Featured Review: Holiness: In 3 Parts

Featured Review: Holiness: In 3 Parts Stripped-down building forms — a wooden post-and-lintel entryway, a wood-beam pillar — sparely articulate the gallery space and courtyard in this solo exhibition by Theaster Gates. The materials, culled from the Chicago-based artist's back yard, possess the worn patina of abandoned urban structures familiar to city-dwelling St. Louisans: scaled in peeling paint, riddled with nails, weather-abused. Reclaiming fragmented parts of spaces now occupied by the African American community, Gates reconfigures them in a way that instills a sense of deep history and sacred purpose. A shoe shiner's seat becomes a throne, a porch staircase morphs into a pulpit. A video splicing together footage of the longest-running shoeshine business in Chicago with sequences of Gates at work making art underscores the continuum being suggested here — between art and civility, rhythm and method — and behind it all the sound of monks chanting. The opening-night performance involved a progressive series of installments by an improv poet, a local gospel choir and Gates' band, the Black Monks of the Mississippi — each executing their part expertly and exuberantly through every way of intoning, "Let it shine." This is an exhibit of dense and resonant complexity conveyed with the barest of means, like a single note sung in chorus. Through October 16 at Boots Contemporary Art Space, 2307 Cherokee Street; 314-773-2281 or www.bootsart.com. Hours: noon-5 p.m. Wed. and Sat. and by appointment.

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