St. Louis Art Capsules

Jessica Baran encapsulates the St. Louis arts scene

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St. Louis Art Capsules

Newly Reviewed
Gedi Sibony: My Arms Are Tied Behind My Other Arms 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.

Bad Moon Rising 3 A cacophony of rage and ruin, this traveling group show takes a laundry list of individual work and re-contextualizes it to look like a dense, end-all hideout for the current spirit of discontent. On blaring TV sets, videos depict a middle-aged woman crouching in an alleyway, looting the stuffing from a discarded Spiderman toy; a tuxedoed lounge singer repetitively crooning that sorrow conquers happiness; everyday folk testifying to having succumbed to the radical Christianity of a gay hippie preacher; and a primly suited man opening a black umbrella, setting it on fire, then dropping it and walking away. Absurd and ineffectual tangents punctuate and mitigate the larger claims of other work that points directly at specific political indiscretions. By balancing the prescriptive with the intuitive, curators Jessica Silverman and Jan Van Woensel achieve a rare success: a politically driven show that refrains from shrillness, issuing instead a kind of ominous forecast. Through February 28 at Boots Contemporary Art Space, 2307 Cherokee Street; 314-773-2281 or Hours: noon-5 p.m. Wed. and Sat. and 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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