St. Louis Arts Capsules

Malcolm Gay encapsulates the St. Louis arts scene.

All Systems Go and Meditations on Limitations/One-Hour Sculptures White Flag Projects exhibits two young artists from out of town. In the main gallery is All Systems Go, a suite of meticulously rendered paintings and drawings by Kansas City artist Linnea Spransy. Spransy's quarry is theological, and her paintings, which involve organic, line-based systems brought to their not-so-logical conclusion, explore the inherent tension in belief systems that seek to ward off chaos while at the same time producing it. Upstairs, Meditations on Limitations/One-Hour Sculptures is a collection of whimsical pieces by Los Angeles-area artist Zach Kleyn. Originally conceived as a one-hour creative warm-up in which Kleyn cannibalized earlier failed works, the show is a mash-up of everyday elements tossed uncomfortably together: a mossy rock wearing a Beatles wig, a plastic revolver exploding with insulating foam. Through February 16 at White Flag Projects, 4568 Manchester Avenue; 314-531-3442 or Hours: noon-7 p.m. Wed., noon-5 p.m Sat. and by appointment. — Malcolm Gay

The Embedded Image and Close Work Webster University professor and art department chair Tom Lang fills dual roles this season at Craft Alliance. Working first as a curator, Lang has compiled The Embedded Image, an international group show of contemporary papermaking. While their styles vary considerably — the show features everything from handmade books to a marvelous still-life photograph of fruit constructed from toilet paper — the artists share an interest in paper's pulpy physicality and its ability to make fleeting thoughts and ideas permanent. In the rear gallery, Lang, who teaches both printmaking and papermaking, exhibits his own work in the aptly titled Close Work. Using thickly layered pulp, Lang has created a series of paper bas-reliefs that seek to return the material to its original arboreal state. The result is a series of highly textured details — bark, branches — that Lang has highlighted with iridescent colors. Through February 24 at the Craft Alliance Gallery, 6640 Delmar Boulevard, University City; or 314-725-1177. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Thu. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Fri.-Sat., 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sun. (MG)

Outside the Box For its first show of 2008, phd gallery features 40 paintings from New Jersey artist Eric Gibbons' "Box Series." Confining himself to a monochromatic palette of grays, Gibbons gives us nearly life-size neoclassical nudes crouching, sitting and kneeling in uniform three-by-three-foot boxes. Many of the paintings, deftly rendered with fluid, muscular strokes, tackle mythological subjects. In Hera the wife of Zeus joins sword to chalice; in Bacchus, a tribute to Caravaggio (whose natural figures rendered in dramatic chiaroscuro clearly made an impression on Gibbons), a heavy-lidded youth seductively engages the viewer while offering a goblet of wine. Each work can certainly stand alone, but viewed together they permit viewers to create their own associations, allowing the paintings to grow in expressive strength. Through March 8 at phd Gallery, 2300 Cherokee Street; 314-664-6644 or Hours: noon-4 p.m. Thu.-Sun. (MG)

Pedestrian Project Each January Boots Contemporary Art Space goes into hibernation as owner Juan Chávez turns his attention to publishing Boot Print, an international journal devoted to emerging contemporary art. (Download a copy at Though his small gallery is closed, Chavez converts its picture window into the Pedestrian Project, for which he invites an installation artist to create a work for passersby. This year that artist is Brett Williams, who, except for a small circular opening, has painted over the entire window. The circle of clear glass invites you to view Future Hole, a four-foot tube at the end of which Williams has placed a video monitor that displays four short video animations. The videos, which range from a retro-futuristic composition of erratically patterned lines to a cascade of stars, are accompanied by a lulling soundtrack that emanates from a speaker above. Plays continuously through February 3 at Boots Contemporary Art Space, 2307 Cherokee Street; or 314-772-2668. (MG)

Ann Pibal and John Dilg: Recent Work Ann Pibal, a New York artist who works in a meticulous geometric style, paints fine repeating lines on a monochromatic background. Often working on small sheets of Dibond, a thin aluminum composite, her paintings — clean, cool and reserved — hug the wall, allowing viewers to project the works' internal geometric logic across the entire room. John Dilg, an artist from Iowa City, also works with solid-color backgrounds. Dilg, though, uses solid colors and lines to create organic pictures of misleading simplicity — the keys to which are often contained in a single element: a lion with glasses and a prominently featured penis; an abstracted female form whose only recognizable feature is a vagina; an abstract landscape made recognizable only by a tree. Through February 16 at Schmidt Contemporary Art, 615 North Grand Boulevard; or 314-575-2648 or Hours: noon-5 p.m. Wed.-Fri., 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sat. (MG)

Protoplaces The Center of Creative Arts (COCA) opens 2008 with an exhibition of the work of Washington University architecture professor Iain Fraser. Working in the crosscurrent of architecture and sculpture, Fraser fashions structures of welded metal, wood and glass. Like the architectural model, Fraser's expressive constructions beg to be imagined on a grand scale (in Fraser's case, the size, say, of an airplane hangar). But unlike their more utilitarian cousins, Fraser's models — foreboding, sharp-angled and often adorned with or supported by precariously hung iron webbing — are free of function's dictates. Here a construction's potential use is only hinted at once it has been assembled, inviting the viewer to imagine a world in which such a structure might exist. Through February 24 in 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. (MG)

re-construction St. Louis photographer Jamie Kreher's new works at the Ellen Curlee Gallery feature single, mass-produced elements found in car-based environments — a dismantled diner sign that has been abandoned, a gas station sign bare of prices — which Kreher reproduces across the span of the picture. The result is an asymmetrical patterning that from afar looks almost like fabric; closer up, the hundreds of identical images reveal themselves, now jostling for space in a crowded landscape. Running concurrently is the gallery's "next door: Video Series" installment, Wrestle Nebula, a work by Chicago video artist Travis LeRoy Southworth that depicts a dozen or so old-school WWF-ers smacking down in deep space. Both open January 25 and run through March 8 at Ellen Curlee Gallery, 1308A Washington Avenue; or 314-241-1299. Hours: 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Tue.-Sat.; First Friday 11 a.m.-9 p.m. (MG)

Resilience: The Sculpture of Philip Hitchcock and Revelation The Saint Louis University Museum of Art exhibits two local artists with wildly different takes on Biblical themes. Using a technique to cast gypsum, Philip Hitchcock has assembled a series of highly detailed (and highly idealized) nude figures, here recast in homoerotic Biblical roles — a strapping nude Jesus embracing the cross, a semi-recumbent Adam receiving the breath of life. The figures, remarkable in both their detail and frank sensuality, are often concentrated on one portion of the anatomy — the front of a muscled male torso, the front of a pregnant woman's torso — that ends abruptly, leaving the viewer to wonder if what's unseen hides an imperfection. Upstairs, Revelation is a collection of painstakingly rendered pen-and-ink drawings executed over a 30-year period by illustrator Russell Kraus, illustrating scenes from the hallucinogenic Book of Revelation. The drawings, highly mannered and quite beautiful, often blend long-limbed, graceful angels with a psychedelic background. Resilience runs through February 15, Revelation through March 30 at the Saint Louis University Museum of Art, 3663 Lindell Boulevard; 314-977-2666 or Hours: 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Wed.-Sun. (MG)