Arts & Culture » Arts

In the Galleries - James M. Smith: Unscripted at the Saint Louis University Museum of Art

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St. Louis-based artist James M. Smith assembles large-scale collage-like tableaux that move between the two-dimensional and the sculptural, the representational and the abstract. This densely populated exhibit of work from the past five years is divided into two halves: nonrepresentational work and pieces that integrate legible forms. As a whole, it has a Mad Max feel: Torn and roughly patched-together canvases create weathered substrates on which are painted aggressive fields of scribbled charcoal or loose blue grids. Ropes and knotted clusters of salvaged wood accrete to siren- or missile-like forms. Familiar imagery, if present, appears sooty and vaguely menacing: black zeppelins and industrial towers, ragged flags and rusted ladders. It's an out-of-time last-ditch world of desperately cobbled oases: of shelter, defense, communication, transportation. Part Bontecou and part Rauschenberg, Smith's work seems to address the anthropology of ravaged textures: frayed edges and splintered wood, all things ripped, wrought and wind-blown. Through August 25 at the Saint Louis University Museum of Art, 3663 Lindell Boulevard; 314-977-2666 or www.slu.edu/x16374.xml. Hours: 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Wed.-Sun.

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