Reviews and Publications

The Natural and The Manufactured post exhibition essay: 

Distinctive, Unusual Displays At Sheldon

January 04, 2012
The Sheldon Concert Hall and Art Gallery, 3648 Washington Blvd., maintains a delicate balance of being in the present while looking to both the past and the future. Firmly committed to preserving its historically significant music hall and providing performances in an acoustical gem, the Sheldon's vision for the visual arts is equally far-reaching.

In the Sheldon's multiple art galleries, viewers can expect the unusual, as well as exhibitions that can seem a bit too familiar. One such comfortable re-cap that documents a period of history is the current showing of paintings by Wallace Herndon Smith. Yet, alongside, is a gallery filled to the brim with architectural imaginings that whisk present realities into a utopian future. "Material Landscapes," curated by Liane Hancock from the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University, is such a distinctive display.

Then there are more experimental exhibitions such as "I'll be your Mirror," curated by Webster University's Daniel McGrath, on display through Feb. 11. The theme of this show is founded on the concept of the doppelganger — the double or look-alike. The exhibition includes paintings, sculpture, photographs and videos, and each work gives the viewer pause. Meaning is not immediately transparent, but for most of these works, reaching for the bar of understanding is worth the effort.

In a small but nifty work titled "Tottenham Court," by Gunther Herbst, the doppelganger theme is most clearly seen. In this diptych, two oil panels reflect mirror images; a makeshift cardboard box, taped together, evokes memories of homeless people seeking shelter from the weather in such crude structures. Herbst paints several fallen leaves on the cardboard surfaces, suggesting the threat that time, seasons and weather present to the homeless, whom the artist may have encountered in his London neighborhood.

"Trespasses," a compelling albeit somewhat confusing video by B.J. Vogt, documents a performance piece. Vogt says this is a slap-stick version of sibling rivalry, but it seems to accomplish much more than that.

Two look-alike individuals morph into one another through the compositing of video tracks. The process creates tension between the bizarre actions performed by the actors and the strange beauty of the kaleidoscopic images. One actor, who seems to be in control and the tormentor, taunts and mimics the other, a captive victim seeking relief from this evil reality through repetitive chanting of a formulaic prayer. The soundtrack echoes against stark and cavernous concrete walls and would seem not at all the stuff of slapstick.

Less successful is the more heavy-handed video, "Dark Knight of the Soul," by Slater Bradley. In some imagined future time, an astronaut visits our desolate planet. Wearing a NASA-like costume, complete with American flag, the actor wanders through New York's Natural History Museum, while playing a child's music-box recording of Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata." Although intriguing in the beginning, the video becomes tiresome as it falls into obvious allusions of ecological disaster.

Hannah Greeley's beer bottle, "Doug," made of cast resin, gives a wink to Jasper Johns' bronze beer can, but also succeeds in raising questions about consumerism and how our objects and artifacts might reflect our culture to future examiners. Will archeologists conclude that the ubiquitous golden arched architecture, styrofoam cups and glass or plastic bottles indicate discovery of the sacred temples and ritual vessels of our culture?

I'll Be Your Mirror 

Taking its title from Nico's ethereally creepy Velvet Underground ballad, this group exhibition of work by artists near and far flung delves into the realm and refractory meaning of doubles, doubling and dopplegängers. According to curator Daniel McGrath, look-alikes aren't just deeply unsettling; they're harbingers of evil. It sounds forbidding, but do not fear: The artwork assembled is strangely melancholic yet elegant. Juan Chávez contributes two pieces from his Drawings from the Cave series which riff on the sci-fi film Blade Runner; the pairing and the film source itself create both a cross-historic dialogue and one about real and ersatz versions of the human. Robert Goetz's print series Common Intervals near Shrewsbury Exit play on repetition as a formal audio and visual device, resulting in a piece at once austere and nostalgic of road-narrative Americana. Bookending the interior gallery is an inspired pairing: Slater Bradley's Dark Night of the Soul, a video in which Bradley's doppelgänger, dressed in a space suit, wanders New York's Museum of Natural History; and B.j. Vogt's Tresspasses, a video in which two crudely and identically masked characters (in fact, the artist and his brother) harass one another in alternately comic and sadistic ways. Projected at opposite ends of the space, the two pieces seem to illustrate the pendulum swing of any given interior life: fraught by duality, at once lost and contemplative, or aggressive and confounded by action. And the reverberations continue with work by Nick Crowe and Ian Rawlinson, Hannah Greely, Pablo Helguera, Gunther Herbst, Charles Ray and Darren Harvey-Regan. Through February 11, 2012, at the Sheldon Art Galleries, 3648 Washington Boulevard; 314-533-9900 or Hours: noon-8 p.m. Tue., noon-5 p.m. Wed.-Fri., 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sat.

In the Galleries: Contemporary Anthropomorphism at Webster University
By Jessica Baran Thursday, Nov 24 2011
    Contemporary Anthropomorphism Drawing a correlation between ancient cultural practices (think: mound building) and current human assaults on the environment, curator B.j. Vogt brings together a group of artists who are exploring the man-vs.-nature exchange. A small bird, haloed in a brightly constellated universe, triumphs over a fox in a diptych painted by 2010 RFT MasterMind Cameron Fuller. Plastic flowers, handcrafted to unnatural perfection, blossom from the gallery wall like an expanse of cell-phone antennas in Eric Troffkin's installation. David Johnson photographs hotel and domestic interiors with a dark whimsy: a still-life of a bouquet of roses with a cordless phone in its cradle; a long exposure of a fully decked-out Christmas tree affixed to a rotating platform and whirling improbably in a family living room. Jamie Kreher contributes a series of videos that treat urban settings as wilderness and vice versa: nature walks through the acreage that once housed Pruitt-Igoe, for instance, or the serene hum of a boiler room recorded as if it were a remote and rarely seen environmental marvel. Carin Mincemoyer creates miniature landscapes inside discarded packaging — the tiny trees and minute meandering rivers hovering like daydreamed pastoral idylls encased in clear plastic, at once compulsively alluring and unreachable. Karen McCoy veritably throws herself into her work, inking her body and then rolling and writhing on large swaths of paper, leaving behind imprints she titles after famed natural landmarks. The shared sentiment here is a winking curiosity directed at our manhandled world, and an acknowledgement of our enduring urge to engage with nature, albeit with plastic tinsel and cotton-ball snow. Through November 26 at Webster University's Cecille R. Hunt Gallery, 8342 Big Bend Boulevard, Webster Groves; 314-968-7171 or Hours: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Mon.-Fri. (open till 8 p.m. Tue.-Wed.) and by appointment.


    SUPERARROW, Issue 5 (online),, 12/31/11
    The Dining Room Project Cookbook/Catalogue
    Charlotte Street Foundation/Urban Culture Project in Collaboration with the Kansas CIty Jewish Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, MO. Published December 2011.
    Happy Tree Friends Catalogue
    Charlotte Street Foundation/Urban Culture Project, Kansas City, MO. Published 2009.