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In the Galleries: Stasis/Adapting at St. Louis Artists' Guild, closes January 7 

Stasis/Adapting This series of photographs by local artist Amanda Pfister reveals Midwestern culture as both deeply familiar and quietly alternative. Abandoned car dealerships sprawl beneath milk-white skies, united by their planar geometry and the now-empty promise of their Helvetica signage. Captured dead-on, the boxy, prefab monoliths are of a piece with the stretches of neglected blacktop that front them, set off only by the metallic red-white-and-blue garlands still strung limply between lampposts. Structural forms suited to a single function, the vacant showrooms now persist as emblems of heedless excess. Yet, as forlorn and foreboding as the sites may be, the images themselves emanate a spare elegance, finding nuance in the watery reflectivity of their expansive windows and the uninterrupted white lines of their parking-lot grids. From a different place in a different time, Pfister's work finds an analogue in Thomas Pynchon's vision of the used car as the ultimate container of human residue. Appropriately, the exchange includes a trade-in — Pynchon's automobile swapped for the lot it rode out from — but the symbolism is the same: desperate, horrible, absurd and beautiful. Also showing: Running the Numbers Chris Jordan employs dire statistical data to inform the imagery in this large-scale photographic series. From a distance, the three-panel Gyre (2009) looks like Hokusai's famous woodblock print The Great Wave (1829-'32), but a closer look reveals a pointillist montage of "2.4 million pieces of plastic, equal to the estimated number of pounds of plastic pollution that enter the world's oceans every hour." Yikes! Through January 7, 2012, at the St. Louis Artists' Guild, 2 Oak Knoll Park, Clayton; 314-727-6266 or Hours: noon-4 p.m. Tue.-Sun.

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