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Ivy Cooper encapsulates the St. Louis art scene

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Betwixt and Between: Christina Shmigel Most artists invited to install work in the Saint Louis Museum of Art's Contemporary Projects Gallery choose to black out the space and show off their work under discreet, tasteful lighting; the space is that awkward. Along comes Christina Shmigel, who takes the former utility closets and lights them up hard, adding her signature scaled-down versions of industrial tubing, pipes and architecture. The result is a sublime disorientation. Shmigel plays off existing plumbing, power lines and drains, installing her own little silos, wire circuitry and trestle bridges. We're left to wrestle with scenarios that are either miniatures of industrial landscapes or enlarged interpretations of the secret architecture betwixt and between the buildings we daily inhabit. Through July 11 at the Saint Louis University Museum of Art, Contemporary Projects Gallery, 3663 Lindell; 314-977-3399. Gallery hours 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Tue.-Sun.

Dystopic Visions What this exhibition lacks in size, it makes up for in theoretical and critical ambition. Curated by artists Jason Hoeing and Cary Horton as part of the Critical Mass exhibition program, it brings together works by six artists who criticize, contemplate and/or caricature facets of contemporary consumer culture. These visions are dystopic indeed -- particularly the installations by Jason Wallace Triefenbach, faux-scientific studies on preventing beach erosion on the fictional Isle of Confusion; and Khanh Le's prints and tiny books, which pose spiky questions on efforts to modernize Vietnam. Daniel E.C. Nunez-Shown's Home-Less and Tim Waldrop's Model Homes are quiet but devastating statements on the vacancy of the American Dream; Amy Harmon's Unnatural Selection offers up beauty accessories from consumer hell. Through July 31 at the Regional Arts Commission, 6128 Delmar, 314-863-5811. Gallery hours 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Mon.-Fri., noon-5 p.m. Sat.-Sun.

Emily Hubley: Preliminary, Animated and Reconstructed Frames, 1995-2004 Many St. Louisans won't realize that they're already familiar with the work of Hubley, who designs animations for independent films, including Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2000). The collages on display here are small and delicate, barely containing her ferocious sense of absurd humor. Hubley has wit and animation in her DNA; her parents were in the business too. This show is well worth a visit and is a nice advertisement for Gallery Urbis Orbis' new space. Don't miss the sweet paintings inspired by Japanese pop culture by Kelly Newcomer across the gallery. Through July 2 at Gallery Urbis Orbis, 419 North Tenth; 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.

Tim Liddy: Recent Works on Paper These 33 works by hometown hero Liddy are smaller than his usual heroically scaled paintings on metal, so they allow him to tighten his thematic focus and even experiment with media (some of the printed transfer images look downright surreal next to Liddy's hand renderings). But even within these reduced dimensions, Liddy manages to make quietly grand (but not grandstanding) statements about human vice and folly. The visual syntax is Liddy's own, but the vocabulary consists of a rich mix of Western and Eastern art-historical icons. These are portraits of tragicomic heroes and scenarios that touch a nerve -- sometimes more than one. Through July 2 at the William Shearburn Gallery, 4735 McPherson; 314-367-8020. Gallery hours 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Tue.-Sat.

Link: Photography with St. Louis Connections This show will make you think twice about how well you know St. Louis. Cary Horton's surreal black-and-white montages are rooted in St. Louis, but their odd spirit transcends the city. One of the most effective is Horizon Distance, which shows a betting parlor at Fairmount Park. Portrait photographers Stefan Hester and Matt Marcinkowski each weigh in with impressive, insightful images; Hester's scenes of MacArthur Bridge dropoffs, sewer department barricades and East St. Louis smokestacks are haunting. Marcinkowski takes weird color scenes of a nighttime downtown you'll have to work to recognize. Through June 26 at Mad Art, 2727 South 12th; 314-771-8230. Gallery hours by appointment.

Raedeke: Always Almost New The first in the new Kranzberg Exhibition Series at Laumeier is summer's hottest art ticket, a euphoric celebration of synergy and the synthetic. Daniel Raedeke has parlayed his earlier colorful, painted contemplations on consumerism into actual consumables: four little characters that appear throughout the exhibit in painted, sculptural, animated and packaged forms. From eerO, the gloopy version of the Arch, to Layz, Woggy, Landscapy and phasO -- you'll want to collect them all! Raedeke's work is much more than eye candy; it invites all kinds of cultural theory questions and analysis. But it's also just good, clean, visual fun, the flip side of the dystopia on display at the Regional Arts Commission. Through July 16 at Laumeier Sculpture Park, 12580 Rott, 314-821-1209. Gallery hours 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sat., noon-5 p.m. Sun.

Size Matters An exhibition based upon the curiously obvious premise that scale is a fundamental and meaningful component in a work of art. You could spend a lot of time trying to figure out why size plays a bigger role in these artworks -- as opposed to, say, any others. That would be a waste of time. Check out the show because there's some darn good art here, including a ten-panel wall work by Jenna Bauer, an irresistibly slick C-print by Miwa Yanagi and superb works on paper by Richard Serra and Ellsworth Kelly. Other stunners include Moses' Bullet Flag (constructed completely out of shell casings) and Joan Hall's Deep Blue, one of her delicious pigment and cast-paper nods to Yves Klein. Through July 3 at Elliot Smith Contemporary Art, 4729 McPherson; 314-361-4800. Call for gallery hours. -- Ivy Cooper

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