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.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: November 12, 2008 - Tim Liddy's "Stratagem" at the William Shearburn Gallery is the kind of thing only a painter of Liddy's caliber should ever take on.

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: November 16, 2008 - The new paintings by Max Cole at Schmidt Contemporary Art are everything one would expect out of the 70-something artist: graceful, contemplative and minimalist without being cold or controlling.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: November 11, 2008 - The new selection of shows at Bruno David is wonderfully cohesive, with equal parts expression and concept. In other words, there's something for everybody, and it all works well together.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: October 29, 2008 - As a critic, I saw tantalizing possibilities in the proposition of Action/Abstraction: Pollock, de Kooning, and American Art, 1940-1976. Originating at the Jewish Museum in New York before coming to us in St. Louis, Action/Abstraction promised to re-evaluate mid-century American art against the backdrop of the art criticism of the day.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: October 29, 2008 - With "Refraction: Three Contemporary Photographers," St. Louis artist Amy Bautz has brought together, at the Regional Arts Commission's gallery, voices that represent the wide-ranging possibilities photography has to offer. To works by Antje Umstaetter, an established artist based in Berlin, she's added photos by two true-blue St. Louisans, Bob Reuter and Mark Douglas. The mix results in interesting chemistry.

"Untitled (Opera)" 2008, oil on panel, by Barry Leibman
Courtesy of Philip Slein

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: October 16, 2008 - All That Tends to Purify: 9 Abstract Painters at Philip Slein Gallery is required viewing both before and after you see SLAM's Action/Abstraction and the Kemper's Birth of Cool.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: October 7, 2008 - Serkan Ozkaya, the young Turkish artist currently featured at Boots Contemporary Art, is someone to keep an eye on. In spite of (or maybe because of?) being enamored with appropriation and reproduction, Ozkaya creates a magical quality with his art that makes one remember and long for that thrill of encountering an original -- in whatever form.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: October 5, 2008 - With Alma Mater, on view at UMSL’s Gallery 210, Jennifer Dorsey has found the perfect subject matter to suit her photographic style and temperament. She’s gone into classrooms, lounges, refectories and hallways of two patrician private high schools, St. Alban’s and the National Cathedral School in Washington, D.C. (where she herself teaches), photographing them empty of people but full of their traces.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: September 25, 2008 - The large exhibition of Oliver Jackson's works at Metropolitan Gallery is a welcome sight.

Jackson, a St. Louis native, has been busy exhibiting painting and sculpture across the country, but hasn't had a show here in years. This exhibition represents his largest survey to date, comprised of 30 prints, paintings and mixed media works made between 1970 and 2007.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: September 21, 2008 - James M. Smith’s new show at the Sheldon, What Came Before, shows the artist moving in a more sculptural direction and moving deeper into themes he has often broached in his long career.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: September 17, 2008 - For Nervous Laughter at the Philip Hitchcock Gallery, Leslie Holt has curated a large group of works guaranteed to touch a nerve somewhere, depending on your personal proclivities, religion, politics or the line you draw between public information and private sensibilities. Holt, one of St. Louis' most prolific and savvy painters, never goes overboard with this show; but these works do bump up against those boundaries of decorum that Hitchcock himself is fond of pushing.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: September 17, 2008 - Three Hundred Six is the number of miles that separate the domiciles of Stacie Johnson and Michael Behle, St. Louis and Chicago artists respectively who have curated the thusly titled show at Hoffman LaChance Contemporary in Maplewood. The show brings together artists from these two metropolises and they have both more and less in common than you would think.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: September 16, 2008 - Echoes from Manzanar: If the Walls Could Talk is painful and joyous at once, a truly moving collection of art and memories by Arthur Towata, one of the most influential ceramic artists working today.

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.