St. Louis Art Capsules

Jessica Baran encapsulates the St. Louis art scene


Brandon Anschultz: Transmission/Destination This is a show about control, and like the sartorially futuristic Janet Jackson, Anschultz has lots of it. Though they're far more elegant than the overexposed megasongstress, Anschultz's lush, chromatic abstract paintings share a similar utopian ambition of severe, orderly élan. Each canvas portrays a glossy, single-color micro-universe, sparsely populated by one or two razor-striped planetary shapes. These shapes — or, as they're labeled, "No-Ships," a reference to Frank Herbert's Dune — bristle with narrow, tensely precise swaths of color that occasionally sputter out in one or two deviant (but measured) strands. Accompanying the canvases are contrastingly crude sculptural objects dangling from frayed anchors and pencil-line schematic drawings. The overall effect is that of the artist-as-astronaut marveling at his own unfathomable capacity for cruel disorder and near-stiflingly exquisiteness. While the artist's painterly expertise dominates the exhibit, the crux clearly seems to lie in the small but rough tears in the pristine seams, which expose a flash of something with arena-size appeal: the salubriously naughty. Through November 23 at the Millstone Gallery at COCA, 524 Trinity Avenue, University City; 314-725-6555 or Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Fri., noon-5 p.m. Sat.-Sun.

Lutz Bacher and Aida Ruilova The cultural diagnosis is grim: Ours is an era either endlessly complicated or senseless. The spare alien landscape of Lutz Bacher's large-scale installation Spill makes every effort to defy the sensible and sensual. Darkly lighted on the main gallery's cold slate terrain, the sculptural elements are few and far between: a large, untreadable cul-de-sac leading nowhere; four life-size Deep Space Nine cardboard cutouts standing mute and detached; the delicate parts of a smashed black Fender Stratocaster thinly scattered; and, behind a glossy black plastic curtain, several pallets of Budweiser looming with strange formality. What do all of these random pop artifacts add up to? One wall of the installation attempts to explain, in densely checker-tiled Xerox prints of celebrities, atrocities, revolutionaries and choice critical addenda. Perhaps summing it up best is an image of Jane Fonda in her peace-activist prime with a text bubble that reads, "I'm weird. I'm really fucked up." Alternatively, the compulsive guttural utterances of Aida Ruilova's brief, claustrophobic videos — which bear titles such as "Um," "Ahhh" and "Oh No" — suggest that the solitary life, away from the pop-cultural onslaught, offers no more reprieve than the psychic equivalent of banging one's head against a wall. Through January 4, 2009, at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, 3750 Washington Boulevard; 314-535-4660 or Hours: 10 a.m.-5p.m. Tue.-Sat. (open till 8 p.m. Thu.), 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sun.

No Friends to Display Peter Pranschke excises the word "God" from the minuscule print of onionskin Bible pages, then Scotch-tapes the sheaves together to form patchwork scrims punctured by small but conspicuous absences. Hanging from strands of colored cotton thread, these thin text quilts cordon off a small viewing space within the already close quarters of Maps Contemporary Art, Belleville's modest alternative art outpost. After this show closes, Maps director B.j. Voigt is moving his curatorial efforts to St. Louis' art collaborative, Open Lot. The tone of this final exhibition is fittingly stark and mournful: Some gaps — be they in a book or a community — may be slight in size but salient in meaning. Disjunctively framed in gilt baroque-cut wood, the show's single full-color image — of a cartoon brute engaged in an aggressive form of box-packing — suggests the cruel and comic rigor of moving on alone. In the toylike character's tooth-grinding grimace, it's still easy to discern the deeper, subtler pangs of losing erstwhile guiding pals. Geographical, spiritual or otherwise, it's hard to deny that we all, at some point, need a map. Through November 1 at Maps Contemporary Art Space, 225 North Illinois Street, Belleville, Illinois; 618-334-4347 or Hours: noon-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and by appointment.

A Sudden Gust of Wind A witty wisp of an installation by Turkish artist Serkan Ozkaya fills an intimate, wood-floored exhibition space with the static flurry of a ream of white copy paper blown thoroughly aloft. This apparent replication of an office disaster is also, one learns via accompanying literature, a replication of a photograph by contemporary artist Jeff Wall, which itself was a replication of a ninteenth-century Japanese woodcut by Hokusai. Better, even, than this show's economical way of manufacturing full-scale art from Staples stock is its ability to overcome its less apparent conceptual conceits about the mania of and resignation to influence. Dangling from clear threads, the crisp eight-and-a-half-by-eleven-inch lines motionlessly twist, turn and scatter in perpetual mid-gust, casting their own soft replica in shadows on the surrounding white walls — producing, ultimately, a spectacle of the oldest brand: that of dry leaves swirling or a magician's hand producing white birds from a dark-worn hat. Through October 31 at Boots Contemporary Art Space, 2307 Cherokee Street; 314-772-2668 or Hours: noon-5 p.m. Wed. and Sat. and by appointment.