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Ivy Cooper encapsulates the St. Louis art scene

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.

Exposure VII: Mind Games Ron Laboray has made his reputation as a smart local artist who takes on sites, maps and psychological characteristics of place. Here he assumes a dual role as artist and curator; Mind Games is a quirky collection that features a group of Laboray's paintings that populate maps of Springfields throughout the United States with creepy abstractions of The Simpsons. Also included are DVD works by Brian Goetz, including the brilliant Nosey Parker effort "Radiation Always Wins." Rounding out this little show -- which just might be the exhibition of the year -- are Brian Burnett's scary photos of big-box storefronts with names digitally scrambled like criminals' faces; Michael Keller's superb text paintings; and other works. Through September 11 at Gallery 210, University of Missouri-St. Louis, Building 44 (TeleCommunity Center); 314-516-5976. Gallery hours 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-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 women 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. -- Ivy Cooper

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