Featured Review: Fred Stonehouse: Den of Secrets

Oct 21, 2009 at 4:00 am

Featured Review: Fred Stonehouse: Den of Secrets This menagerie of self-portraits — as a bat, in lucha libre masks, beset by demons or as a demon — plumbs the curious ways one sees oneself or attempts to see oneself more clearly. Borrowing elements of carnival sideshow banner motifs, the iconography of Latino and Northern Renaissance religious iconography, and vestiges of spray-painted street art, this Wisconsin-based artist illustrates a world of self-mythology that is at once wistful and phantasmagoric. Small wavering pencil lines carve out meticulous little eyes exuding jewel-like tears; the head of a goateed man (a shade of the artist) is affixed to the shrunken body of a round-bellied infant; snow falls on Christmas pines while the sky, white with flurries, glows with red letters proclaiming "The Measure of a Man." Self-validation, here, is self-defeating: It comes in the length of a demon's long-swinging tail. While whiffs of the flat, crude but essentialist brand of rendering associated with folk artists inform the work, Stonehouse's paintings and drawings are anything but unstudied or incidentally realized. As a whole they read as a familiar epic long retold with the assurance of maturity, in which the idiosyncratic details merit more patient attention, and the broad strokes of childhood angst are subdued into melancholy lyricism. Through October 31 at Philip Slein Gallery, 1319 Washington Avenue; 314-621-4634 or www.philipsleingallery.com. Hours: 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Tue.-Sat.

Click here for a complete list of St. Louis art capsules.