Artist and Webster University faculty member Tate Foley assembles an exhibit of coolly beautiful prints and drawings that engages in a Warholian play on the ironies and immoralities of American exceptionalism. "How the West Was Won," a series of silver-flecked silkscreens of coffee cans, re-imagines the iconic soup can: Set against crisp white backgrounds like their Pop forebear, these are more overt in their execution, featuring labels like "Win the Future," "Union Specific," "Sell and Buy," "Go East Young Man" and "Hell." Found items -- a single Folgers coffee can on a small white shelf; an uncut sheet of 1990 Topps baseball cards (title: Solid Investment) -- shift the approach, inviting a comparison between absurd real-world commodities and art itself. One step further removed: a sheet of plain paper upon which Foley has formed a constellation of sorts, using the tiny golden labels found on the bottoms of "exotic" tchotchkes ("Made in" China, Taiwan, Malaysia, etc.). A large-scale work features the phrase "Brick and Mortar" painted in thick latex on a wood panel; here the twist is in the lettering style, which matches the italic font used on U.S. currency. Tellingly, the exhibit opens with a found, illuminated track-letter sign that reads "COMPRE AMERICANO." Buy American indeed: If we are in fact one nation indivisible, it's under the bright star of the dollar sign. Bad news, perhaps, but awfully good-looking. We Buy Gold remains on display through Saturday, January 28, at Webster University's Cecille R. Hunt Gallery (8342 Big Bend Boulevard, Webster Groves; 314-968-7171 or www.webster.edu/depts/finearts/art. The gallery is open Monday through Friday.
Mondays-Fridays. Starts: Dec. 9. Continues through Jan. 28, 2011