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Ivy Cooper encapsulates the St. Louis art scene

1984-2004 Twentieth Anniversary Celebration at Elliot Smith This exhibition of work by 79 artists from Smith's stable could have been a chaotic melee. Instead director Bruno L. David has turned it into a sparkling, coherent show by asking artists to reference the number 20 in their works, and by hanging the show brilliantly according to medium and/or theme. The large group of two-dimensional works in the main gallery is simply radiant, with knockout pieces by Cheryl Wassenaar, Cheonae Kim, a string piece by Amber Slater and a gouache and pastel by Paul Shank. Sculptural pieces by Kim Humphries, Christina Shmigel and Jill Downen -- more recent Smith exhibitors -- take their rightful places among longtime St. Louis favorites such as Ken Worley, Michael Byron and Albert Pfarr. More than a love-in for Smith, this is an homage to a gallery that has launched dozens of careers and had a profound effect on the arts in St. Louis. Through October 16 at Elliot Smith Contemporary Art, 4729 McPherson Avenue; 314-361-4800. Call for gallery hours.

Currents 92: Anna Kuperberg After receiving her BFA at Washington University, Anna Kuperberg spent much of her time in south St. Louis, cruising the streets and snapping images of neighborhood kids. These astonishing photos show the kids playing, crying or lost in their thoughts; they reveal moments of sheer joy, straight-faced seriousness and -- quite often -- disquieting ambiguity. Like street photographers of the 1950s and '60s -- Helen Levitt, William Klein and Garry Winogrand, for example -- Kuperberg works the old-fashioned way, with a 35mm camera and without cropping the negative, which means it's all in her eye. And but for the stray contemporary logo or soda can, these photographs could have been made 50 years ago. Some things, thankfully, never change. Through November 28 at the Saint Louis Art Museum, 1 Fine Arts Drive; 314-721-0072. Gallery hours 10 a.m.- 5 p.m. Tue.- Sun., 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Fri.

Keith Piper: Crusade British artist Piper had never been to St. Louis, hadn't heard of Lewis & Clark and was vaguely aware of the Dred Scott case when the Contemporary invited him to town. It's a testament to his keen eye, intelligence and wit that he has put together one of the most striking artistic commentaries on St. Louis' complicity in the slave trade and the Underground Railroad (among other key moments in the city's history). Using the crusade as a pliant metaphor for Manifest Destiny, slavery, colonization and subjugation, Piper combines in stunning historical tableaux high-resolution moving images and digitally collaged photographs of the city and its surroundings. Also on view is New Video, New Europe, video works from 39 artists from Eastern Europe. Through November 21 at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, 3750 Washington Boulevard; 314-535-4660. Gallery hours 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sat. (10 a.m.-7 p.m. Thu.), 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sun. -- Ivy Cooper

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June 3, 2020

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