This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: November 11, 2008 - The new selection of shows at Bruno David is wonderfully cohesive, with equal parts expression and concept. In other words, there's something for everybody, and it all works well together.
In the main gallery are new abstract oil paintings by Laura Beard, with subtle color ranges and gorgeous grids of horizontal and vertical strokes and scrapes of the palette knife that suggest calligraphy or fencing, depending on the scale your eye chooses to assume.
One of the larger works, "Untitled C" (2007-2008), evokes Gerhard Richter's layered abstractions in all their mystery: You simply can't tell which layer is on top, which one is emerging from the bottom, or how exactly all the parts relate to one another. Long, lingering viewing pays off with Beard's works.
In the Project Room, St. Louis' Robert Pettus pushes his photographic experimentation to new limits. Several of his works show arcs of light against oily black backgrounds that stream across joined panels, the way astronomers collage together images of the universe. Pettus' work is more down-to-earth than that; he's photographing light during short time intervals, and the results are minimalist and gorgeously lucid, though the implications remain grand and beyond our full grasp.
In the Front Room are works from the "ArtForum Series" by Martin Brief, an assistant professor at St. Louis University, and these are some of the best works I've seen all fall in St. Louis. Brief transcribes by hand all the names of artists mentioned in an individual issue of the magazine, ordering them in neat rows, and reducing them to a block that parallels ArtForum's unusual dimensions. From afar, you'd think you were looking at a prim conceptualist drawing (the kind of thing you'd expect to see reproduced in an art magazine); up close, with some squinting, you can make out the names of the artists. The experience is not unlike reading an actual issue of ArtForum: The type's too small, the ideas are too big, and it makes your head hurt. Brief is definitely onto something here.
Also on view: "River of Spirit of Life (Ice Piece)," a video work by Cherie Sampson.
Ivy Cooper is an artist and professor of art history at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.