Airstream! An Architectural History of a Land Yacht Sure, everyone recognizes an Airstream when they see it: that shiny, bullet-shape "land yacht," the American Dream on wheels. But the Airstream trailer is more than just midcentury kitsch. This modest exhibition traces the history of the Airstream from its 1931 Art Deco design to its state-of-the-art aluminum alloy construction to the life of its colorful founder Wally Byam all the way up to contemporary designers Christopher Deam and Nic Bailey, who have proposed contemporary reworkings of the interior. "Building Dreams Is Our Business," a short company film, plays alongside photos of Airstreams on classic family vacations -- to the lake and the forest, to Moscow, Egypt and beyond. What a trip! Through August 20 at the Sheldon Art Galleries, 3648 Washington Boulevard; 314-533-9900. Gallery hours noon-8 p.m. Tue. and Thu., noon.-5 p.m. Wed. and Fri., 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sat.
Brandon Anschultz: Scape Local artist Anschultz is well-known around town for his slick, smart, painted pastel shapes on varnished plywood -- they're very neo-pop, very "now" -- but for this show, he has only included one of those works and surrounded it with nearly twenty other versions of landscapes. Some are tiny, printed and framed; some are fairly conventional oil works on canvas. There are op-artsy relief prints, such as LS Pattern (2004), that offer up a minimalist yet hallucinatory suggestion of a landscape. The project spills over from its closet-like space in the Contemporary Projects Gallery into two other spaces: In one City in a Bubble (2004-05), a large graphite line rendering of a composite cityscape on plywood, hangs alone; in the second a digital projection of Red/Green America (2005) offers dreamy landscapes fading in and out of focus. All told, it's an extremely well-conceived installation. Through June 5 at the Saint Louis University Museum of Art, 3663 Lindell Boulevard; 314-977-3399. Museum hours 1-4 p.m. Tue.-Sun.
Keith Bueckendorf: Elsewhere and Steve Brown: Edges Local artist Keith Bueckendorf's works play out in a consistently engaging modernist scrawl, highlighted with cheery colors and figures that float, fly and morph into their own formalist schemes. Brown's photos, meanwhile, march in lockstep along the wall: six black-and-white images of garden implements, implying a violence to the land that is required by First World rules of real estate and property values. Deadpan, funny and revelatory, these two shows should not be overlooked on your way to the galleries upstairs. Through June 4 at the Sheldon Art Galleries, 3648 Washington Boulevard; 314-533-9900. Gallery hours noon-8 p.m. Tue. and Thu., noon-5 p.m. Wed. and Fri., 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sat.
Brancusi and Serra in Dialogue The Pulitzer is getting a lot of mileage out of Richard Serra, particularly a few large-scale pieces (Joplin and Standpoint in particular) that have graced the main gallery since the Serra solo show opened two years ago. (They're really heavy; I wouldn't move them either.) Now Serra's sculptures and drawings are paired with sculptures and photographs by Constantin Brancusi, whose interests intersect with Serra's in some fascinating ways. Their approaches to materials couldn't be more different -- Brancusi hacked away at wood and polished stone and bronze to a high, classical finish -- but all kinds of intriguing observations emerge out of this "dialogue," including the ways in which both artists treat (or dispense with) the pedestal, their interest in stacking pieces and relating individual parts to the sculptural whole. The small Cube Gallery now features an intense confrontation between Serra's Pacific Judson Murphy (1978), a black paint-stick piece that spans two walls; and Brancusi's Agnes E. Meyer (1929), a stately, totemic polished work of black marble. It's an inspired pairing, equaled by the strong juxtapositions throughout the show. Through July 23 at the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts, 3716 Washington Boulevard; 314-754-1850. Museum hours noon-5 p.m. Wed., 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sat.
