Imagine finding in the attic of your childhood home a cache of 50-year-old letters revealing a chapter of your family history you never knew — how your mother, who was living in Memphis, fought to help her parents escape from Germany during the Second World War. Local artist Bunny Burson made precisely that discovery ten years ago, and, with the help of a translator, she was able to piece together this bewildering narrative. Prints and collages of inked-cursive excerpts from the letters populate the galleries, their outsize forensic detail and rhythmic repetition suggesting the vagueness and persistence of memory, or the sense of a mute chorus of voices just out of audible reach. In a series of small, square-format works, Burson has drawn images described in the letters — a pair of women's shoes, a set of dice; larger works depict newspaper clippings from the late '30s and early '40s, forming a substrate for the ubiquitous overlapping scrawl. The palette is elegiac, restricted to dim blues, grays and black. There are no human figures here, only words, scattered images and the occasional object (pieces of brass and aluminum cut to resemble the bundles of letters, a wall hanging consisting of cast resin nameplates that all read "L. Cohen"). It's almost as if Burson has endeavored to achieve the impossible: By means of relentless excavation, to resuscitate words that, no matter how crucial they may be, can only exist as signifiers and traces. Through July 21 at Bruno David Gallery, 3721 Washington Boulevard; 314-531-3030 or www.brunodavidgallery.com. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Wed.-Sat. and by appointment.
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