This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: August 4, 2008 - If you missed the incredible opening of "Screwed In" -- and even if you saw it -- it's highly, highly recommended that you visit the exhibition, even though it's a completely different (and quieter) animal than it was on that opening night.
Screwed In is one of the best shows of this summer and certainly among the best ever hosted at the Gallery of the Regional Arts Commission. Chris Burch, Stan Chisholm, David Langley, Chris Sabatino, Justin Tolentino, Bryan Walsh and Peat Wollaeger have brought together a fantastic collection of stenciled, airbrushed, painted, printed, drawn and assembled art that's street-smart, critical, energetic, layered, humorous and totally absorbing.
Works by the individual artists are on view in RAC's large open studio space, allowing for comparisons of styles and approaches.
Stan Chisholm has several startling "mascot panels" and energetic drawings on dozens of paper plates; Chris Burch's drawings are brilliant, engrossing and more than a little disturbing. An installation by David Langley looks like a scene of death by graphic design.
The most visually arresting works are Justin Tolentino's layerings of latex on offset printing, in which ghostly designs hover deep under the fluid surface of his drawings.
Chris Sabatino's airbrushed and acrylic works are slickly beautiful and primly framed, with a knowing nod to graffiti art's absorption by mainstream gallery culture.
Brian Walsh's mixed media works on panel are bold, smart explorations of flat graphic quality of signage and architectural renderings.
In the main gallery, the artists collaborated on a prodigious three-walled mural, and Peat Wollaeger's "Eye-conoline Truck," a stenciled 1963 Ford Econoline pick-up, rounds out the incredible show. There are plenty of You-Tube videos of the show's opening night, and they capture the ambience, but they don't do justice to the works, so see this show in person, while you still can.
- When: Through Aug. 17
- Where: The Gallery at the Regional Arts Commission, 6128 Delmar Blvd.
- More info: 314-863-5811, www.art-stl.com
The other best show of the summer
"Jargon" at Mad Art Gallery features Terrance Hughes, Alphonzo Solorzano, Miguel Felipe and Jason Faulkner, who all possess formidable skills rooted in the styles of graffiti, graphics and comic illustrations. What they accomplish with those skills is where it gets really interesting.
Hughes layers Mylar sheets with cartoon imagery over careful, realistically drawn portraits. The joyful juxtapositions take on some extremely serious issues in African-American culture: lynching, civil rights, slave reparations and black caricatures.
Miguel Felipe's touch is lighter but his eye is every bit as sensitive as Hughes'; his small, hard-lined paintings evoke images from Hispanic advertisements and popular culture. In this exhibition, Felipe's paintings are corralled inside a large mural painted directly on the gallery wall.
Jason Faulkner's airy drawings show cats morphing into other beings.
Alphonzo Solorzano makes painted assemblages dealing in themes of loss and longing. His eviscerated male figures are surprisingly sympathetic, and squirrels are recurring characters among his works. Solarzano's experience in sign painting is everywhere in evidence, and like Felipe, Solarzano has his individual paintings spill over into a wall installation.
These four artists aren't currently connected to St. Louis (though Hughes is originally from here); but their work certainly keys into the "street art" sensibility that's energizing our city this summer.
- When: Through Sept. 1
- Where: Mad Art Gallery, 2727 S. 12th Street
- More info: 314-771-8230, www.madart.com
Ivy Cooper is an artist and professor of art history at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.