Gail Cassilly: Figurative Sculpture and Deborah Douglas: Recent Paintings Cassilly's bronze and plaster figures make for a mixed bag here. The smaller bronze harlequin and circus figures are schlock, but the larger painted plaster (hydrocal, to be exact) female figures possess a twisted humor. It's Douglas' paintings that make this gallery trip worthwhile. The basement display room (Xen Sub Terra) is filled with nine new canvases that mostly move away from the more nostalgic character of her past work to a new level of pop playfulness. Bold, decorative flowers populate large areas of these works, balanced against illustrations of kittens, cherries and swans. Douglas isn't just copying cute imagery, she's using it, playing illustrative qualities off decorative ones to demonstrate how the imagery communicates. But the paintings are so fun to look at, it's easy to forget there's some serious aesthetic investigation going on. Through May 13 at Xen Gallery, 401 N. Euclid Avenue; 314-454-9561. Gallery hours 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tue.-Sat., 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sun.
Currents 94: Matthew Buckingham Like so much of St. Louis, the Mill Creek Valley neighborhood just west of downtown was wiped out in the early 1960s in the name of urban renewal. Buckingham has organized a slowed-down sequence of projected images showing us the view from an early-'60s automobile as it drives along Pine Street, once Mill Creek Valley's main artery. The shifting view shows the contemporary cityscape, the featureless office parks and Highway 40, which have replaced the houses where thousands (mostly African Americans) once lived. Accompanying this dreamlike "drive" drones a voice, reporting local headlines and top stories from 1964. Far from dewy-eyed nostalgia, Buckingham's juxtaposition of past and present is calculated to sharpen your critical faculties. The past is speaking here; if we listen, perhaps we won't be doomed to repeat it. Through June 12 at the Saint Louis Art Museum, 1 Fine Arts Drive; 314-721-0072. Museum hours 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sun. (open Fri. till 9 p.m.)
Dzine: Punk Funk and Ruby Osorio: Story of a Girl (Who Awakes Far, Far Away) and Alexander Ross: Survey Three shows perfectly suited to one another and to the bright, airy spaces of the Contemporary. Chicago-based Dzine's psychedelic mural-size paintings look good enough to eat. They sound great too, accompanied as they are by music from the Parisian DJ Cam. In the next gallery, Alexander Ross' paintings are more calmly cerebral, but no less fun, suggesting fantastic cell structures, fungi and plants inhabiting cool-colored backgrounds. But it's Ruby Osorio's works that will hold your attention the longest. In her first solo museum exhibition, the LA-based Osorio covers the gallery walls with elfin girl characters in fantastical, flowery habitats. Osorio pins paper elements directly to the wall, or cuts and folds back paper segments of her works, producing brilliant effects that make the works come alive. Also not to be missed are the fabulous paintings by Katherine Kuharic, the latest in the Contemporary Project Series. Through June 12 at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, 3750 Washington Boulevard; 314-535-4660. Museum hours 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sun. (open Thu. till 7 p.m. and Sun. till 4 p.m.).
Hurrell's Men As chief photographer at MGM Studios in the 1930s, and as owner of his own studio after that, George Hurrell (1904-1992) developed a signature style that epitomized glamour, grace and the glory of old Hollywood. Though he photographed dozens of women throughout his career, this exhibition concentrates on his gorgeous, bronze-toned portraits of actors. Hurrell's subjects -- like Clark Gable, Johnny Weissmuller, Tyrone Power and Ramon Navarro -- are posed and in character, yet they appear intimate and genuine at the same time. Anyone who can make David Soul look sexy has got to be a genius! Don't miss the text panel on Pancho Barns, the flamboyant aviatrix who befriended Hurell in the 1920s and collected all these photos. Through August 13 at the Sheldon Art Galleries, 3648 Washington Boulevard; 314-533-9900. Gallery hours noon-8 p.m. Tue. and Thu., noon.-5 p.m. Wed. and Fri., 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sat.
Junko Chodos: The Breath of Consciousness This California-based artist enjoys her first Midwest showing with this exhibition, curated by museum director Terrence Dempsey. It's a beautiful survey of three decades of work engaging heady questions of spirituality and the intersection between living beings and machines. Junko, who grew up in Japan during World War II, has plenty of visual and visceral experiences from which to draw inspiration for her wildly expressive prints, paintings and drawings. The "Concerning Art and Religion" series (2003) plots photographs of engines amid a roiling chaos of inky waves and drips -- it's nigh apocalyptic, and quite effective in the context of the museum's ecclesiastical design. "Compact Universe" features smaller versions of earlier abstract paintings and collages enclosed in CD jewel cases -- the ultimate in portable art. Most intriguing of all are the elegiac paintings in the "Requiem for an Executed Bird" series, and the collection of collages that layer minuscule cutout images into dense, frenzied fields. Through July 31 at the Museum of Contemporary Religious Art, Fusz Hall, Saint Louis University, 3700 West Pine Boulevard; 314-977-7170. Gallery hours 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Tue.-Sun.
