Ivy Cooper | St. Louis Public Radio

Ivy Cooper

Ivy Cooper

Ivy Cooper is the Beacon visual arts reviewer and a professor of art at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.

For “The Indeterminate Length,” San Diego-based artist Mike Calway-Fagen has occupied Good Citizen Gallery with a marvelous monument to the mundane.

He collected cast-off furniture, carpet, and other domestic items from St. Louis alleys and junk shops, trucked them to the gallery and constructed a labyrinthine structure that is overpowering in scale but modest in means.

For “The Indeterminate Length,” San Diego-based artist Mike Calway-Fagen has occupied Good Citizen Gallery with a marvelous monument to the mundane.

He collected cast-off furniture, carpet, and other domestic items from St. Louis alleys and junk shops, trucked them to the gallery and constructed a labyrinthine structure that is overpowering in scale but modest in means.

Kelley Johnson's show, "Recent Paintings," at Bruno David Gallery, offers a dizzying looking into spaces, both deep and shallow, punctuated by gnarled abstract structures that teeter on the brink of collapse. Johnson's forceful, confident handling of the paint demands your full attention, and rewards you with a serious case of vertigo.

The 10 canvases in this show come in two sizes, medium and large; but within those dimensional confines Johnson produces an astonishing array of formal effects.

The three works in Exposure 13 at UMSL's Gallery 210 are decidedly minimal in style and scale, though not in content. This is a good thing, give that they are exhibited in Gallery B, the smaller of the spaces at 210.

For "Screwed Again," a reprise of sorts of 2008's "Screwed In" at the Gallery of the Regional Arts Commission, nine local artists spent days painting a mural that occupies three walls of the enormous main gallery.

Preparing for its major fall season opener, the Rivane Neuenschwander survey, the Kemper Art Museum is playing out the summer with “Gesture, Scrape, Combine, Calculate: Postwar Abstraction from the Permanent Collection.” 

But this show is anything but a placeholder in the exhibition schedule. It’s a solid survey of mid-century modern painting and sculpture that reveals some surprises and reminds us of the excellent quality of the Kemper’s collection.

For "Form in Translation: Sculptors Making Prints and Drawings," assistant curator Eric Lutz of the St. Louis Art Museum (along with research assistant Ann-Maree Walker) has again brought together works that show the strengths of the museum's permanent collection while giving insight into a vital mode of artmaking that deserves more exposure.

Recently, Bruce Burton left his post as graphic designer for the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis to join a St. Louis design firm. As a parting gesture of sorts, he's curated an exhibition of outstanding contemporary graphic design for the museum's Front Room.

"RBMBKESHKM" showcases work by Roy Brooks, Mikey Burton, Kelly English, Sibylle Hagmann and Kindra Murphy, designers based more or less in the middle of the country, the "flyover zone" where people on the coasts often assume nothing is happening.

French artist Laurent Grasso's "Les Oiseaux" ("The Birds") (2008) is an extraordinary video piece now showing in the St. Louis Art Museum's New Media Series.

The eight-minute projection has the camera trained on the pink sunset over Rome's skyline and a series of curious dark clouds floating across it. The clouds turn out to be hundreds of starlings flying in groups, their synchronized motions creating unexpected, even thrilling shape-shifting effects that are more beautiful than the built structures in the city below.

"Recession Rejuvenations" at Bruno David Gallery is one of those breezy group shows that one sees in the summertime months: loads of works, all quite easy on the eyes, connected only by their recentness, their relatively small scale and, in some cases, affordable price tags (it is a recession, after all ...)

It's nice to see works by David's impressive roster of artists shown together; the result is eclectic and buoyant.

"Traces of Time and Presence" features the work of this year's artists-in-residence at Craft Alliance in Grand Center: Erin Vigneau Dimick in fibers, Tom Dykas in clay and Michael Parrett in metals. It's a quiet show, with works in different media that hang well together, forging subtle thematic and formal connections.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: September 7, 2008 - In the years since its opening in 2001, the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts has been a solid, if somewhat introverted, presence in Grand Center. Don’t misunderstand — the Pulitzer has reached out beyond its velvety concrete walls in some visible ways, gamely co-hosting events with the Contemporary, opening itself up in the evenings for film showings and musical concerts, and promoting contemporary art in St. Louis in coordination with other museums in town.

The Voyage of the ibelungen to Etzel (Der Nibelungen Fahrt zu Etzel), 1980–81; book of 22 double-page spreads of gelatin silver prints with gouache, oil and graphite mounted on cardboard
Provided by the St. Louis Art Museum

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: July 24, 2008 - One of the most fascinating works in The Immediate Touch is The Voyage of the Nibelungen to Etzel (1980-81), a book by Anselm Kiefer. It illustrates a story of murderous revenge from the medieval Song of the Nibelungen, using contemporary photographs of German landscapes and the interior of Kiefer's own studio.

Character Study

Courtney Henson's Character Study: Collected Data at Maps Contemporary Art Space is more than a simple art exhibit. It's a glimpse into Henson's ever-expanding Gesamtkunstwerk, her ongoing investigation into processes of growth, decay, dichotomies, and taxonomies.