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Ivy Cooper encapsulates the St. Louis art scene

Afterschool Special: Artworks Completed Since Finishing My Undergraduate Degree Peter Pranschke's new exhibition at the University City Library is the perfect introduction to his work for those who don't know it. Pranschke's cartoon narratives revolve around his life experiences, which are at turns mundane, comical (bagging at Schnucks) and gut-wrenching (undergoing dialysis). Pranschke's collaged stories literally sprawl all over the pages; one gets the sense that his personality is probably similar -- all over the place, goofy and engaging. His wit is especially keen when he reflects on life as an undergraduate art student; disaffected young artists everywhere, take heed. Through September 29 at the University City Public Library, 6701 Delmar Boulevard; 314-727-3150. Gallery hours 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Sat., 1-5 p.m. Sun.

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.

Exploring Ando's Space: Art and the Spiritual Architect Tadao Ando's buildings tend to be somber, contemplative affairs that encourage reflection and meditation. They also possess a gentle spiritual sensibility, one that's hard to define and yet present in every detail. The Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts is one of his finest designs and a perfect setting for an exploration of the spiritual in art. This spare show brings together objects from a variety of cultures and considers the spiritual resonance they share with one another and with the space itself. Asmat ancestor poles from Indonesia are offset by delicate French enamel religious paintings; Wolfgang Laib's Rice House (2002) seems to gain an entirely new meaning in the context of Ando's architecture and an African Nkonde figure; and images from Albrecht Dürer's 1498 "Apocalypse" cycle mingle intriguingly with a finely painted page from an ancient Koran. The show's focus is a bit fuzzy, and it lacks a sense of curatorial rigor, but that's all counterbalanced by the objects themselves, which are rich with meaning and sure to spark everyone's intellectual, if not spiritual, curiosity. Through January 22 at the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts, 3716 Washington Boulevard; 314-754-1848. Gallery hours noon-5 p.m. Wed., 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sat.

In the Cool of the Night This is billed as a minimalist show, but don't let that scare you: There's nothing cold or remote about any of the works by this group of eight artists. The paintings, sculptures and mixed-media works on display here are loosely connected by a certain spare quality and lack of razzle-dazzle; they're pieces you'll want to look at for a long time. Randall Shiroma's The Muse/Landscape (2002), of terrazzo and salt, is altar-like; Donald Damask's oil on canvas White Rose (2004) is a lovely study in surface and depth. Three small Japanese paper works by German artist Lore Bert are awkwardly hung in a small hallway -- and it's a shame, because they're probably the best pieces in the show. Through September 25 at Atrium Gallery, 7638 Forsyth Boulevard; 314-726-1066. Gallery hours 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sat.

Local Women and Exotic Places Women have long been associated with nature, the exotic and even the "primitive" in Western civilization, and since the rise of feminism in the 1970s it has been fashionable to revisit, complicate and subvert those associations in the discipline of art. This latest attempt is an exhibition of art by six w omen whose work deals with nature and the exotic, either implicitly or explicitly. The show is too small to make much of a dent in this mighty topic, but there are some outstanding works nonetheless. Olivia Lahs-Gonzales once again proves to be one of the best photographers working here (or anywhere); her close-up digital prints of trees, bushes and flowers verge on the hallucinatory. Jeri Au brings in another of her ti-leaf wall compositions, which is lovely but light in the content department. Jane Birdsall-Lander's Divining Harp (2001) is visually poetic but a little lonely, perched on the wall outside the exhibition proper. Also exhibiting are Nanette Hegamin, Sandra Nickeson and Adelia Parker-Castro. Through October 2 at the Regional Arts Commission, 6128 Delmar Boulevard; 314-863-5811. Gallery hours 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Fri., noon- 5 p.m. Sat.-Sun.

Radiant Forms in Contemporary Sacred Architecture Its name conjures visions of bad church art or Sunday-school crafts, but a visit to the Museum of Contemporary Religious Art (MOCRA) once again rewards one with a graceful, fascinating show. Models, photographs and drawings of two extraordinary buildings -- Richard Meier's Jubilee Church in Rome and Steven Holl's Chapel of St. Ignatius in Seattle -- occupy the museum's central space, while Daniel P. Ramirez's haunting etchings, 20 Contemplations on the Infant Jesus, are hung throughout the side chapels. Meier's design introduces a new element into his normally straight-edge geometry, in the form of billowing concentric sails. Holl's chapel is a jewel. And don't miss the photographs of southern Illinois sculptor Steven Heilmer's remarkable marble work, Gratia Plena, which graces the chapel's interior. Through December 5 at MOCRA, located on Saint Louis University's Connelly Mall; 314-977-7170. Gallery hours 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Tue.-Sun. -- Ivy Cooper

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