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Best Gallery Exhibition St. Louis 2001 - Lezley Saar at the Forum for Contemporary Art

Lezley Saar's portraits of rappers -- intense, confrontational, like close-ups on the wide screen -- was the antidote necessary to dilute the terrible show of Miles Davis drawings downstairs at the Forum. Even though the Davis scribblings were the main event, the real goods were in Saar's Africans, Rap Thugs-n-Dimes on the third floor. In Saar, hip-hop has found an able chronicler. Her work is not pure documentary, however. Bold, dripping text; brown backdrops; angry faces at the peak of performance: These paintings made the wide gray gallery space pulse with energy. What people might not get from the music -- its rude, streetwise profanity; its adolescent dreams of power; its ultimate despair -- Saar replicates on the two-dimensional surface, no boombox required. And you can play Miles' records when you get home.
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