A plastic bottle inflates and deflates, as if breathing. A thick piece of wood snaps in half after it is struck by an arm-like piston. A bone is crunched between metallic jaws.
These are the sounds and sights of artwork presented as part of Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis’ spring exhibitions, all of which ask viewers to reconsider human form.
"This entire exhibition anthropomorphizes sensorial experiences,” said Chief Curator Jeffrey Uslip.
In other words, each of the six featured artists makes work that forces viewers to recognize human characteristics in inanimate objects. This approach can be seen in paintings, photographs and sculptures throughout the museum.
Consider, for example, Italian artist Arcangelo Sassolino's show "Not Human." He builds machines that take materials like wood, tires or bottles and stresses them in ways that replicate human actions, such as grasping or chewing.
“This isn’t 'Art,' capital ‘A’ art. This is really about being present in the world in real time with these objects undergoing very human experiences,” Uslip said.
For Sassolino and four other artists, the CAM exhibit marks their first solo museum shows in the United States, complete with separate gallery space for their works.
Sassolino said it is an important step for artists.
“It’s a turning point in my career,” he said. “America remains America – the place to be.”
The exhibition opens this weekend and runs through April 3, 2016.
Featured Artist Shows:
Lisa Yuskavage: The Brood – paintings from 25 years of examining the female body as “a site of defiance and decadence.” Bright, robust imagery.
Arcangelo Sassolino: Not Human – sculptures replicate human motor functions. Austere, at times violent actions.
Tala Madani: First Light – paintings that depict the male body with humor and a critical eye. Dark palate, cinematic imagery.
Peter Sutherland: Forests and Fires – landscape photography attached to sterling board and boulders. Environmentalist, layered construction.
Arlene Shechet: Urgent Matter – free-standing ceramic and paper sculptures. Organic, brightly colored.
Ned Vena: Paintings Without Borders 2 – monochrome paintings based on the letter “G,” intended to resemble chain-link. Plays with intersection of mechanical and organic art-making.