom Huck dominates the show with his woodcut views of life in meth country. Lisa Bulawsky, Nancy Palmeri and Richard Mock turn in sick, funny and timely political satire. David Sandlin, Bill Fick, Sue Coe and Michael Barnes make haunting, unforgettable images that will visit your dreams. Through November 6 at Philip Slein Gallery, 1520 Washington Avenue; 314-621-4634. Gallery hours 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sat.
The Rubber Frame: American Underground and Alternative Comics, 1964-2004 This exhibition, curated by M. Todd Hignite, is tailor-made to complement the current shows across the street at Philip Slein. The works are mostly hand-drawn pages designed for printing in the bawdy, underground print media. Stories from the 1960s and 1970s are particularly shocking -- violent, sometimes misogynistic, often scatological, they went where no comics had gone before, or since, for that matter. R. Crumb's art-world apotheosis tempers his work's impact somewhat, but lesser-known pieces by Rory Hayes, Bill Griffith and Aline Kominsky-Crumb still emit a surprising, disturbing reverb. Drawings by the likes of Jaime Hernandez epitomize the transformation of 1970s "underground" culture into 1980s "alternative" art. More recent works by artists like D.B. Dowd -- in particular his Scenes from Starkdale, Ohio and the animated Suburban Traffic (both 2003-04) -- use the angst-ridden comic style to comment on 21st-century ennui and the catastrophic landscapes of big-box sprawl. A startling, alarming, funny and sad lesson in popular history. Through October 30 at the Des Lee Gallery, 1627 Washington Avenue; 314-621-8735. Gallery hours 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tue.-Thu., 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Fri., 11 a.m.- 6 p.m. Sat., 1-4 p.m. Sun. -- Ivy Cooper