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Glycerin. Sheep brains. Embalmed specimens. Miscellaneous laboratory paraphernalia.

 

Since joining the Washington University faculty in 1986, artist Ron Leax has built a national reputation for rigorous yet playful sculptures and installations that explore the natural world while interrogating the language and concepts we use to describe it. In Leax’s work, the familiar taxonomies of empirical knowledge — books, catalogues, sample libraries — are overwhelmed by the very forces they seek to master.

 

This fall, more than three dozen alumni of the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts, where Leax serves as the Halsey C. Ives Professor of Art, contributed artworks to “Ontology of Influence.” Curated by Arny Nadler (BFA ’91), associate professor and chair of undergraduate art, the exhibition pays homage to Leax, who will retire at the end of the semester, and to the concepts, approaches and aesthetic concerns he helped to pioneer.

 

In addition to Leax and Nadler, contributors include: Liza Simmons Allen, Michael Alm, Michael Amter, Yu Araki, J.E. Baker, Jennifer Behr, Emily Church, Christina Cosio, Jill Downen, Steven Garen, Alan Griswold, Liz Guilmet, Cassie Hamrick, Anna Hegarty, Ann Hirsch, Takashi Horisaki, Violet Juno, Colin Keefe, Dwyer Kilcollin, Noah Kirby, Elana Mann, Alison McNulty, Ian Monroe, Lavar Munroe, Erik Peterson, Maya Portner, Stephanie Schlaifer, Katy Scoggin, Zak Smoker, Lindsey Stouffer, Amanda Thatch, Ling-Wen Tsai, B.J. Vogt, Ian Weaver, Alan Wiener, and Michael Williams.

 

“Ontology of Influence” remains on view through Nov. 12 in the Des Lee Gallery, 1627 Washington Ave. Gallery hours are 1-6 p.m. Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and by appointment. For more information, visit desleegallery.com.