Itâ€™s the first of May, which means that itâ€™s May Day, International Workerâ€™s Day, and you may as well watch the Bee Gees perform this. It also means that lots of art spaces and museums are getting ready to open their first round of summer shows. In solidarity, I present to you my (rather long) shortlist of whatâ€™s on in St. Louis in the coming weeks.
The River Between Us
Laumeier Sculpture Park
April 13â€“August 25, 2013
A symbiotic traveling exhibition coorganized with Longue Vue House and Gardens in New Orleans, The River Between Us is the latest in a series of projects at Laumeier that explore the theme of place. This time, the mighty Mississippi provides the inspiration for the show, which will feature both new commissions and historical documents. Featured artists include Ken Lum, Allan McCollum, and Alec Soth, among many others.
Rudely Interrupted Evening withÂ Mr. Manners
May 3-5, 2013
Local guerilla curatorial collective The Transients stage shows in recently vacated commercial spaces. Their newest project takes place in the old downtown YMCA, which piques my interest. This weekend-long series of events includes collaborative videos and screenings, a brunchtime screening featuring a twenty-one-gun salute (!), and a performative event by the Archeospiritist Study and Consortion Initiative Illinois (!!).
Andrew James:Â Without the zeroes and ones,Â â€¨the big and the huge don’t mean dick (v.1)
Isolation Room/Gallery Kit
May 3â€“June 1, 2013
Worth going just for the titleâ€”and the fact that Andrew James also runs St. Louisâ€™s excellent Good Citizen Galleryâ€”this show at the petite apartment gallery Isolation Room features a new kinetic object by the artist that, notes curator Daniel McGrath, â€œscoots on wheels like a Minecraft translation of an intravenous drip.â€
Contemporary German Art: Selections from the Permanent Collection
2013 MFA Thesis Exhibition
Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Washington University
May 3â€“September 7, 2013
The Kemper showcases highlights from its formidable collection of contemporary German art, including works by Thomas Bayrle, Isa Genzken, Charline von Heyl, Sergei Jensen, Wolfgang Tillmans, and others. Also on view is the latest MFA Thesis show of work by twenty-three new grads.
Mike Newton: Contact
Fort Gondo Compound for the Arts
May 4â€“June 1, 2013
Iâ€™ve sang Fort Gondoâ€™s praises elsewhere on this site. Its latest exhibition curated by new director Jessica Baran features several videos by New York-based artist Mike Newton that draw inspiration from the question of how to represent and understand interpersonal communication, particularly as it relates to eye contact.
Whole City: St. Louis
Luminary Center for the Arts
May 4â€“25, 2013
The latest in a series of guest-curated exhibitions collectively titled How to Build a World That Wonâ€™t Fall Apart, this show by Minneapolis design studio Works Progress takes the form of an intensive short-term residency that seeks to better understand the cultural landscape of St. Louis. Starting with the question “what makes us whole?” the interviews and conversations that they conduct in the city will be made manifest into an exhibition and free newspaper.
White Flag Projects
May 4â€“June 10, 2013
In typical White Flag fashion, the curatorial conceit remains a mystery, but Iâ€™m listing this for Peter Hujarâ€™s photo of Susan Sontag alone.
Donald Judd: The Colored Works
Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts
May 10, 2013â€“January 4, 2014
Former Chinati Foundation director Marianne Stockebrand curates the first show focused exclusively on Donald Juddâ€™s works in color. Everything in the show was made late in his career between 1984â€“1992. Modern Art Notesâ€™ Tyler Green will speak with Stockebrand on the occasion of the show at the Pulitzer on May 11. Not to be missed.
Hiraki Sawa: Migration
Saint Louis Art Museum
May 3â€“September 8, 2013
Japanese artist Hiraki Sawa presents a new animation in the latest in SLAMâ€™s ongoing New Media Series curated by Tricia Paik.
East Building Expansion
Technically opening on June 29, this long-awaited expansion gives the museumâ€™s substantial collection of modern and contemporary art room to breathe. The inaugural hang will feature much of its strong postwar holdings of works by Joseph Beuys, Gerhard Richter, Sigmar Polke, Anselm Kiefer, and others, as well as an art historical overview of work by the Abstract Expressionists, Minimalists, and more contemporary artists such as Kiki Smith and Julie Mehretu. The expansion also marks the premiere of Stone Sea, a new site-specific commission by Andy Goldsworthy.
