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In the Galleries: Precarious Worlds: Contemporary Art From Germany, at the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, closes January 9 

Precarious Worlds: Contemporary Art From Germany Confronting the dichotomy of a world where technology advances exponentially yet brings us no nearer to absolute truths, this exhibit presents several works from the Kemper's collection alongside a suite of new acquisitions that temper tenuousness with an impulse toward universalism. Focusing on art from Germany — a nation where, post-Berlin Wall, the notion of absolutes seems all the more improbable — the show surveys the durability of painting as a means of sketching out new orders, places or ways of comprehending things that otherwise are elusive. The large-scale photographs by Wolfgang Tillmans and Thomas Demand have a painterly feel: True to his signature, obsessive craft, Demand assembles a meticulously realistic environment (a famous Mafioso's hiding spot) out of cardboard and captures it on film as if it were the genuine article; Tillmans shows a dark figure walking down a wooded path overhung with foliage — but the piece lacks any sense of traceable specifics, appearing more like a suggestive photo enlargement from Antonioni's Blow-Up. Hans-Peter Feldmann's large-scale installation, Shadowplay (2009), might best sum up the exhibition's theme: Feldmann has piled myriad small toys — sailboats, dinosaurs, Barbie dolls, guns, etc. — onto spinning pedestals, illuminating them from behind with spotlights that throw massive and diaphanously multilayered shadows on the long wall before them. At once elegant, playful and elegiac, the piece speaks to a sense of lost innocence as well as the more macabre dimensions of junk and ephemeral amusements. Plato's cave, post-Toys "R" Us. Through January 9, 2012, at the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Forsyth and Skinker boulevards (on the campus of Washington University); 314-935-4523 or Hours: 11 a.m.-6 p.m. daily (closed Tue., open till 8 p.m. Fri.).

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