In the Galleries - Jeremy Deller: Joy in People at CAM

In the Galleries - Jeremy Deller: Joy in People at CAM

This visual riot of flags, hand-scrawled flowcharts, silkscreen posters, photographs, videos, large-scale installations (including a re-creation of the artist's '90s-era bedroom and a fully functioning ersatz café), slide shows, glam-rock murals, magazines, masks, mock-ups of failed art proposals and an eclectic hoarder's trove of sundry other ephemera comprises this midcareer survey of influential British artist Jeremy Deller. It's an all-consuming experience. One enters through the artist's "bedroom," passes into the main gallery through a "bathroom" and is set loose to take (free) tea at "Valerie's Snack Bar." Alighting on a black couch under a sprawling black mural ("I Melancholy") or picking up any number of headphone sets to tune into Deller's assorted film projects, it becomes emphatically clear that passive browsing or reverie-inducing contemplation is anathema to this vision. Known as a seminal practitioner and pioneer of "social practice" art, Deller prefers to incite situations rather than craft discrete (conventional) art objects. Often political in nature, his work mines culture's vernacular forms — parades, the phenomenon of fandom, worker's strikes, bumper stickers — for evidence of their grander historical and sociological implications, drawing our attention to the unlikely profundity in our everyday midst. While most of his work in its original form is immaterial, its residue amounts to quite a lot of stuff, and stuff of a perhaps-problematically trivial nature. It's a head scratcher, indeed, that the moral scourges of war, capitalism, and inequality may be writ bold, but their substrates are toilet stalls, T-shirts, and party fare — i.e., the unironically pitiful platforms of the powerless. Through April 28 at CAM (Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis) 3750 Washington Boulevard; 314-535-4660 or www.camstl.org. Hours: 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Wed., 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Thurs.-Fri., 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sat.-Sun.

 
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