Bad at Sports
April 24â€“May 5, 2013
Kerry James Marshall
May 24â€“July 7, 2013
Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis
In a stunning turn of events, CAM has an exhibition by Bad at Sports up right now.Â Duncan and Richard recap their road trip to STLÂ here, and interviews with many of the curators and organizers behind these very shows will be released soon. CAMâ€™s summer season opens with solo shows by Lari Pittman, Mika Taanila, and Kerry James Marshall on May 24.
The Spectacular of Vernacular
Walker Art Center, Minneapolis
128 pp, $19.99
neapolis, Minnesota. With 26 contemporary artists and more than 40 artworks included, Vernacular was sure to be fabulous. Sadly enough, I didnâ€™t get the chance to see this show, which is why this little catalogue is such a gem. To be honest, I picked it up because of snazzy cover, a detail of Lari Pittmanâ€™s A Decorated Chronology of Insistence and Resignation #30. Exhibition catalogues are best when they do more than simply document what has already occurred, when they instead take on their own identity and become a book. The Spectacular of Vernacular achieves this, mostly through the three contextualizing essays.
The introductory essay by Darsie Alexander, chiefÂ curator at The Walker, divides the concept of vernacular into three broad categories (Iâ€™m paraphrasing here): Location, Ritualistic,Â Amateur. She then uses these parameters to specifically discuss many of the works included in the show. Her definition of vernacular runs from regional signage to faux-naÃ¯ve thrift store art. Ultimately, I needed this essay to understand the connective tissue that linked these sometimes disparate pieces. For example the seemingly unrelated Beauty, by Jack Pierson andÂ Marina Abramovicâ€™s video Balkan Erotic Epic: Exterior Part 1 (B). After readingÂ Alexander’s essay, I came to see the relationship–using that which already exists (or at least seems to) to create something new. Something in theÂ family of found art, if you can call Abramovicâ€™s use of ancient religious ritual â€œfound.â€ I wonder what the viewer who didnâ€™t read the essay thought about the selections.
The concluding two essays were interesting but not necessary to understanding the exhibit. “The Vernacular,” excerpted from the 1984 book Discovering the Vernacular Landscape, by John Brinckerhoff Jackson discusses architecture, particularly of small town America. The book concluded with Andy Sturdevantâ€™s delightful essay “You Are Not Nowhere!: Visualizing the Heartland Vernacular.” In it, Sturdevant discusses the perception of the Midwest as â€œnowhere.â€ Funny and true.
Nestled between these essays are the images of the art itself. There are probably as many pages of text as there are of art. Each of the 26 artists is represented along with their statement. I was pleased to find William E Jones included in this exhibition. His 2009 piece, Killed, is a presentation of photographs commissioned by the Farm Security Administration (FSA). It was the policy of director Roy Stryker to punch a hole through the negative when a work was removed, or killed, from the collection. Jones presents these photographs complete with black void looming somewhere in the image. What is so interesting about these photos is that there is no explanation of why the image was killed, leaving the viewer to wonder just what about the photograph was unacceptable.
The other new work that caught my eye was Lorna Simpsonâ€™s Interior #1 and LA â€™57â€”NY â€™09. In these works both contain snapshots, home beauty photos really, of a young Los Angeles woman in the 50s. Alongside, Simpson has taken photos of herself in period clothes and in the same postures. Looking at the photos compelled me to wonder which was real, which was â€œauthentic.â€ I spent quite a while scouring the images trying to identify what made some look old while others were surprisingly contemporary.
Besides, the found photography element of the works by Jones and Simpson, what also connects them is that both artists manage to get the viewer, or reader in this case, to engage with a photograph in a different from what was intended by the original photographer. In a new context, the pictures are given new life. These works, and by extension, this catalog, drove me to the internet to read more about many of the pieces included in the exhibition. To me this makes the catalogue a success in its own right.
The Spectacular of Vernacular continues on to Huston, Texas, July 23-September 18, 2011; Mont Clair, New Jersey, October 8- January 1, 2012; Chapel Hill, North Carolina, January 14-March 18, 2012.