In the Galleries - Juan William Chavez CLOSES January 20 at Laumeier

In the Galleries - Juan William Chavez CLOSES January 20 at Laumeier
Untitled (Sacred Real Estate) by Juan William Chavez at Laumeier.

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Juan William Chavez: Living Proposal — Pruitt-Igoe Bee Sanctuary For this year's iteration of the Kranzberg Exhibition Series, which awards a local artist a solo exhibition at Laumeier, Juan William Chavez presents two years' worth of recent investigations into the former site of the Pruitt-Igoe housing project and the declining bee population. Population decline is the common factor that binds these two disparate interests, and Chavez — who recently won a Guggenheim fellowship for his work — finds a poignant point of overlap for them: Where the storied north-side complex once stood, an overgrown lot now remains, its 33 demolished high-rises reinhabited by trees, wildflowers and, yes, bees. Recent photographs and 8mm film footage of the site articulate Laumeier's intimate galleries, evoking, in their '60s-era film stock and coloration, both melancholic nostalgia and a fresh enthrallment with nature. Street lamps and swaths of wire fences serve as spare reminders of the troubled past but appear mollified by their new context. Hives the artist constructed at the site yielded a single jar of honey, which is here presented with portentous dignity on a single white plinth. Elsewhere, documentation of overseas visits — the Luxembourg Gardens; prehistoric cave paintings in Spain — underscores the tie between humans and bees. And in a present-day counterpart, a large-scale chart of interconnected snapshots and planning notes describe the evolution of Chavez's new community art space: the Northside Project, located about a mile and half from the Pruitt-Igoe site, where urban gardening, community cookbooks and other restorative projects aim for neighborhood revitalization. A massive outdoor piece, Untitled (sacred real estate), consists of a grove of retired wooden lampposts punctuating an otherwise green expanse — forming the basic outline of the demolished housing project while simultaneously evoking something ancient, ritualistic and mystically hopeful. Through January 20, 2013, at Laumeier Sculpture Park, 12580 Rott Road, Sunset Hills; 314-615-5278 (www.laumeier.org). Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Fri., noon-5 p.m. Sat. and Sun. (Outdoor grounds open daily from 8 a.m. to a half-hour past sunset).

 
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