As recent flooding attests, the Mississippi River still has the ability to define those along its shores. This group exhibition, organized with the Longue Vue House and Gardens in New Orleans, explores the layered historical connections shared by St. Louis and the Big Easy, sister cities that are physically and culturally linked by the fabled river. Kranzberg Exhibition Series artist Mel Watkins leads off with an immersive installation that re-imagines one of the Laumeier gallery's rooms as it originally was: a 1917 residential space. With wallpapered walls, repainted crown moulding and framed maps of the Mississippi articulated to resemble human arteries, The River Room is a wonderfully strange mock artifact that frames the sculpture-park grounds (visible through the windows) and subsequent galleries through a decidedly pre-white-box lens. Ways of seeing and, possibly, understanding physical and historical space comprise a central motif of the ambitious exhibition: Early cartographic ephemera are juxtaposed with contemporary sculptures resembling surveyors' tools; 19th-century engravings hang alongside modern photographs; and figures such as Dred Scott and Homer Plessy (of Plessy v. Ferguson fame) are conceptually and spatially re-aligned in new sculptural renderings. Extending beyond the perimeters of Laumeier itself, the exhibit includes a map of St. Louis' many notable sites and art holdings related to its relationship to the Mississippi, inviting visitors to take their own journey and recover a subtler narrative of our past. Through August 25 at Laumeier Sculpture Park, 12580 Rott Road, Sunset Hills; 314-615-5278 or 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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