Material Terrain: A Sculptural Exploration of Landscape and Place Laumeier Sculpture Park is the ideal venue for this exhibition of work by eleven artists who explore the sometimes tenuous relationships between the constructed and the natural, the inside and the outside. The exhibition, curated by Carla M. Hanzal in conjunction with Laumeier for the International Arts & Artists, brings together works by some of the finest sculptors and installation artists working today, including Kendall Buster and Dennis Oppenheim, Donald Lipski, Roxy Paine, Ming Fay, James Surls, Michele Brody and Wendy Ross. Many of these artists have imported extraordinary, earthy stuff right into the galleries, while others have installed constructions in and among Laumeier's rolling terrain. Of the gallery works, Ursula von Rydingsvard's massive cedar Hej-Duk (2003) creates a dense, dignified presence, while Valeska Soares' 2002 steel Fainting Couch emits the sickly sweet scent of the lilies that are tucked into its frame. Outside, John Ruppert's absurdly scaled Aluminum Pumpkins (2004) enliven the landscape. Through May 15 at Laumeier Sculpture Park, 12580 Rott Road, Sunset Hills; 314-821-1209. Gallery hours 10 a.m.- 5 p.m. Tue.-Sat., noon-5 p.m. Sun.
David Scheu: Forest Park 12.30.04 Left Bank Books delivers another small, lovely basement show: twelve digital photographic prints by David Scheu, evidently illustrating a single day in the life of Forest Park in winter. In particular, Scheu focuses on water and captures an amazing array of light effects and reflections that produce visual ambiguities and gorgeous illusions. In several images the water becomes a steely gray ground, against which reeds and stems rise up and fall back, meeting their own reflections in a stunning mirror effect. In some the water's surface is simultaneously reflective and refractive, allowing for views of the sky above and the rocks below; in others, the water may as well be oil, casting an unctuous gloss onto everything it touches. Through May 15 at Left Bank Books, 399 N. Euclid Avenue; 314-367-6731. Store hours 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Mon.-Sat., 10 a.m.- 6 p.m. Sun.
James Siena: Ten Years of Printmaking Best known for his paintings and drawings, New York artist Siena has produced a fine body of delicate prints dating back to 1995's Recovery, an engraving he made while laid up with an injury. His printed work grows out of his continuing interest in patterns, networks and algorithms. The works in this show feature threadlike lines that seem to defy gravity and their own fragility, to build complexly structured patterns. The three stone lithographs are fairly robust, but Siena's fine linear etchings and engravings are more satisfying, particularly the pieces in the color series "Nine Prints" (2000-01). Two works, both titled Upside Down Devil Variation, are astonishing studies in linear form. Through May 14 at William Shearburn Gallery, 4735 McPherson Avenue; 314-367-8020. Gallery hours 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Tue.-Sat.
Sum and Substance Sculptural works by Mary Sprague are coupled with recent paintings by James Smith in one of the largest RAC shows in recent memory, occupying two large gallery spaces plus the hallway joining them. Sprague, better known for her paintings, shows off her ceramic works, many of which depict fallen horses in porcelain. These are strong, elegiac pieces, suggesting vulnerability and decay. But they lose some of their voice in the presence of Smith's paintings, which are so powerful they wipe out everything in their path. His paintings absolutely kill: raw canvas panels encrusted with paint, attached like bandages to one another with safety pins and big, loose handmade stitches. The works, which possess the sad desperations of Alberto Burri's postwar sewn canvases (Joseph Beuys is lurking somewhere too), make their sadness imperative: They insist upon their humanist message and won't let you forget them anytime soon. Through May 20 at the Regional Arts Commission Gallery, 6128 Delmar Boulevard; 314-863-5811. Gallery hours 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Fri., noon-5 p.m. Sat.-Sun. -- Ivy Cooper