Support Local Journalism. Join Riverfront Times Press Club.

In the Galleries - NEW: Success CLOSES February 29 at Isolation Room/Gallery Kit 

Founding Fathers-brand American pragmatism confronts The Apprentice-era febrile careerism in St. Louis-based artist (and 2010 Great Rivers Biennial winner) Martin Brief's obsessive and self-satirizing meditation on the word success. In minuscule uppercase, Brief handwrote verbatim every definition of this ungraspable trophy of a word as defined by the Oxford English Dictionary, then proceeded to copy the definitions of every word used in that definition. The outcome is a scrupulously circumscribed square on an otherwise pristine sheet of paper — a secular Dead Sea scroll that, from a distance, looks like flickering television static and elicits the kind of awe inspired by, say, Jesus' portrait inked on a grain of rice. Here, however, form intentionally matches function: An utterly familiar term, as dear to our national ethos as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, slips further from comprehension with every fastidious attempt to grasp it. Squint closely and you'll be rewarded with a fittingly surreal aggregation of fragmentary meanings: "a sum of money"; "a small dissenting group within a larger one"; "various random directions"; "the belief in a super-human controlling power"; "the passage of fluid"; "an organic matter"; "to hunt and kill for food." Substitute three-car garages, country-music stardom, hometown heroism, science fair blue ribbon, hedge-fund ownership, becoming a nun, posing for a centerfold — anything, in short, that our enlightened populace prizes and propagandizes — and it'd come to the same thing. The difference being that Brief has spared us the painstaking labor and given us the tidy parcel of gray haze it all amounts to. Through February 29 at Isolation Room/Gallery Kit, 5723 Dewey Avenue; 314-660-6295 or Hours: by appointment.

Support Local Journalism.
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. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Riverfront Times Club for as little as $5 a month.

Read the Digital Print Issue

October 20, 2021

View more issues


Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

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

Best Things to Do In St. Louis

© 2021 Riverfront Times

Website powered by Foundation