RFT Spring Arts Guide 2012: Visual Arts

A necklace by Melissa Schmidt, a featured artist at Laumeier's Art Fair.
A necklace by Melissa Schmidt, a featured artist at Laumeier's Art Fair.

RFT Spring Arts Guide 2012: Visual Arts

Click here to return to the Spring Arts Guide index Stop and Smell the Paintings
Slow Art Day is a worldwide event based on a simple idea: Go to a museum; look at some art. Slowly. The organizers of Slow Art Day recommend spending a minimum of five minutes observing each piece on display on Saturday, April 28. This should be an easy task at the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts (3716 Washington Boulevard; 314-754-1850 or www.pulitzerarts.org). Its current exhibition, In the Still Epiphany, contains 40 selections from the unbelievable private collection of Emily and Joseph Pulitzer Jr., each one selected by installation artist Gedi Sibony, who staged the works throughout the gallery for maximum impact. Even those whose art-staring experience is limited to Magic Eye posters should have no problem devoting undivided attention to Epiphany. Take your time — how often are you granted the opportunity to view works by the likes of Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Pierre Bonnard and John Singer Sargent in the flesh? — Ryan Wasoba

Paper Artifacts
A century from now, when robots rule the world, today's e-readers will languish in the technology dustbin. Few people will lovingly dust off a second-generation Kindle and sigh, "Ah, yes, I remember downloading that Sue Grafton novel in January 2012." Rare books, on the other hand, catch collectors' fancies and command top dollar. The St. Louis Mercantile Library at the University of Missouri-St. Louis (1 University Boulevard, Normandy) hosts the sixth annual St. Louis Fine Print, Rare Book and Paper Arts Fair Saturday and Sunday, May 5 and 6. In addition to gorgeous early-edition books, the fair also includes vintage rock & roll posters, incredible antique maps, treasures from the Works Progress Administration and much more. Novices and serious collectors alike are welcome. Sunday brings free artist demonstrations of watercolor, printing and bookbinding. Admission is $5 (or $1.50 with a current student ID) on Saturday and Sunday; the preview party from 6 to 9 p.m. on Friday, May 4, is $50 per person or $90 per couple. Visit http://www.umsl.edu/mercantile/printfair-detail.html or call 314-516-7240 for hours and more information. All proceeds from the fair benefit the Mercantile Library's collections and conservation efforts. —Brooke Foster

Treat Your Mama
Mother's Day approaches! This year, rather than dropping twenty bucks at Walgreens on candy and flowers, why not show your mom what a cultured, classy child she raised by taking her to the annual Laumeier Sculpture Park (12580 Rott Road, Sunset Hills; 314-615-5278) Art Fair? Every year on Mom's Day weekend the sprawling open-air museum plays host to more than 14,000 visitors, displaying and selling art from 150 different artists of a wide range of media. The fair opens on Friday, May 11, at 6 p.m. with a wine-tasting event and runs Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. New this year is a Mother's Day brunch on Sunday, sponsored by Whole Foods Market and Marmi. General-admission tickets cost only $8 for adults and $5 for kids; the brunch and wine-tasting events require additional admission and advance reservations. Visit www.laumeiersculpturepark.org for tickets and more details. — Daniel Hill

Contemporary Masters
That much-anticipated regional diagnostic, the Great Rivers Biennial, opens at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis (3750 Washington Boulevard; 314-535-4660 or camstl.org) on Friday, May 11. Every two years, a prestigious jury of far-flung art professionals selects three local artists for a museum exhibition and a formidable monetary prize ($20,000) with which they're free to do as they please. This year's crop includes photographer David Johnson, relational artist Asma Kazmi and sculptor Mel Trad. Among the three, a thoroughly disparate array of media is covered, sure to yield intriguing results. Johnson has been working on a photo series that documents the museum itself as well as its patronage, chronicling such disparate environs as office quarters and the domestic interiors of wealthy collectors. Kazmi invited participants in a local adult-literacy program to reflect upon their lives through drawings, the product of which will be exhibited alongside videos and live performances. Trad's abstract sculptures will articulate the space with a vigorous high-to-low exchange, drawing in formal elements from the writ-large canon (Giacometti in particular) to the minutiae of locally culled detritus. The exhibition will remain on display through August 12. — Jessica Baran

Brave New World
The downtown mainstay Philip Slein Gallery, rooted for nearly ten years on Washington Avenue, moves to the Central West End this spring. The new space, at 4735 McPherson Avenue (formerly the William Shearburn Gallery), will be christened on May 18 with two exhibits: a solo show of abstract paintings by Jackie Saccoccio and a select survey of Slein's stable of artists, to include work by Max Cole, Erik Spehn, Michael Byron, among others. Saccoccio peruses every variety of frenetic gesture — pouring, dripping, diffusing and dragging her Day-Glo palette over the canvas. It's eye-popping stuff that still wrestles with the subtle, unutterable language of abstraction, weaving in moments of whitewashed reprieve amid its otherwise wild terrain. The work's ebullient spirit no doubt sets the tone for Slein's re-arrival: Viva change! — Jessica Baran

