Wednesday, April 28, 2010

St. Louis Weekend, part II

Budweiser sign at Anheuser-Busch plant. All images courtesy the author.

Another wacky weekend in the Lou.

Diane and I visited all kinds of new places in town last weekend, with interesting and unintended consequences.

Before you judge us for going to the A-B plant, ask your arty self: why not? We saw some lovely aesthetic things, things you would never see in a business plant today. Draft horses, round buildings with stained glass windows, historic brick buildings made to school the worker's kids. An interesting lesson for corporate responsibility? I know the logic came from somewhere else, but still, an intriguing comparison.

A-B bottling building.

Horse and dog art.

Diane being from Milwaukee there was the inevitable check list comparing the A-B tour to the Miller tour. Points off A-B: not enough information about St. Louis and its relationship to A-B, limited sampling tastes--Milwaukee knows its audience!--they tried to give our tour group the bum's rush to accommodate the next group. Diane and I have pledged to try the Miller tour soon to fill in these blanks.

Diane at player piano.

Then off to the Scott Joplin House, where he lived for two or four years. Player piano was not his. None of the furniture, decorations, player rolls were his. Sad that such an important figure was so little preserved! (Perhaps the syphyllis had something to do with it?)

Diane at Tado Ando pool at Pulitzer Foundation.

Turtle at Laumeier.

After the terrible rainstorm (I swear we saw part of the tornado that touched down in University City), we drove to Laumeier where the air was clear and the animals were out. What bizarre sounds emanated from the fountain by Trova Woods!

Tree down.

Proof of the tornado that hit U-City. This tree was across the street from my house, and made a surreal end to a fun day.

Friday, April 23, 2010

St. Louis Weekend

Nicolas Point, Altar in a Tipi, c. 1841-47, watercolor on paper, Saint Louis University Art Museum. All pictures courtesy the author.

Kevin and I spent last Saturday visiting places new to us.

First stop were the galleries at St. Louis University Museum of Art and the show Crossing the Divide: Jesuits on the American Frontier. The quirky, Romanesque (I mean the period of art history) diary drawings by Jesuit Nicolas Point captured moments of great humor and great horror as the indigenous peoples of North America were slowly being surrounded by settlers. Point showed a great deal of bathos towards his tutors / charges of the various Native Nations.

The image above, of an altar in a tipi, shows the Jesuit's efforts to integrate Catholicism into local conditions. I think the simplicity of the tipi's triangle is nicely menaced by the smoke plume to the right (not mentioned in Point's notes).

Interior of Cathedral Basilica St. Louis.

Carrying along our religious theme we stopped at the Cathedral Basilica St. Louis, a lovely early 20th century church that is super-loaded with Byzantine-style mosaics. Kevin pointed how how the wall labels explained how the master mosaic mason--he--would do the work.

The pictures were all of female artisans though, a funny twist to the authoritarian text. Still, I loved the light that played between the walls of the space.

Painting by Dhruvi Acharya, Webster University.

Next on to Webster University to see Bring Me a Lion, a show of contemporary Indian art. In the typically small university art space was a densely-packed exhibition of great ambition but sadly without enough air to breathe--I vote for more space for the gallery! Still, what a great opportunity for the students, good for the faculty that fights for this educational program.

I particularly liked the works by Dhruvi Acharya, her comic-book bubbles puckering and blistering the mottled, skin-like surface of her paintings with terse observations and pleading requests.

Kevin at Riddles before the fights broke out.

After seeing the movie Greenberg at the Tivoli--save yourself grief and money, skip that mess--we walked across the street to Riddle's for dinner. The entire street was alive mostly with teenagers, who broke into a few fights while we were out. Like kids around the globe, they need more things to do at night to let their energy out!

A great day in St. Louis, which continues to unfold with surprising pockets of culture that speak to the histories that have formed this place.

Friday, April 9, 2010

LA in Da House

Bruce Yonemoto lecture at Steinberg Auditorium, Washington University, night before opening of his show at the St. Louis Art Museum.

SLAM and Wash U have a smart set-up going. With funds from the Freund Family, the curator and artists at both institutions put out a call for a one-year faculty appointment. Each artist who receives the faculty appointment has a one-person show at SLAM.

St. Louis is brilliant for this kind of cooperation and resource sharing. Bravo.

Bruce talked about his past work in new media, and his up-coming work in Peru, where he will stage an opera in the still-active ancient Peruvian language Quechua. Bruce's droll description of the on-going colonization of the Other by Western powers was understated but powerful.

What struck me with the brief clips he showed of his work is how prescient his work has been, and how he has vaulted over a generation of artists still grappling with an eclipsed Western visual culture.

Bruce's show adds to the vibrant presence of LA in da STL house. Today you can find at Stephen Prina at CAMSTL and Sharon Lockhart at the Kemper, Wash U. We at Laumeier are talking to a range of California artists--Sam Durant and Kelly Mason--about possible future projects, which will allow us to represent the "other" coast (here on the Mississippi we're the "fourth" coast, but that's another issue) in our programs.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Spring, at last!

Spring has hit Laumeier Sculpture Park--finally!

Everyone has told me that the weather in St. Louis this year has been unusual, from the soggy October through some bitter cold days and snow (though thank goodness we didn't get socked like the East Coast).

This past weekend, while artist Mark Newport was doing a gallery talk and hosting a "knit-in" in the park, the grounds put on a fabulous display.

The colored landscape, dotted with trees abloom in white, pink and purple, made the winter worth it!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Heaven on Earth

Fuzzy fugitive photo by furtive fan.

I am still recovering from a four-day trip I led to New York with students from the University of Missouri-St. Louis. Along with colleagues Dr. Ruth Bohan, chair of art and art history, and Gretchen Schisla, graphic design professor, we ran 12 students all around town.

It was exhausting but a lot of fun. Everyone was engaged, even if quiet, eyes were wide open. That was the goal!

The program, founded by former UMSL professor Susan Cahan, who is now at Yale, is an amazing program whereby students travel for free, (almost) all expenses paid for the trip. Friday we were at MoMA for four hours, with tours by Connie Butler, head of drawings, Emily Talbot, assistant in prints and illustrated books, with time for William Kentridge and Yin Xiuzhe. Then Marian Goodman, Greenberg VanDoren Gallery, a tour of Pentagram, then up to the Whitney for a tour and brief introduction by Biennial co-curator Gary Carrion-Murayami.

Then, the Met.

My favorite areas of the Met are the proto-Renaissance galleries, Velazquez, the Oceania rooms, Greek & Roman glass.

But they had up a show that made me weep with joy.

The Art of Illumination: The Limbourg Brothers and the Belles Heures of Jean de France, Duc de Berry was an exquisite show. Each page was mounted in a two-sided glass sheet so I could poke my nose in as close as I could, sans glasses.

I felt shivers of recognition with the works, thinking about the first time I was ever abroad, visiting the cool Gothic cathedrals all over France. I remembered taking an early winter train to Padua to see the Arena Chapel by Giotto, poking my head out of a round window in a foot-thick earthen wall in Ravenna while visiting the Byzantine mosaics, the insane cab ride I took my last trip in Istanbul to see some precious churches buried inside a bazaar.

I love my job, but in the flood of paperwork there must always be art at the center of the whirlwind.

Sore feet and hoarse voice aside, my eyes were wide open in New York. Again.