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Local painter is fêted with a series of parties

Bill Kohn! Bill Kohn! Bill Kohn! Painter Bill Kohn is everywhere this month. It would not be surprising to see a sequence of downtown buildings spelling his name in lighted windows at night. Truly, he is bigger than Orlando Pace.

And what's the occasion? The prolific painter is celebrating a 40-year retrospective with two gallery exhibits and gobs of related parties. His exhibit of watercolors at Elliot Smith Contemporary Art (4727 McPherson Avenue, 314-361-4800, free), Brunelleschi ed io, features various views of Brunelleschi's Duomo in Florence. The warm earth tones used by the former Washington University art professor bring a sunny quality into the space. Check out the work through December 1.

Head east to Washington University's Des Lee Gallery (University Lofts Building, 1627 Washington Avenue, 314-621-8735, free) for Bill Kohn: A 40-Year Retrospective, this Friday through January 2. You can see how Kohn has used his signature technique for decades -- painting small watercolors in exotic, far-flung locales; returning to his St. Louis studio to enlarge these watercolor studies; and sometimes using the watercolors to create large-scale acrylics that can flood a wall with vibrant colors. The exhibit features works inspired by visits to Oaxaca, Machu Picchu, India's Thar Desert, Chicago and the Grand Canyon. There's a free opening reception from 5-7 p.m. Saturday.

The Kohnheads at the New Music Circle are hosting a benefit Friday that includes snacks from each of the nine painted regions; live music; multimedia art and performances by eight artists; and supper at the Des Lee Gallery (7 p.m., $60-$150, 314-567-5384).

The shenanigans continue at 8 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday with NMC-sponsored collaborations of dancers, artists, poets and musician/composers who've worked with Kohn, repeating their performances before his paintings (Des Lee Gallery, $6-$12, 314-935-6564). Be prepared for projected images, funky instruments, spoken-word performances and leotard-clad women flying in front of an acrylic Grand Canyon.

Kohn himself may need plenty of caffeine and Alka-Seltzer to make it through this cluster of celebrations.

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