Full-Immersion Film
A stroll through downtown is about to become even more scenic this spring, thanks to Cinema at Citygarden. Cinema St. Louis encouraged local filmmakers to create short works with nature as a main focus, and beginning on May 25, the winning shorts will be played on loop at Citygarden's video wall. Citygarden, a 2.9-acre strip of greenery, fountains and statues, has become a gem in the heart of St. Louis and is located between Eighth and Chestnut streets along Market Street. The juried competition will have three winners, all receiving cash prizes — $1,500 for first place, $1,000 for second place and $500 for third place — which will be announced on Friday, May 25. These shorts, as well as other entries chosen by Cinema St. Louis, will also be included in the St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase in August. For more information, call 314-289-4150 or visit www.cinemastlouis.org. — Kholood Eid

Art by Day, Magic by Night
In the Chinese zodiac it's the year of the dragon, and at the Missouri Botanical Garden it's the "Year of China." From May 26 through August 19, the Missouri Botanical Garden (4344 Shaw Boulevard; 314-577-5100) is celebrating Chinese history and culture with its Lantern Festival, billed as "Art By Day, Magic By Night." Though an age-old tradition in China, modern lantern festivals celebrate the end of the fifteen-day Chinese New Year with ornate, luminous lanterns dotting city landscapes with bright, festive color and light. The garden will be completely transformed, with hanging lanterns glowing in trees overhead and stunning sets and displays capturing delicate art and sparkling culture little seen outside of China. A large, illuminated dragon greets guests at the gate offering good luck, while inside a three-story creation called "Heavenly Temple" re-creates the grandeur and glory of the Beijing Heavenly Temple. The festival kicks off its grand opening weekend on Saturday, May 26, from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tickets range in price from $10 to $22. For more information visit www.mobot.org or call 314-577-5100. —Liz Miller

Frame by Frame
"Kapow" was once a sound often heard in the Foundry Art Centre (520 North Main Center, St. Charles; 636-255-0270) building. Railroad cars were once checked in the central hall here for their ability to "couple" correctly: Cars were hauled up a ramp at one end of the gigantic space then dropped down the tracks on collision course with a stationary testing bumper. In a long gallery flanking this boom-boom room, the Foundry is sponsoring the Ka-pow! Comic Art & Storyboarding juried exhibit from July 27 to September 7. The artwork will be selected and judged by juror Phil McAndrew, a noted illustrator who has published work in MAD magazine and whose cartoons can be seen on various websites such as Feral Pizza, Picture Book Report and Marvelous Mustache Factory. The deadline to submit is June 19; channel your inner Lichtenstein or create a manga for your chance at the $500 prize. Visit www.foundryartcentre.org for more information. — Suzy Rust

Aisle 1 Gallery (2627 Cherokee Street; 314-330-8869) will celebrate Pride weekend with the solo exhibit Gender Bender by Sara Swaty Roger. Swaty Roger, a commercial and art photographer, takes slick portraits of her peers that needle the hairline distinctions that determine gender. Be it a pose (Marilyn Monroe-esque, but struck by a middle-aged man), traces of makeup (lipstick on a boy) or articles of clothing (skirts versus beat-up jeans), the tropes that often define gender are dismantled and questioned for their inherent normative associations. Often set starkly against single-hue backdrops, subjects include those actively undergoing gender reassignment, who alternately play up their role as "other" in vamping postures or appear intimately unassuming in what would otherwise be off-camera moments. Swaty Roger's eye is inclusive and empathetic; all images have the feel of self-portraits rather than objectified documentation. This is, of course, key to their point: "Normal" is whatever you make it. The exhibit opens with a free reception Thursday, June 21, from 7 to 11 p.m. and will remain on view through June 23. — Jessica Baran

Get SLAPed
Despite its violent acronym, St. Louis Arts Project believes in the peaceful nurturing of collective spirit. The grass-roots organization would be justified in, ahem, slapping you upside the head, however, if you fail to pay attention to the messages delivered during its second annual three-day conference at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis. From June 29 to July 1, listen to crusades like "Loving the Lou," which, in conjunction with Chautauqua Art Lab, will attempt to convey the deep appreciation SLAP has for our town by sharing "a living history, community map and archive" of the local art scene. There's more than just talk going on here: In addition to some quality nonverbal transmission of enthusiasm, there will be an information expo to help connect attendees with both educational and volunteer arts opportunities, and Saturday night will feature a concert in the courtyard by the electronic musicians of Current, an RFT Best of St. Louis award winner. — Suzy Rust

Old Mounds Show New Art
Drive past Fairmount Park and forget about betting on the ponies for a weekend. Just up the road at Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site (30 Ramey Street, Collinsville, Illinois; 618-346-5160) on July 14 and 15, 30 Native American artists from around the country will show their work in the seventeenth annual Contemporary Indian Art Show. This juried exhibit features fine-art media such as paintings, beadwork, knifemaking, pottery, jewelry making and sculpture. Saturday and Sunday's events are free (although the museum suggests a $4 donation). If you want first dibs on the art, attend the preview party on Friday, July 13, from 6:30 to 9 p.m. The artists will be on hand at the hors d'oeuvres and drinks reception, and the art will be for sale at this early event. Tickets are $15. Call 618-344-7316 for required reservations. — Robin Wheeler

