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Robert Duffy encapsulates the St. Louis art scene

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Capsule reviews of current exhibits are written by Riverfront Times arts writer Robert Duffy, with occasional contributions by the RFT staff.

Brandon Anschultz: Fission, Friction, Fiction How many times in the contorted continuum of art history has painting been declared dead? Let's not count. Let's do consider, however, the genuine satisfaction gained from the work of young artists of vitality and vision who not only understand that painting is not dead and never will be, but also appreciate painting's limitless potential for thrashing out ideas and making fascinating discoveries. In this vivid and unfailingly rewarding exhibition, Brandon Anschultz shows not only his remarkable facility with paint but also his pure delight in painted images. With a wide repertory of ideas and impulses and a penchant for pushing color to extremes, Anschultz's work adds a lustrous new piece to the incremental puzzle that is painting. Through October 7 at Philip Slein Gallery, 1319 Washington Avenue; 314-621-4634 (www.philipsleingallery.com). Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sat. — Robert Duffy

Carmon Colangelo: Configured/Disfigured Although we recently learned from St. Louis' Only Daily that no self-respecting artist employs collography in his work, Carmon Colangelo, the new dean of the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University, puts this dynamic technology to good use in combination with other traditional printmaking processes and digital innovations. His prints, as well as drawings in ink and gouache, seduce the viewer with what initially appears to be comic book-colored whimsy, a sassy sense of humor and humanity, and a keen appreciation of the bizarre. Steadily the viewer finds himself ensnared in a nightmare where Popeye, Howdy Doody, bunnies, viruses, spiders, moths, human body parts turned every which way and various Boschian grotesqueries establish themselves as a population dwelling in its own universe. Hints, such as the words "mental illness" spelled out like the markings of a psychological EEG, point to a typology of the chaotic, confounding mine fields of the mind. (Full disclosure: In my role as a part-time instructor at Wash. U.'s architecture school, Colangelo is technically my boss.) Through October 7 at Bruno David Gallery, 3721 Washington Boulevard; 314-531-3030 (www.brunodavidgallery.com). Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Wed.-Sat. and by appointment.
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Leila Daw: Reconstructed Archaeologies Daw has spent many years creating maps of a world that at first blush seems not entirely dissimilar to the "real" one. But more often and more engagingly, her cartography traces the artist's own sensibilities and seeks to answer the question: "Where are we, anyway?" Her progress over the years has been fascinating, and sometimes flamboyant, such as the time she used skywriting to make a sky map of a Native American site on terra firma. These recent archaeologies, topographies and geographies are part of an established Daw tradition, which is original, quirky and engaging. A group of mixed-media fuzzy-fantasy landscapes are another matter entirely, reminiscent of the illustrations found in Hobbit books — of which I am frankly sick. Through October 15 at Atrium Gallery, 4729 McPherson Avenue; 314-367-1076 (www.atriumgallery.net). Hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tue.-Sat., noon-4 p.m. Sun.
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Michael Eastman: America Series Michael Eastman has employed technical virtuosity time and again to impress his keen sensibilities as images on paper. With the exception of an equine detour I never quite got in the saddle of, his eye and intelligence have been trained toward buildings and built environments. Although few human beings physically appear in these images, they're palpably present. Look, for example, at Eastman's photograph of a New Orleans library, an accommodation of a diverse accumulation of books and pictures and Mardi Gras regalia and other shards of an existence's mirror. This and similarly affecting images reveal Eastman's ability to evoke the sad and silent eloquence of rooms and buildings, and to observe them not simply as material and space but also as resounding symbol. Through October 21 at R. Duane Reed Gallery, 7513 Forsyth Boulevard, Clayton; 314-862-2333 (www.duanereedgallery.com). Hours 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Fri., noon-4 p.m. Sat.
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Larry Krone: Artist/Entertainer and Janaina Tschäpe: Melantropics At his opening at the Contemporary, Larry Krone's sister Janet Kennedy was suspended six feet off the ground, singing her heart out about her life, Larry's life, family life and her best friend Eleanor. Her sweet soprano sounded so nice she sang it twice. Kennedy was positioned above the crowd in a Larry-made swing seat that's a variation on those chromy crazed-plastic dinette-set chairs so popular in the 1950s — everybody could see her, and she could survey not only the audience but also her brother's new exhibition. Which is, gentle reader, a knockout. Quirky, irreverent, Dada-all-over-again, bizarre, hyperimaginative: all that plus a triple-gainer into the murky pool of memory. Like the circus, it's a lot of fun. And like the circus, once you make the effort to get beyond the surface, you're transported into the magician's reality. In Krone's world, the most basic materials (including strands of hair and toenail clippings) communicate the most fundamental and complicated components of consciousness and parcel out secrets from the shadowy world of dreams. Stuff from his University City boyhood, from sink traps, from the remnants bin in a fabric store, Krone transforms into little fetish dolls and embroidered objects of ironic sentimentality. Nothing in his repertoire looks like it's worth more than a nickel. Nothing is discarded as irrelevant before being examined for its communicative potential. Such glosses of kitschiness mess with ideas about taste, about perception and about art. Krone's unpretentious charm is disarming, the authenticity of his art, mesmerizing. There's less to love in the work of Janaina Tschäpe, also on view here. Tschäpe's color-saturated photographs bear mock botanical Latin names, and that's sort of amusing. The images themselves are just plain funny, however. Populated by women dolled up in costumes that resemble the Fruit of the Loom TV-commercial gang sent south to loll about the jungle, the photos register as second- or third-generation Cindy Sherman. Through December 31 at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, 3750 Washington Boulevard; 314-535-4660 (www.contemporarystl.org). Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sat. (open till 8 p.m. Thu.), 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sun.

