Along the Mississippi: Photographs by Jo Ann Walters Road trips have produced some of the most valuable documentaries of American life we have, from Mark Twain's Life on the Mississippi (in which the river stands in for the road) to Jack Kerouac's On the Road to photographic projects such as Robert Frank's The Americans and Alec Soth's Sleeping by the Mississippi (which was featured in the 2004 Whitney Biennial). Alton native Jo Ann Walters has been taking road and river trips since the 1980s (a lot longer than Soth), and she has amassed a formidable and fascinating collection of photographs -- a medium-size collection of which is on display here -- that speaks volumes about who we are and how we live along the Mississippi and the eastern seaboard. Don't miss the photo of the girl in St. Louis curling her eyelashes; it's an unforgettable coming-of-age portrait. Through September 4 at the Sheldon Art Galleries, 3648 Washington, 314-533-9900. Gallery hours 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Tue., 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Wed., 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sat.
Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Art... Elliot Smith's St. Louis director is Bruno David, and a nicer person you will never meet, but he comes up with the strangest exhibition concepts (Size Matters? What was that?) Luckily, David has an exceptional eye for art, and the exhibitions glow in blissful ignorance of their titles. Case in point: this show, which contains some of the best works by local artists working now. Takashi Horisaki's latex skin-suits from his Birth Right performances (2004) are eerie and postapocalyptic, representing some of the only non-two-dimensional works in the show. The paintings are the exhibition's high point, particularly Chris Kahler's 2004 Culture and Colony. Paintings by Amy Morose, Kim Humphries and Charles Schwall are pure neo-Pop pleasure. No, the show won't give you everything you ever wanted to know about art, but it's a start. Through September 4 at Elliot Smith Contemporary Art, 4729 McPherson Ave., 314-361-4800. Gallery hours 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Tue.-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 takes on 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 U.S. 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.
Raedeke: Always Almost New The first in the new Kranzberg Exhibition Series at Laumeier is summer's hottest art ticket, a euphoric celebration of synergy and the synthetic. Daniel Raedeke has parlayed his earlier colorful, painted contemplations on consumerism into actual consumables: four little characters that appear throughout the exhibit in painted, sculptural, animated and packaged forms. From eerO, the gloopy version of the Arch, to Layz, Woggy, Landscapy and phasO -- you'll want to collect them all! Raedeke's work is much more than eye candy; it invites all kinds of cultural theory questions and analysis. But it's also just good, clean, visual fun, the flip side of the dystopia on display at the Regional Arts Commission. Through September 1 at Laumeier Sculpture Park, 12580 Rott, 314-821-1209. Gallery hours 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sat., noon-5 p.m. Sun.
2004 Great Rivers Biennial Artists Exhibition The guest judges couldn't have done a better job when they selected Jill Downen, Adam Frelin and Kim Humphries for the inaugural exhibition of the Great Rivers Biennial. It's as if the judges looked into the future and knew just how perfectly the works of these installation artists would complement both one another and the three main spaces of the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis. Downen's Posture of Place continues her investigation of buildings-cum-bodies by having walls sag with cellulite and floor cracks suffer from swelling and infection. Humphries' Collection invites the viewer into a world where high and low culture don't clash at all -- instead, they get married and have babies. Frelin's Spotlight/ White Heat/Airbourne ponders the metaphysics of everything via video, photos and a burned-out jeep. This show is a serious reminder that St. Louis is harboring some white-hot art talent. Through August 22 at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, 3750 Washington Boulevard, 314-535-4660. Gallery hours 10 a.m.- 5 p.m. Tue.-Sat. -- Ivy Cooper