Best Art Gallery - 2009
Boots Contemporary Art Space - CLOSED
This sliver of a nonprofit gallery, which occupies a brightly renovated storefront on Cherokee Street's antique row, admirably maintains sure footing in progressive art practices and timeworn good neighborliness. Founded in 2006 by St. Louis artist Juan William Chávez and co-operated by a rotating cast of thoughtful collaborators, this self-described art laboratory consistently offers programming that's exponentially larger in outreach and scope than the modest size of its former shoe repair-shop space and similarly diminutive staff of volunteers. Luring artists from the St. Louis region and such far-flung locales as Turkey, Greece, Pakistan and beyond, Boots succeeds in performing a uniquely plainspoken analysis of our daily lives, finding high art in, say, the way friendships are conducted or how pedestrians interact with their surroundings. Highlights from this past year alone include conceptualist Serkan Özkaya transforming a ream of printer paper into a static windstorm/commentary on artistic influence; the punk exuberance of the group show Bad Moon Rising 3 piling together every outcry of political malaise for a powerful installation of contemporary discontent; and Slinger II, an annual group show of local art curated by St. Louisan Cole Root with exuberance and clarity, issuing a healthy diagnosis for our native creative output. Never short on ideas, Boots also produces Boot Print, a journal of interviews and essays by artists, curators and art professionals, furthering the space's mission to engage the community.