Larry Krone: New Work In addition to his work at the Contemporary (see above), Larry Krone's art is on display at the Philip Slein Gallery downtown. It's a smaller dose of the same medicine, a sure cure for what ails you. At Slein as at the museum, Larry sings his song to you, the one he borrowed from Whitney Houston: "I will always love you," he croons cursively, and you love him right back. Through October 7 at Philip Slein Gallery, 1319 Washington Avenue; 314-621-4634 (www.philipsleingallery.com). Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sat.
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Rockin Reuter Review There were times in the cultural history of St. Louis when a fellow'd have the feeling that plenty of mainstream stuff was going on but precious little would make him want to stay out late to watch art go toe-to-toe against the Man. No underbelly to speak of, no opium dens, no absinthe bars, no Blue Note. Still, Bob Reuter often rode to the rescue, making music, flipping more platters and less chatter — and producing photographs of extraordinary vitality. Nowadays the Grove — the honky-tonk stretch of Manchester west of Vandeventer — possesses a counterculture quality that's appreciated, and the Atomic Cowboy's show of Reuter's sexy, smoke-veiled, late-night, rock & roll images hones the district's edge. Reuter's work has qualities similar to Tom Wood's and Robert Frank's; like them he has a way of vanishing into the smoke in order to penetrate façades. In the end, this work is all Reuter: rhino-tough, bristling with energy, sympathetic in its way — and true. Through October 31 at Atomic Cowboy, 4140 Manchester Avenue; 314-775-0775 (www.atomic-cowboy.com). Hours: 5 p.m.-3 a.m. Wed.-Sat.
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James M. Smith: Works in Mixed Media Smith says what matters to him is order and structure. This may be the unseen matrix on which he builds his work, but what is manifest is the antithesis of structure and order. The central objects — assemblages of muslin, safety pins and paint and graphite — define the disorderly, the haphazard, the hastily repaired, the cast-off. With these imposing works, influenced consciously or unconsciously by Joseph Beuys and Anselm Kiefer and bearing witness to twentieth-century American abstractionist traditions, Smith establishes a chapel of grief and loss, hung with garments that survive as artifacts of abandonment and vestments of memory one might wish away. Through October 6 at Fontbonne University Gallery of Art, 6800 Wydown Boulevard (in the Fine Arts Building), Clayton; 314-889-1431 (www.fontbonne.edu). Hours: 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Mon.-Fri. (open till 7 p.m. Tue. and till 2:30 p.m. Fri.); noon-4 p.m. Sat. (Reception 6-9 p.m. Friday, September 15.)
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Bernar Venet: Recent Sculpture, Drawings and Prints After attending the dedication of an installation near the Grand Basin in Forest Park of a group of large Cor-Ten steel sculptures by the French artist Bernar Venet, William Shearburn returned to his gallery in a well-deserved state of exhilaration. It was Shearburn, after all, who brought these large coiling sculptures to St. Louis, bankrolled their installation and navigated the approval process governing the placement of art in the park. And there couldn't be a more appropriate artistic contribution to our treasured refuge. Aspects of the Slinky present themselves in these steel extrusions, and to regard them as exuberant and playful is not to suggest they are less than genuinely serious. They are fluid expressions of the artistic line drawn in majuscule, expressions of enormous tension, like gigantic springs in some cosmic clock. At his gallery Shearburn has hung drawings, collages and prints by Venet, along with three sculptures. The works conduct a lively dialogue, showing similarities here, differences there and articulating Venet's wondrous ability to produce work that springs from the playful to the profound and back again. Through October 14 at William Shearburn Gallery, 4735 McPherson Avenue; 314-367-8020 (www.shearburngallery.com). Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sat.
(RD)

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