And the Emmy Goes To. . .

Week of December 12, 2001

And the Emmy Goes To...
... Ernest Trova: Not too carefully hidden in Eddie Silva's cover story on Emily Pulitzer and her sublime new building and foundation ["Emmy Award," Dec. 5] are two pointed knocks against artist and St. Louisan Ernest Trova. In the course of discussing Mrs. Pulitzer's curation of the show "7 for '67" at the St. Louis Art Museum, Silva first omits Trova completely, mentioning all six other artists that were included in the exhibit, and then later pejoratively comments that Trova's inclusion was "a nod to the local."

However smug he may feel in his distaste for Mr. Trova's art, Silva should also be deeply embarrassed by his narrow grasp of art's recent history. While his suggestion is clear that Trova's place in the 1967 exhibit was less than deserving, he fails to see beyond the current fashion to recall the facts: by 1967, Ernest Trova had works in the Whitney, Guggenheim, Tate, and the Museum of Modern Arts, had been commissioned by I.M. Pei, collected by Philip Johnson, Larry Aldrich, and Albert List, and had been selected by Lawrence Alloway, director of the Guggenheim, along with Jackson Pollock, Joseph Cornell, David Smith, Roy Lichenstein, Larry Rivers and Isamu Noguchi to represent the United States at the Venice Biennale before the american entry was scrapped over a financial dispute. The New York Times reported that Trova's work was considered the most "avant-garde" of the group. One need only take a brief look through Pulitzer's 1967 exhibition catalog to recognize that along with Segal and Oldenburg, Ernest Trova was among the most widely acknowledged and credible of the selections. It is also worth noting that "7 for 67" very nearly mirrored a 1966 show at Minneapolis's Walker Art Center "8 Sculptors: The Ambiguous Image" which featured six of the seven artists in the later St. Louis exhibit, Trova included.

Perhaps because of the accessibility of his art at Laumeier Sculpture Park and in other public collections around town, St. Louis has long taken Trova for granted, failing to recognize the impact his work had internationally in the 1960s and since. Silva would do well to conduct a bit of research before taking it upon himself to revise the history of modern art and understand that simply because an artist's residency is local does not mandate that his talent is local as well.
Matthew Strauss
St. Louis

... Richard Serra: Richard Serra's "Twain" was the first piece of an unfinished puzzle that our City Money Fathers called the Gateway Mall. As chronicled in the Riverfront Times, [the mall] was grandly conceived as a panoramic vista that would lovingly lure the public into inspired public gatherings. There were to be fountains, benches, much greenery, and "Twain" was intended to be surrounded by all this, with children drawn into its center as their parents sat nearby soaking up the sun.

In this intended scenario, "Twain" could possibly have been perceived as less ominous and more "Our Own Oddity." Instead, the Gateway Mall ball was dropped mere yards after the "Twain" kickoff. We now have an utterly useless stretch of land [largely] ignored by downtown workers. There is no sculpture known to man that could enliven those abandoned acres of Civic Progress.

It's irritating to have both the artist and Emily Pulitzer continually slammed for contributing to what they -- like everyone else -- believed was a worthy community work-in-progress. We were all led down a primrose path that ends with the Serra sculpture as a scapegoat. If you look at in the context of reality, "Twain" is not blame. It's simply suffering from a bum deal.
Toby Weiss
St. Louis

Where Credit Is Due
Welcome to my world: I appreciated the South Side Journal's getting noticed for breaking in March the story about Ald. Craig Schmid owning a building he didn't fix up per city requirements [D.J. Wilson, " Married to the Job," Dec. 5]. However, you credited the wrong reporter. I, not Bob Schaper, wrote the March article. Schaper, who is a great reporter, did his homework and asked Schmid about his building when the alderman showed up at a press conference last month to congratulate Mayor Francis Slay for busting building inspector Edward Geiseler for renting a condemned apartment. Schaper then wrote a follow-up piece.

