St. Louis Art Capsules

Jessica Baran encapsulates the St. Louis art scene

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St. Louis Art Capsules

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Bad Moon Rising 3 Reviewed in this issue.

All I Needed Was Everything St. Louis sculptor John Watson installs what appears like the bits and pieces of an unmoored and abandoned dockyard, seeking a new life on higher ground. A large, gangly assemblage dominates the central gallery space: a propulsive latticework of found-wood planks in assorted shades of distress, drywall-screwed together. Lining the gallery walls, smaller pieces made of similar stock hang in tidier groups, suggesting tools on a shed wall. A tone of repurposed wistfulness — if such doubling of sentiment is possible — is set by the show's pale, rescued materials and lyrical titles. Ain't Never Gonna Cry Again, Too Low to Get Too High — they evoke lines Merle Haggard sang (or should have). Like the effect of a country song, the show leaves one wanting a little more and wondering what, given more than pure sentiment, might have been possible. Also showing: Tony Fitzpatrick: Selected Works. Through February 28 at Philip Slein Gallery, 1319 Washington Avenue; 314-621-4634 or Hours: 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Tue.-Sat.

Fresh Paint St. Louis artist Kevin McCoy organized five "street-inspired" cohorts — Brooklyn, James Gates, Shadzilla, Vito and McCoy himself — to wrestle with the influence of the untamable medium of graffiti and produce new, gallery-fit art with the hope of broadening the group's appeal and the context and scope of how their work is appreciated. The small paintings, screen prints and digital prints the artists produced echo the heaped iconography and boldly scrawled messages of their urban counterpart, but in a tidy wall-hung context the work lacks the medium's key sense of unruliness. That aspect was captured at the show's opening: densely packed, DJed, with a hot-dog vendor and occasional bursts of break dancing and flash photography, the event made for a kind of performance that was aptly celebratory, broad-reaching and timed not to last. Through January 31 at Fort Gondo Compound for the Arts, 3151 Cherokee Street; 314-772-3628 or Hours: by appointment.

Holga Polka Invitational A county fair-esque display of 40-plus contributors' wranglings with the quirk-prone Holga camera. A plastic model mass-manufactured in Hong Kong in the '80s, the Holga best lends itself to capturing modest, peripheral incidents and typically un-photo-worthy details that, in the camera's flawed soft-focus, suddenly elude fixed time. The show cultivates a spirit of unwittingly attentive viewing that invites all to recompose their daily lives as something a little more than rigidly daily. In one square image, a city phone booth appears solitary and miraculous in a bare winter forest-scape; in a small triptych, a single cactus plant leans off-kilter against blue sky, teeters blurrily in a second frame and then, in the third, is replaced by the silver angularity of an airplane wing as viewed in flight through a passenger's portal window. Through February 22 at the Regional Arts Commission, 6128 Delmar Boulevard; 314-863-5811 or Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Fri., noon-5 p.m. Sat.-Sun.

Houska: Hi-Def Springfield, Illinois, transplant Charles Houska — an agendaless Keith Haring whose popular brand of flamboyantly sunny "art for everyday life" has decorated everything from credit cards and vodka ads to children's-hospital doors and animal-shelter walls — abandoned the product line for the studio to create this show of new acrylic-on-canvas paintings. The yield, though, is more of the same: reliably branded imagery of a wide-eyed world of rainbowed landscapes and ubiquitous smiles, rife with blind optimism and heedless populism, that's better fit for brightening the public realm than the private auspices of a commercial gallery. Then again, opening-night sales did benefit Food Outreach, and any gallerygoer who loves brazen depictions of unflagging happiness will be undoubtedly gratified, as the work remains as innocent-seeming as a coloring book. Through February 21 at phd gallery, 2300 Cherokee Street; 314-664-6644 or Hours: noon-4 p.m. Thu.-Sun.

Ideal (Dis-) Placements: Old Masters at the Pulitzer This exhibition of canonical canvases of slain martyrs, pious virgins and other grand dilemmas borrowed from two encyclopedic museums and replaced in naturally lit contemporary galleries is a reaffirmation of the human scale. The minimalism of Tadao Ando's building design is diffused by ornate, gilt-framed compositions that date from the fourteenth to the eighteenth century, the two historical extremes meeting precisely at the fragile effects of daylight on the predominantly figural pieces. Contemplative and reverent, the show fulfills its premise so well that it seems capable of providing a discretely intimate experience for each and every viewer. Through June 20 at the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts, 3716 Washington Boulevard; 314-754-1850 or Hours: noon-5 p.m. Wed., 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sat.

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