Exhibits Now on Display

Currents: Chelsea Knight
Chelsea Knight In this two-part body of work — the latest installment of SLAM's Currents series — New York-based artist Chelsea Knight (recipient of a 2012-13 Freund Teaching Fellowship at Washington U.) explores language's capacity to define power structures, gender roles and other mechanisms of cultural stratification. In the 2010 video The End of All Resistance, a series of duos — male soldiers, young actresses, a middle-aged married couple — carry out military-style interrogations, demanding information ("What insurgent organization are you in?" etc.) over and over in different tones: whispering, shouting, singing. Inherently elastic, language can shape-shift at the speed of sound, from bland to erotic, evocative to somnolent, conciliatory to threatening. It's among the most volatile of human constructs, and slippery. The central aspect of Frame, a multimedia installation crafted for this exhibit, is also a video. Construction workers (the bona fide variety) frame out a building while reciting from memory bits of feminist theory and modern poetry. The disjunctions are predictable — burly man in hardhat talking about the experience of the female body or waxing lyrical about childbirth — but the effect is anything but. Unlike the verbiage of torture manuals, poetry and (occasionally) theory are capable of linguistic elegance (i.e., beauty), in the face of which all conventional roles dissolve. The raptness with which the participants speak their lines hints at language's capacity to humanize — to encourage empathy, to broaden one's conscience, as opposed to simply tearing people apart. Through July 1 at the Saint Louis Art Museum, 1 Fine Arts Drive (in Forest Park); 314-721-0072 or www.slam.org. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sun. (10 a.m.-9 p.m. Fri.) — Jessica Baran

Liquid Terrain: 20 Years of Works on Paper by Eva Lundsager
A chronicle of dots, washes, saturated color fields and explosive fissures of ink, this survey of St. Louis-based painter Eva Lundsager's abstracts on paper has the feel of an opened diary, each piece an impressionistic recounting of life's varied currents. By and large intimate in scale, the works are presented here in small groups, topically linked by media (water color, gouache, ink) and date, but more revealingly by form and content, an intricate grammar of subtle, intuitive marks that evolves over time. Early pieces convey a jagged, pointillist universe characterized by violent splatters, swarms of pin-like dots and an effusiveness that's heedless of orientational niceties like perspective. More recent works wax into languid brushstrokes, bold hues and a watery environment in which the ground often gives way to volcanic emissions and an absent sun is always setting or rising in shades of red. Lundsager is best known for her works on canvas, which makes this exhibit all the more illuminating, a testament to the preciousness of privacy and unhindered experimentation. Like a journal, it conveys a true sense of lived time — sputters of joy, interstices of black, journeys undertaken and completed — as well as a glimpse of a rich and active interior life, most at home in the fluidity of paint. Through August 18 at the Sheldon Art Galleries, 3648 Washington Boulevard; 314-533-9900 or www.sheldonconcerthall.org. Hours: noon-8 p.m. Tue. & Thu., noon-5 p.m. Wed. & Fri., 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sat. — Jessica Baran

An Orchestrated Vision: The Theater of Contemporary Photography
Focusing on large-scale contemporary photography, this show identifies a new, prevalent strain whose practitioners eschew traditional realism in favor of deliberate fabrication and snapshot immediacy in favor of meticulous manipulation. Divided into four sections — public spaces as theater; elusive narratives; portraiture as performance and constructed spaces — the exhibit inspects its theme with acuity, drawing several dozen expansive works into its discerning field of view. A woman standing in a driveway stares blankly into a lit domestic window in Untitled (snowy valley) (2006) by Gregory Crewdson; a spectacularly ravaged, abandoned theater in equally decimated Gary, Indiana, inverts the equation in a 2008 photograph by Andrew Moore. Figures are scarce here; when they do appear, they function as props or narrative prompts: static, manicured, pre-positioned. Seen from this perspective, it's space itself (as opposed to we who merely occupy it) that embodies endless dramatic potential. The suggestive stillness of these pieces highlights a curious contradiction: In the context of our spectacle-saturated culture, images rooted in the all-too-familiar tropes of popular entertainment (cinema, theater) are resolutely unspectacular, while those that depict a baldly contrived "reality" strike a salient emotional chord. Doubtless, at this very moment, someone in some distant (and cluttered) room is on the verge of untangling that mystery. We, meanwhile, must content ourselves with the knowledge that the mere act of looking closely is a surreal, creative feat. Through May 13 at the Saint Louis Art Museum, 1 Fine Arts Drive (in Forest Park); 314-721-0072 or www.slam.org. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sun. (10 a.m.-9 p.m. Fri.) — Jessica Baran

Scroll to read more Arts Stories & Interviews articles (1)
Join the Riverfront Times Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state.
Help us keep this coverage going with a one-time donation or an ongoing membership pledge.


Join Riverfront Times Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.