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Medieval bestiaries were amazing compendiums of creatures both real and imagined, or sometimes a little of both in one animal. Even when the animal depicted was real, scholars might have a little trouble with the truth; the he-goat, for example, was noted in many bestiaries as having a nature so lusty that its blood dissolves diamonds. This conflation of truth and fantasy speaks more to human imagination than poor scientific observation. Animals have a secretive, almost mystical power in their silence that inspires artists to flights of fancy. Claudio Bravo avoids the urge to embellish this power in his series of fifteen lithographs, A Bestiary, but he deftly captures the essence of each animal in a realistic style that's akin to classical human portraiture. His Cabra (Goat) evinces a roguish, hot-blooded quality with a bright eye partially hidden by an unruly lock of hair and a confident stance not unlike any modern-day lothario. Claudio Bravo: A Bestiary opens with a free public reception from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, January 23, at the Atrium Gallery (4728 McPherson Avenue; 314-367-1076 or www.atriumgallery.net). The gallery is open Wednesday through Sunday, and the show remains up through Saturday, March 14.
Wednesdays-Sundays. Starts: Jan. 23. Continues through March 14, 2009

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