In April, after the article on Schmid, I wrote an article about Geiseler and his code violations. I've been amused by the flurry of November news stories and mayoral action on both Schmid and Geiseler, because few people paid any attention last spring. Such is the world of community newspapers. Evidently the tree falling in the forest doesn't make a sound unless noted by a major media outlet.
Heather Cole
St. Louis

Gogarty Reappraised
He was fired for incompetence: I like to read Ray Hartmann's column because he is never afraid to swim against the political stream. That carries the increased risk of being wrong, as he is in his recent assessment (sorry) of the Mo Gogarty controversy over St. Louis County real-estate taxes ["Barking Up the Wrong Tree," Dec. 5]. Maurice Gogarty was fired for doing an incompetent, sloppy and bad-faith job. With two years to carry out the process, why did his office wait until there were only six weeks left to try and inspect 46,000 pieces of property? Lousy planning.

The idea of sending people, some of them totally unqualified for any kind of real-estate appraising, driving down the street past houses at 30 mph and saying that satisfied the state requirement for a building inspection is so ludicrous that it deserves no further discussion among reasonable people. The misrepresentations and defiance Gogarty put forth to the County Council certainly didn't help him, either.

Oh, but Gogarty's numbers are right -- the people just naturally resent higher taxes and are only concerned for their self-interests, or so Gogarty apologists say. Wrong again. Gogarty's numbers are not right. There is abundant proof that the computerized system of reassessment through the use of "comparable" properties is deeply flawed. That's why the state law requires a physical inspection on increases of more than 17 percent. This simply was not done.

In short, how much egg on his face does a boss like Buzz Westfall have to take before he can dismiss an arrogant, know-it-all subordinate without being accused of "deflecting political fallout"?
Dan Stevens
University City

Develop or Die
Racing to the bottom: Just about a mile from the site proposed by Maplewood for the new hardware store is a perfectly good unused big-box hardware building [Safir Ahmed, " Selling Out," Nov. 28]. It is on Manchester Avenue in the St. Louis Marketplace. One would think that, absent public subsidy, moving into an existing building would be cheaper than a new building. With this suitable alternative already standing nearby, a new building that requires the razing of people's houses seems downright profligate. The problem, of course, is that the existing empty store is in a different city -- St. Louis. Opening a business in St. Louis won't do much for Maplewood. But it would be better for the region as a whole to use the resources that we already have.

Wasteful land-use policy is the inevitable result of dividing up the metropolitan area into 230 different cities. The competition among cities results in a race to the bottom for too many of them. The proposed Maplewood development is yet another example of how the political structure of the metropolitan area does not serve its citizens well.
Richard V. Gilpin
St. Louis

Why destroy housing? We already are short on decent affordable housing, both in the St. Louis area and nationwide. But we have plenty of commercial development. Would these people do this development if they did not receive tax breaks? Why is government subsidizing a business that will need to destroy housing to make room for itself?
Robert McFall

A necessary tool: Maplewood is not selling out. It is trying to move forward. It is regrettable that some residents will have to move. Yet the Hanley and Eager roads area has been a boom for Richmond Heights and Brentwood. Maplewood deserves the same experience. Tax credits have been debated, [but] Maplewood should not have to wait for laws to be changed. Many St. Louis city projects would not have seen the light of day without these tax credits. It's a necessary tool. If you go north of University City and look at the suburb ring beyond Wellston, Hillsdale, Pine Lawn and Jennings, [you'll find] these cities are struggling. Cities like Richmond Heights and Shrewsbury that develop, prosper.
Kevin Kelly
via the Internet

What It Is
Just plain stupid: Thanks for honestly describing the WB11 story about sex in public places for what it really was: sensationalistic, worthless and just plain stupid [D.J. Wilson, " Sex, Guys and Videotape," Nov. 21].
Ken Konchel
St. Louis

A Fitting Remembrance
One of the best: Thank you for writing such a fitting memorial to Julie Lobbia [Ray Hartmann, " J.A. Lobbia: A Tribute," Nov. 28]. We worked together at the Village Voice for a couple of years, and the one thing I remember most vividly about her is her sense of humor, her kindness and that bike she always wheeled around the office! Thanks so much for your spot-on read of one of the best people I've ever had the privilege to call a friend. If she's haunting you now, I'm sure she's cracking jokes the entire time.
Athima Chansanchai
Baltimore, Md.

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