The Fireworks The six minute, twenty second film "The Fireworks," made by British artists Nick Crowe and Ian Rawlinson, is as simple or as complicated as you want to make it. The Rube Goldberg-esque contagion of dollar-store explosions bursts and fizzles out in a bunkerlike studio or industrial space, keeping the residues of flame and smoke and dangling fuses in stark containment. Whether the sustained focus is meant to be more evocative of Baghdad or Katy Perry is a tossup: Fireworks prove to be a durable source of spectacle of the purest form, and the film, even in its low-tech arrangement and plotlessness, proves mesmerizing. That said, the explosive sound effects and strobelike bursts of light seem not far off from footage of warfare. Set in the small space of the Isolation Room, the film's potential for menace is scaled down considerably, rendering it a stark but immersive projection of flashing light and hazy shadows, a weird, figureless noir — until you step into the light of the projection and see your own silhouette in the frame. Whatever deeper assessment yields, it's a piece of thorough and uncomplicated pleasure, proving once again that the best effects come via the simplest of means. Through February 10 at Isolation Room/Gallery Kit, 5723 Dewey Avenue; 314-660-6295 or www .gallerykit.blogspot.com. Hours: by appointment.
A Dance to Jules Feiffer The career of this pioneer of Seinfeldian existential humor is as impressive as they get — his vita includes a 40-plus-year stint as a cartoonist for the Village Voice; being the New York Times' first op-ed cartoonist; authoring a Mike Nichols-directed, Jack-Nicholson-starring film script (Carnal Knowledge); and winning the Pulitzer Prize. This exhibition focuses on a series of recent large-scale water colors of long-limbed dancers, as well as a select group of Feiffer's '90s-era dancer cartoons. These serials, which feature a woman with a determined sense of positivity, mildly spoof the ambitions of avant-garde expression by plying the elegant, creative urge with more desperate content — such as the wish for more rational gun control, racial equality and higher public education standards, along with the general desire to simply be better understood by one's parents. As much as she'd have to say about recent news, she has already said it. She's a blithe soul, whose strident leaps and drooping downfalls have an empathetic whimsy to them, keeping her message both trenchant and buoyant (not an easy bargain to strike) and always a step before her time. The show is a great introduction to Feiffer — a quiet inventor of a brand of contemporary frankness about art, politics and life — so prevalent today we pass it off as not mere wit but true-blue common sense. Through February 13 at the Millstone Gallery at COCA, 524 Trinity Avenue, University City; 314-725-6555 or www.cocastl.org. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Fri., noon-5 p.m. Sat.-Sun.
Maturity and Its Muse The only two traits shared by the artists in this wildly eclectic show of sculpture, painting, drawing, photography and then some is that they're based in St. Louis and on the other side of age 70. And they wear these aspects well. As the first exhibition by the new, locally based nonprofit of the same name (which aims to support positive and productive aging through creativity in the arts), M and Its M has managed to gather a deeply accomplished group of individuals whose biographies and personal accomplishments alone could have provided substance for an exhibition. But the art does not fail to deliver, ranging from quilts made of neckties to drawings of roaring orangutans to beak-shaped ceramic pitchers to colorful pop collages to gold chain-mail chokers. Confident diversity is apparently at the heart of growing old gracefully — a message that addresses art's durability or its importance in keeping us young. Through February 5 at the Sheldon Art Galleries, 3648 Washington Boulevard; 314-533-9900 or www .sheldonconcerthall.org. Hours: noon-8 p.m. Tue., noon-5 p.m. Wed.-Fri., 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sat.
Pausing for Reflection: A Reflection on Pausing Pairing the analog black-and-white work of local photographers Leo Collazo and Ken Konchel, curator Robin Hirsch draws out their common eye for ethereal nuance of the type that's otherwise lost amid the frenzied gloss of the day-to-day. Konchel, who focuses exclusively on large-scale contemporary structures by experimental practitioners like Bernard Tschumi, Zaha Hadid and James Carpenter, composes his shots to heighten buildings' abstract and formal aspects, truncating the form in order to home in on latticelike façades, concentric ripples, twisted archways. Complementing the grand steel construction of these farther-flung projects, Collazo focuses on local buildings as they're reflected in street puddles. Irregularly shaped, the reflective surfaces serve as incidental frames for St. Louis' rectilinear and earth-wrought buildings, emphasizing the raw textures of stacked brick and terra cotta. In cataloging fine spatial details and the subtle aftermath of rain showers, the dual projects train us to consider more closely what's around us. Through February 6 at the Regional Arts Commission, 6128 Delmar Boulevard; 314-863-5811 or www.art-stl.com. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Fri., noon-5 p.m. Sat.-Sun.